Wednesday 13 August 2014

A picture might be worth a thousand words but it rarely tells the whCarole2ole story, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to GCSE results.

Next week we can look forward to those now traditional shots of girls celebrating with their friends after getting their results. It’s usually girls featured on the news because, as we well know, girls do better than boys when it comes to GCSEs.

What’s missing from the story is the fact that that more than a third of girls - approximately 100,000 - leave school without five GCSEs (A* - C including English and Maths). True, that’s fewer girls than boys (34% compared with 44% based on previous years) but girls leaving school with few or no qualifications are given far fewer opportunities than boys in the same situation.  

The long-term impact on earnings will be greater for girls leaving school with few or no qualifications than it is for boys. They will still be earning much less than their male counterparts years from now.

But even girls doing well in their GCSEs face a harder struggle than boys, with most of their opportunities limited to traditionally female, lower-paid sectors, which offer fewer jobs. 

Unfortunately, discrimination, poor careers advice and a lack of recognition for vocational qualifications all help to stack the odds against girls.

What I hear from young women is just how difficult a struggle it is to get a job, let alone a job that offers any security or a reasonable salary. For those that will never pass GCSEs, vocational qualifications may provide an answer but the profile of these needs to be raised.

By all means celebrate girls’ achievements at GCSE but let’s not pretend they will enter the labour market on anything like an equal footing to their male counterparts, let alone with any kind of advantage.