Gender Inequality in the British Education System

Despite attempts to counter gender inequality issues in the United Kingdom, it is still possible to see inequality in the British education system. Some of these problems are structural, whereas other issues are problems which are caused by wider society. Inequality within the education system can lead to inequality when the pupils grown up, including implications in terms of future employment prospects.


Recent data analysis suggests that boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum milestones. By Key Stage 2 (7 to 11 year olds) girls are already moving ahead of boys in their test scores. In the 2015 test scores, around 83% of girls achieved a level 4 or higher score, whereas only 77% of boys in the same age group were able to attain level 4 or higher. These trends continued up to GCSE level, with around 10% more girls earning 5 or more A* – C grades than boys who were achieving the same standard.

There is now a disparity amongst the amount of male and female school-leavers applying to university. UCAS data suggests that female school-leavers in England are 35% more likely to apply for university than their male peers are. This gap widens even further amongst applicants from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. Women from disadvantaged backgrounds are 58% more likely to apply for university than men from the same background.


Another inequality issue within the British education system is the difference in levels of men and women who are employed as teaching and support staff. Just 15% of primary school teachers are male, meaning that many children are lacking a positive male role model within their educational framework. Some schools do not have any male staff members at all. This can be particular problematic for children with learning difficulties that mean that they respond better with men.

Around 38% of teachers in state secondary school are male, but there is still a gender divide based on the subjects taught by men. Male teachers are more likely to specialise in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and PE, whereas women are more likely to teach humanities and languages. A lack of educational role models in STEM and PE can put some girls off taking these subjects. The effect is particularly visible amongst teenage girls who feel that male PE teachers cannot understand their needs properly.

Research also suggests that male teachers are more likely to be employed in high ranking roles within a school, such as Head of Department or Head Teacher. Studies have shown that many women in education see their role as vocational and prefer teaching to administrative or managerial roles, even though the pay grade is lower. One of the major challenges for the education system is making Head Teacher roles more appealing to female applicants.

Many schools say that they would like to hire more male teachers; however fewer men apply for each advertised role in teaching. The Department of Education is currently discussing strategies to recruit and retain more male teachers, and to encourage male teachers to consider a wider range of subjects.

Sexism within Education

Over three quarters of female secondary school pupils in the UK who attend mixed schools claim that they have been on the receiving end of sexist comments from other pupils. There are also concerns about the sexualisation of young girls within the educational environment. It is now harder than ever for young people to escape from sexism and sexualisation, due to the increased use of social media. Many young people do not know where to turn when they receive unwanted sexual content or comments from their peers when they are outside of the classroom.

Many male pupils have also stated that they feel under intense pressure to look and act in a certain way. The number of adolescent males who are suffering from body dysmorphia has increased in recent years. Male pupils must also be supported with previously under-reported problems.

In order to reduce sexism and sexualisation over social media, schools must improve their reporting and safeguarding policies. More should be done to encourage pupils to come forwards if they are suffering from sexism. Sexism should also be studied in a wider social context to help to educate pupils.


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    • Mirade pretty on 15/11/2018 at 7:59 PM
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    If the world was as understanding 25 years ago I would be a woman called mirade and work in fashion. I have now found the courage to be myself but I know that I am in for a bumpy ride. Looking for funding. I have had to struggle all my life and have ended up with no savings. But soon as I am able I am really looking forward to being a female employee. I have been a carpenter forman on Heathrow t5 and gchq Twickenham rugby ground and am a good worker. I am hoping for the best advice you can give me. I suffer from anxiety and finding it hard to get help. Xxxx

      • Sally on 22/01/2019 at 10:24 AM
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      Cheers for that!

      • mary on 14/05/2019 at 10:58 AM
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      Unfortunately I completely understand where your coming from. As a now middle aged women I have lost so many opportunities in life due to my gender, they all say the world is your oyster but for us women it is not! I hope my children do not face the same sexism I have undergone x

    • John on 30/09/2019 at 2:50 PM
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    As a male from a working class background in the ’80’s, I was the first member of my family to go into higher education ( At a Polytechnic ) to do a degree. I didn’t feel I fitted in with the middle class environment and fell into a laddish culture with a few other similar lads. Needless to say, my work ethic wasn’t there and I got a poor degree. Luckily for me I later did a second degree by correspondence in a subject I was passionate about and got a decent degree. I’m now a Primary school teacher but still feel like an imposter among the largely middle class workforce.

    • Jeremy Jacobs on 25/10/2019 at 1:32 PM
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    “Recent data analysis suggests that boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum milestones. ” Can someone please explain to me why this is an “”achievement”?

      • L on 11/06/2020 at 1:02 PM
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      Because the author is a misandrist?!

        • Emily Clarke on 25/10/2022 at 1:57 PM
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        I sensed that also.

      • Alex on 11/07/2020 at 5:09 PM
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      I don’t think the author is claiming it’s an achievement that boys are struggling to keep up with girls. Rather, the section is called Achievements in reference to test scores and university applications, and then the content is that boys have lower test scores i.e. lower levels of achievement.

