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Analysis of GCSE STEM entries and results

Analysis of GCSE STEM entries and results

24 August 2017

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Girls continue to outperform boys across most STEM subjects and entries by girls continue to grow across many subjects, despite a drop in STEM entries overall.

Despite overall GCSE entries increasing by 202,000, STEM entries are down by 136,000. This represents 66,000 less girls taking STEM GCSEs this year. Much of this drop has occurred due to a lack of entrants in the Science GCSE - this is likely due to reforms to science qualifications that come into force next year (for details see Notes at the bottom of this page).

There has also been a decrease in the number of girls entering Design & Technology, ICT and Statistics, by 11.1%, 16.6% and 43.6% respectively.

Computing and Engineering failed to maintain the rapid growth observed last year with but the number of girls taking these subjects still grew by 5.6% and 8.2% respectively.

The number of girls taking Construction GCSE has increased by 26%, a greater increase than seen in entries by boys. However, girls still represent just 5% of entries to this subject, but we are encouraged by the growth.

In the main science qualifications (that students are required to sit some combination of) and maths girls and boys remain equally represented in entries.

Girls continue to outperform boys, with 66% of girls achieving A*-C/9-4 grades compared to 62% of boys.

  • In male-dominated Construction, 100% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 76% of boys)
  • In Additional Maths 96% of girls achieved 9-4 grades (vs. 94% of boys)
  • In Physics, 91% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 90.5% of boys)
  • In Statistics, 73% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 69% of boys)
  • In Biology and Chemistry, 91% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 89% and 88% of boys respectively).
  • In Computing, 66% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 60% of boys)
  • In Design & Tech, 73% of girls achieved A*-C (vs. 54% of boys)
  • In Additional Science, 62% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 55% of boys)
  • In Engineering, 66% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 42% of boys)
  • In ICT, 72% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs. 64% of boys)
  • In Science, 51% of girls achieved A*-C (vs. 45% of boys)
  • In Other Technologies, 55.6% of girls achieved A*-C (vs. 52.7%)

In Maths more boys achieved 9-4 (60%) compared to girls (59%), leaving four in ten students without a qualification that is required for many jobs in STEM.

Read the WISE 2017 GCSE results press release - More than 64,000 girls could be future engineers


The Joint Council for Qualifications has urged caution in drawing comparisons between maths and science data from this year compared to previous years.

This is because the new number grades in place for maths do not map directly onto the old lettering system. There are key anchor grades - grade 7 is equivalent to A, grade 4 is equivalent to C, and grade 1 is equivalent to G. This gives us the pass boundaries for maths as 9-4.

There is volatility in science entries as next year there will be a transition from the Science/Additional Science route to a new qualification.

Traditionally students in who do not take Biology, Chemistry and Physics separately have sat their Science GCSE in year 10 and then taken Additional Science in year 11. Next year a new Double Science qualification will be introduced, with students required to sit both exams in year 11, therefore very few year 10 student have entered the Science exams this year.

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