Times writer Emma Duncan wants to see more girls taking Mathematics A-Level. Good idea! “People with an A-level in Maths,” she informed readers, earn “on average 11 per cent more than those who did not.”

She, and a few other commentators on last week’s A-Level results, too, might benefit from a bit more mathematical teaching themselves. Emma states as “fact that boys got more A and A* grades [across all A-levels] than girls for the first time in 17 years…”. The entries data itself, however, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications, tells a different story:

Entries A* A*/A
Male 342859 30514 (4.0 per cent) 91200 (12.0 per cent)
Female 416374 32061 (4.2 per cent) 107841 (14.2 per cent)
Total 759233 62575 199041

(Percentage in brackets are the percentage of total entries).

This raw data is unequivocal. Once again girls outperformed boys at A-Level, including at the highest grades. This is explained, in part, by the greater number of entries from girls (approximately 55 per cent.

Boys did outnumber girls, however, in entries for Mathematics and achieved a higher proportion of top grades. The ratio of entries was roughly 3 to 2 in favour of boys. In Further Maths, Physics and Computing the boys were even more dominant – 73 per cent, 79 per cent and 90 per cent respectively. In contrast, it was girls who dominated entries for English Literature (76 per cent) and the performing arts (90 per cent).

Should we be worried? For Ms Duncan, “closing the gender gap” is the name of the educational game. This, she claims, will boost “our dismal productivity” and make “our society… at once fairer and richer.” Rather than looking to more and better quality technical/vocational education, she supposes that the answer is to “find a way of boosting girls’ confidence”.

Boys, though, lag behind girls at all levels of education with the exception of the higher reaches of mathematics, physics and computing. If either sex has a confidence problem when it comes to academic learning, it is surely the boys. The dominance of girls in many primary school classrooms, bossed as they overwhelmingly are by female teachers and support staff, is widely recognised in the staffroom. The BBC’s manipulative attempt to persuade us otherwise in its “No More Boys and Girls” experiment in identity theft is refuted by the comparative underperformance of boys.

In too many co-ed state comprehensive schools, certain subjects are seen as either more ‘girly’ or more ‘macho’ than others. Research from the Institute of Physics a few years ago indicated that almost half (49 per cent) of state schools do not have any girls at all studying the subject beyond GCSE. Girls at single sex schools, in contrast, were two and half times more likely to be study the subject at A-Level.

Equally informative was research from the Girls’ Schools Association revealing that at all-girls’ schools, pupils are 75 per cent more likely to take Mathematics A-level than at mixed schools. I know of one prestigious independent girls’ school where this summer, the number of pupils taking maths exceeded those taking English Literature by almost 4 to 1.

Emma Duncan claims that in education ‘superstar’ state, Singapore, the girls outperform the boys in mathematics. This is true of its younger pupils, as it is here, but not of its older ones. UK pupils are, in any case, so far behind those in Singapore that any meaningful comparison of standards can have only limited relevance. To match Singapore, our youngsters would need to be taking their A-Level at age 14 or 15 rather than at 18.

Given the peer pressure on young people in the UK these days to conform to ‘type’, we may have little alternative to single-sex education if we wish encourage more girls along the pathway of mathematics and science. For certain, the question to ask at an evening for prospective parents of a secondary school is how many girls are studying A-Level Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computing.


  1. The ‘all or nothing’ big exam approach will start to bring fairness back into the system as we can see.
    The ending of course work contributing to results will have the effect of taking away a significant advantage for girls.
    This will be advantageous for British industry as it will make new entrants to the jobs market drastically more prepared. This will be a very good thing for girls and may well result in better careers.
    In real life you don’t get multiple attempts to ‘get it right’. You are judged only on your first attempt.

  2. According to Emma Duncan’s theories, girls should also swim faster than boys and win more Formula 1 grands prix. But they don’t and never will. Subjective “Should” doesn’t equal objective “can”. Charles Murray’s Bell Curve offered a theory as to why males do better than females in certain disciplines which people like Duncan, instead of disproving it, reject on ideological rather than scientific grounds and then hide behind accusations of sexism. Larry Summers was drummed out of the presidency of Harvard for believing there was a scientific rationale for the relative difference in male and female performance in some academic subjects. What the Emma Duncans never do is explain how more girls are to be persuaded to excel at maths after resisting half a century of feminist demands that they do so. Perhaps there should be educational camps for girls where they would be force-fed calculus until they worshipped it as devoutly as Big Brother. Or Big Sister. Feminists believe that women must do everything that men do as well as men do. If that is not physiologically possible, the theory is likely to be more psychologically damaging to women’s self-esteem than not in the long run. Duncan would appear to be willing to hurt women in pursuit of subjective ideology which is a funny way to promote the interests of women.

    PS: Is Emma herself a frustrated mathematician betrayed by a cruel and discriminatory system which is how she ended up scribbling at the Times? We should be told.

    • Your PS is the real point that needs to be made time and time again. The women who are most vocal about wanting to see more girls doing maths and physics are invariably the women who wail about simply ‘not being able to do’ maths and physics and settle into stereotypical female jobs for themselves.

