House of Lords written question – answered on 18th July 2012.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 5 July (WA 192-3) concerning the participation of women in higher education, whether they will investigate why men are falling behind women in higher education participation.
The department published a report in 2008 which investigated the factors affecting male and female participation in higher education (HE). The report Gender Gaps in Higher Education Participation: An Analysis of the Relationship between Prior Attainment andYoung Participation by Gender, Socio-Economic Class and Ethnicity is available here: http://www.bis.gov .uk/assets/biscore/corporate/migratedD/publications/D/DIUS_RR_08_14.
The analysis found that the gender gap is manifested much earlier in the education system, before entry to higher education, for example in differences between girls' and boys' GCSE and A-level attainment. Its key finding related to gender was that for young people (18-19 year-olds) there was no conclusive evidence of a gender difference in the likelihood of participating in HE-once prior attainment (in the form of young people's attainment at GCSE or equivalent) was controlled for. The analysis suggested that there was no additional gender effect at the point of entry to higher education and that efforts to reduce the gender gap in HE participation should predominantly be aimed at increasing the relative attainment of young men prior to HE.
The Department for Education is committed to ensuring that all groups of pupils have the opportunity to make good progress and reach their potential, whatever their gender, class, language or family background.
Evidence shows that schools with little or no gender gap tend to be characterised by a positive learning ethos, high expectations of all pupils, high quality teaching and classroom management and close tracking of individual pupils' achievement.
While gender can affect educational performance, other factors have a greater impact, for instance poverty is the single biggest factor affecting attainment at every key stage. The coalition Government have made it clear that they want to see more resources being spent on the education of disadvantaged children. The pupil premium provides additional money for each disadvantaged pupil in the country. Schools are free to use the premium as they see fit as they know best the needs of their disadvantaged pupils.
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