Girls forging ahead in practical learning

New data published by Pearson shows that girls studying BTECs at Level 2 outperform boys across most subjects, including many seen as ‘boys’ subjects’.

A greater percentage of girls achieved the top marks compared to boys in subjects including business, construction and engineering.

The data show that whilst boys continue to make up the majority of learners in these subjects, with boys representing 58% of BTEC Business learners at Level 2 and 56% of BTEC Business learners at Level 3, girls who take the courses outperform their male peers. In construction, boys represent 96% of learners at Level 2, and 94% of learners in engineering.

On overall performance at Level 2, the data show:

  • In Business & Services 28% of girls secured a Distinction* compared to 17% of boys.
  • In Construction and the Built Environment 18% of girls secured a Distinction* compared to 7% of boys.
  • In Engineering 28% of girls secured a Distinction* compared to 16%of boys.

The pattern is replicated at Level 3 (A level equivalent), where:

  • 48% of female learners awarded a BTEC Level 3 (Extended Diploma) in Business achieved the highest possible grade (DDD) as opposed to37% of male learners.
  • 39% of female learners awarded a BTEC Level 3 (Extended Diploma) in Engineering achieved the highest possible grade (DDD) as opposed to 29% of male learners.
  • 48% of female learners awarded a BTEC Level 3 (Extended Diploma) in Construction achieved the highest possible grade (DDD) compared to 34% of male learners.

Yet the data also reveal that, despite their success, not all girls are persuaded of the case for taking more vocational routes. Girls make up only 6% of all students studying Engineering at Level 2, with percentages falling even lower at Level 3 to 4%. Just 9% of Level 3 learners in Construction and the Built Environment were girls.

These statistics are published on the same day as Pearson announces engineering student Megan Turner as the Outstanding BTEC Science and Engineering Student and Overall BTEC Student of the Year.Megan, who is expected to be awarded a DDD in her BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering, is also set to go on to study engineering at Aston University. As part of her course she has been working with Loughborough University on a pioneering engineering project which could have commercial applications. Megan has also worked to develop links with local primary schools and encourage more girls to take up engineering. Megan will receive her award alongside other winners at a ceremony in London today, hosted by The Voice star Reggie Yates.

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, said:

“I hope these figures will give more girls the confidence to see careers in business, construction and engineering as within their reach. A learner’s gender should never influence the subjects they study nor be treated as an indicator as to how well they will perform.

“Megan is a fantastic engineering student from Loughborough who is using the experience gained studying her Level 3 BTEC to go on to university. She should be congratulated on her many achievements so far and I hope she will inspire more girls to study engineering.”

Pearson was the first awarding body to publish the achievements of students in schools and colleges studying a major vocational qualification. We are committed to the annual publication of these statistics. This is the second annual data release.

Since BTEC students receive their grades on a rolling basis throughout the academic year, today’s data relate to calendar year results gained at level 2 and level 3 from 1 June 2011 to 31 May 2012.

Alongside the certification data, Pearson has also published completion rates for BTEC, showing what percentage of students successfully complete their BTEC qualifications. Unlike A levels and GCSEs, BTECs are completed when students are ready, so a completion rate is calculated in place of a pass rate. Candidates who are withdrawn before any assessment are not included in these statistics. Completion rates are calculated over an academic year (1 September– 31 August), rather than over a twelve-month period as with the certification statistics. As a BTEC typically takes two years to complete, the rate is calculated through collecting registration data and recording how many pupils have completed their courses to date.

Research by London Economics in 2010 found that students who have a BTEC Level 2 qualification and five good GCSEs increase their lifetime earning potential by 5.9% compared to those who have just five or more GCSEs.

In 2009/10 (the last year for which data is available), 92,000 BTEC students applied to Higher Education Institutions, up from around 71,000 in 07/08. They successfully started courses in a variety of subjects including Maths, Engineering and Science. 6.4% of students were at Russell Group or 1994 universities.