      • Exactly so Busy Mum, we lady scientists (and presumably also lady mathematicians etc) are too busy doing our jobs to be bothered about unscientific nonsense like feminism.

    • When Larry Summers made his speech, a female professor got so upset she had to leave the room. Thereby confirming men in their stereotypical idea of women as being prone to hysteria.

  3. I agree with the basic premise that we should move back to single-sex schools. I no longer trust the education establishment to treat both sexes equally and not to use their control of schools to conduct weird experiments in ‘gender equality’. Artificially boosting the confidence (but not necessarily the competence) of girls and holding back the boys, or at least to refusing to give them the encouragement (or sometimes the metaphorical boot to the behind) they need to achieve their potential.

    At least with single sex schools the individual teachers will be motivated to do the best they can for their pupils without having consider their sex.

    • In The Times TV Viewing Guide for today, the reviewer, a certain Joe Clay, reviews tonight’s BBC 2 program (9pm) ‘No More Boys And Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? He refers to it as ‘a noble idea’.

      • “He refers to it as ‘a noble idea’.”

        He is really, really dumb and ignorant. I’m not saying anything that’s new to the readers of this site, but he is discarding the significant advantages of specialisation that come with sexual dimorphism. Putting his hands over his eyes so he doesn’t have to see the entirely rational biological and the economic arguments. The only people who think that feminine women are somehow worth less than men, and so need to be ‘uplifted’, are feminists.

  4. Miss

    When I was at infants school (built 1898), I recall my first day. One entrance had engraved on the red brickwork ‘Boys’ and the other ‘Girls’.

    I now know why your forefathers insisted on educating girls and boys separately.

  5. So Emma Duncan wants to see more girls taking Mathematics A-Level. She needs a much broader perspective. With reference to those figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications, I would like to see about 75,000 more boys taking A levels in whatever subjects; but preferably in those that they enjoy and that the country needs. Otherwise, it will be impossible to close the gender gap. That is, the real gender gap. The one you cannot see if you are stupid or careless enough to allow yourself to be fitted with the set of blinkers so carefully prepared for the unwary by the feminists.

  6. In a mixed school certain sex differences are reinforced. In a boys’ school (for instance) there will be more pupils choosing to play the violin, or sing in a choir.

  7. And what will be the result of all this?
    White boys are probably the most vilified group in education as can be seen by them slowly dropping down the league tables.
    When we have a reversal of genders where women dominate and men don’t even bother, will life be better?
    Men are quite happy to have a wife that is not as clever or dominant as them. In a standard relationship this is probably more conducive to creating happy children in a stable family environment.
    Women however will not except that as can be seen by the massive divorce rate which is now triggered more by women.
    Socialist and welfare policies, which benefit women far more than men, have required women to work in order to pay for it, which in turn is being reflected in the death bed demographics of the West.
    We are still running out of money so the next short term step is to create lots of immigration to replace the children we are not having due to the previous policies.
    Next step, civil unrest and possibly war to reset the system.

  8. I have always felt that boys and girls should be taught separately in the classroom.
    They develop at different rates and mature at different times, they have different temperaments and different needs.
    But how can the social engineers program the defective boys to be more like girls in that environment?
    Remove work achievement and the calming effects of having a family and you will create a generation of bored, aggressive males who will look for fulfilment elsewhere.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sharp rise in white male converts to Islam.

  9. As a specialist maths’ teacher, who has worked in single-sex and co-ed schools, I didn’t even consider sending my daughter to a co-ed school. The problem in the co-ed schools was largely the attitude of parents and other teachers, who unwittingly (or, sometimes, blatantly) gave the message that girls had less aptitude for maths than boys and could not be expected to do as well in the subject, except in exceptional cases.

    • This is a strange comment. How would you know the attitude of the other teachers and parents. I don’t doubt your assertion is correct but your evidence is lacking to say the least.

  10. Buckinghamshire still has the eleven-plus exam. Those who pass go to single sex schools, whereas those who don’t go to mixed secondary schools. They closed the only single sex girls secondary school some years ago and it is now a mixed Community College.
    Surely if grammar schools are best a single sex, why aren’t the secondary school pupils given the same choice?

  11. You’re assuming that the most important lessons at school are academic ones. In my experience (granny and great aunt at girls schools; ex-husband at boys school with co-ed 6th form), children who attend single sex schools and who don’t have opposite sex siblings really struggle with dating and matrimony, often all their lives.

    Having said that, it can be arranged to have certain subjects split by sex in the same school; or to have single sex 6th forms for the more academic (although these are often the ones who struggle with dating anway).

    • Why then, you know, do the British have no difficulty in bonking and produce 200,000 abortions a year?

      Your forefathers would never have considered bonking policy to affect education policy.


      • I’m not talking about bonking, I’m talking about being able to form lasting, stable marriages, which we all know is best for raising children and providing a strong foundation to society.

Comments are closed.