Boys catch up with the girls

Exam results Photo: ITV

As thousands of students in the North West find out their 'A' level results today the figures show

boys are finally starting to catch up with girls in achieving the very top grades But they've still got way to go to match their overall success.

For the first time since the introduction of the A* grade, boys did better than girls.

Out of the total number of male entries, 8% were awarded the A, compared with 7.9% of girls. The A grade was brought in two years ago to reward the very brightest students.

However, girls were given more A grades, with 27% of all their entries getting A*-A grades compared with 25.8% given to boys' entries.

The gap between the genders was even more noticeable when looking at A*-B grades, with 54.7% of girls' exams achieving that level and 50.2% of boys' papers. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "A lot has been said about the gender gap and that message has obviously got through. Teachers have focused on boys' achievement."

He said there was more of an emphasis on the jobs market and students were considering that when sitting their A-levels.

Students in Rochdale queue up for results Credit: ITV

Mr Lightman added: "Boys focus on short-term goals and see they need good grades. They will focus on that and that's good."It's nice to see that boys and girls are almost neck-and-neck now. We certainly don't want the gaps in achievement."The figures also showed a marked contrast in the type of subjects taken by boys and girls.The subjects with the highest proportion of female entrants were - in order - performing arts, Welsh, sociology, art and design subjects and communication studies.Those attracting the highest proportion of boys were computing, physics, other sciences, further mathematics and economics.