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This debate will take place in Westminster Hall and will be led by Nick Fletcher MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Issues Affecting Men and Boys. The APPG published a report on boys’ educational outcomes in November 2023.

School outcomes

Boys perform worse than girls on most major educational indicators through their school years. In England, and in the 2022-23 academic year, boys performed worse on the following measures:

  • Exclusion: in the autumn term, boys were nearly twice as likely as girls to be suspended, and slightly more than twice as likely to be permanently excluded.
  • End of reception year: Just under two-thirds of boys had a ‘good level of development’ aged around five, compared to around three-quarters of girls.
  • End of primary schooling: 63% of girls met the expected standard in all of English reading, writing and maths, compared to 56% of boys. However, boys did slightly better than girls, in maths alone: 73% met the expected standard, compared to 72% of girls.
  • End of compulsory secondary education: girls do better across all headline Department for Education (DfE) measures than boys. For example, in 2023, 68% of girls in state-funded schools achieved both English and maths GCSEs at grade 4 or above, compared to 63% of boys.
  • Some groups of boys have particularly low attainment levels. For example, of those eligible for free school meals (FSM), only 34% of White British boys, 35% of mixed White and Black Caribbean boys, and 36% of Caribbean boys attained grade 4 in both English and maths GCSEs in 2023. FSM-eligible boys from Gypsy/ Roma or Traveller of Irish Heritage backgrounds had particularly low pass rates but small absolute numbers of these pupils mean caution is needed interpreting the percentage figures for these groups.

Boys are also more likely to have identified special educational needs than girls. In January 2023, 22% of boys had identified SEN, compared to 12% of girls. 6% of boys had Education, health and care (EHC) plans, suggesting more complex special educational needs, compared to 2% of girls. These figures include pupils at all types of state-funded school, and non-maintained special schools.

Higher education

Men are considerably less likely to progress to higher education by age 19, than women, and this has been the case for many years. In 2021/22, 54% of women were in HE by 19, compared to only 40% of men. The gender gap has risen slightly on this measure, since the previous year, 2020/21. Men are also more likely to drop out of their HE courses.

Of those that do go into HE by 19, broadly similar proportions of men and women go to ‘high tariff’ institutions – that is, institutions typically requiring higher grades for entry.

Course choices also differ, with men more likely than women to study most science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses, and women more likely to study education, subjects allied to medicine and most humanities.

Outcomes after completion of higher education

The picture shifts after graduation. Men who complete their HE qualification are more likely to be in professional or managerial posts, further advanced study, or other positive outcomes, than women. The latest data is for 2020/21 graduates where the progression rate for men was 1.4 percentage points higher than for women.

Men who complete higher education also go on to have higher wages on average, than women. The latest data is for earnings in the 2020-21 tax year, and covers UK-domiciled students who attended an English higher education institutions:

  • Five years after graduation, females with a first degree (only) had earnings 11.8% lower than their male peers
  • For females with a taught masters-level qualification, earnings five years post-qualification were 15.9% lower than for male peers.

The underlying data cannot distinguish between part-time and full-time working patterns, however, and some of the difference in earnings will be due to differences in the incidence of part-time work by sex.

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