Are young women's futures 'off the radar'?

Thursday 30 January 2014

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds perform worse at GCSE, with the gap between rich and poor widening last year. That was the stark message from a report from Demos earlier this week. The news came following the release of the revised GCSE results last week, which also show how more than a third of young girls fail to get the 5 A*-C grades (including English and Maths) which are essential for getting jobs or moving into further and higher education.

The results have, as always, sparked debate about pupils’ performance and the best ways to make sure young people leave school with the basic skills they need.  But we still have concerns.  

Firstly, while it’s clear that, on average, girls consistently (with the exception of Maths), outperform boys at GCSE, the emphasis on boys’ poor outcomes that these figures attract completely overshadows the poor outcomes of so many girls and young women.  Last year more than 100,000 girls left school without the basic grades they need to get a job or move into further and higher education. 

Secondly, the cuts to further education funding for 18 year olds in full-time study, also announced last week, will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged students. The Government’s own estimates expect FE colleges will be among the worst-hit of all institutions – the very places that offer many young women a vital second chance to build their skills and qualifications after they have left school

And thirdly we are extremely concerned about the long term prospects of young women leaving school with such poor qualifications.  Many will face a future moving in and out of low paid jobs. This not only costs the country millions in terms of additional welfare payments but young women who face periods of unemployment at this age spend longer out of work and suffer greater impact on their future earnings than young men.  This has huge consequences for their mental health and the health of their families and children.  We are concerned that ignoring girls’ results risks forcing their futures off the radar.