    • Ruth on 07/12/2019 at 1:00 PM
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    Dear, dear ….
    “Boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum milestones”: 83% of girls versus 77% of boys, is cited as one example of data supporting this …. a difference of 6%? Perhaps Gina had a string of very poor maths teachers in high school and in science too (I’m a science teacher myself) to interpret a 6% difference as real evidence of struggling. And now we’ve got a problem of too many women going to university, apparently! … And I think the argument about too few female science teachers is now well and truly redundant. Certainly, it does seem easier to recruit male than female maths teachers but in fact, it’s hard to recruit maths teachers full-stop … If there were no female maths teachers in a school, I would find that disappointing and concerning. But a story I find of far greater interest is John’s and the problem of a cultural class-divide and exclusion (which goes beyond gender). Genuinely opening up the horizons of working class kids is surely a pressing issue , and is no doubt influenced by the way the profession presents itself, eg negatively if perhaps too middle-class. Genuine diversity amongst the teacher population, and within schools, is surely essential and best for all students.

      • M on 13/01/2020 at 9:43 PM
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      As a science teacher, I would expect you to understand statistics better than to simply discount a figure as irrelevant. Given the number of students this figure is based upon, 6% is certainly significant and will have a low margin of error. This is also significant due to the fact that once behind, it’s difficult to catch up, as I hope you would be aware of as a teacher.

        • A bloke on 22/08/2023 at 10:44 PM
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        Dearest Jeremy and your acolytes

        Looks like you have completely misinterpreted what is meant by Achievements. The heading “achievement” is to show how there is a great disparity of academic achievement concerning boys and girls. The conclusion is that the current education system is clearly working against boys ability to achieve as well as girls and those from low income backgrounds on particular.

        In other words you missed the point entirely presumably as you are so enamoured of the idea of finding evidence of misandry (of which there is not a shred).

        What motivated this interpretation?
        Or was it perhaps a failing in your education – which is ironic, don’t you think?

      • Rory on 29/12/2021 at 12:29 AM
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      Exactly right Ruth!

        • Darren Newton on 29/01/2024 at 1:58 PM
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        The author is not saying it is an achievement. Rather, it’s a statistic about how young people are achieving in education based on test scores etc- not necessarily a positive or negative statement but just a statistic.

    • Darren on 19/06/2020 at 8:46 PM
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    Femanism is the real problem. Before you groan and roll your eyes please read on. Female teachers are over represented in the class room, therefore Femanism is over represented in the class room. Femanism isn’t about true equality anymore, It’s about cherry picking what they want to keep and ignoring the inconvienient bits. Gender bias against boys is rampant, especially in Primary and Secondary settings. Dont beleive me…pick a random set of state secondary school websites (and colleges come to that) and you will see a huge bias towards promoting girls in a positive light. Some websites will leave you wondering whether boys even attend said institution let alone if they actually achieve anything. It has been going on for so long most don’t even notice the bias. Its perpetuated via subtle and some not so subtle positive discrimination against boys. A lot of parents are not well informed or in the know as to what and how subjects are taught in school these days, due to their hectic lives and lack of spare time. Also schools hide behind a cloak of opaqueness, blaming lack of resources for a lack of transparency. If you take into account the amount of positive discrimination against boys and the fact that boys develop later than girls and only catch up by the age of 18 years, boys are doing really well to be where they are!

    The comment Ruth made is indicative of a biased teacher, someone who is indoctrinated (knowingly or unknowingly) into the positive discrimination culture against boys. I would be concerned if she was teaching my Sons with such an attitude towards a problem that is now being taken very serious at the highest levels of government.

    Ruth is more interested in ‘cultural class-divide and exclusion (which goes beyond gender)’ except roughly 50% of those individuals will be male. This is nothing more than an attempt to divert attention away from the elephant in the room, an inconvenient truth.

      • Anna on 12/02/2021 at 11:55 PM
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      Darren, at least you feel once like women for last hundreds of years. So from my perspective a few years with girls on the main cover is like a drop in an ocean.
      In my view, we need to all strive to create a society where there is a place for everyone to be themselves, stop feeding children with things like boys are curious and girls are naughty. Despite the window dressing on the school websites as a mother (of a boy and a girl) I still feel the curriculum for a meaningful gender balanced approach is not there.

      Trust me your boys will have (as you had) a better starting position than many girls due to cultural often home grown understanding of world , but I can completely understand that any attempt to change that dominance is uncomfortable for fathers and many mothers of boys to accept.

        • jeame on 16/06/2022 at 10:52 PM
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        That doesn’t make sense girls do better all through education and they are studies that show that female teachers treat boys differently, and even mark them lower for the same work.

        • Joe on 19/08/2022 at 12:47 PM
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        That’s not true though, boys fall behind at all levels of education and are far less likely to go university than girls, and boys from disadvantage areas are even more affected, and women seen to get the best start they get paid more and better job opportunities until their mid 30s.

        • Emily Clarke on 25/10/2022 at 2:11 PM
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        “A gender-balanced approach” is just a synonym for “suitable for girls”. Boys and girls are not the same yet the curriculum and classroom applaud females and feminine behaviour and chastise typical male behaviour. Girls get a gold star and boys get judged as dysfunctional females and put on medication. The classroom environment is torture for young boys and unfortunately modern feminism thinks they deserve it which is a bit of a problem when the majority of teachers are middle-class female liberals.

        • Adam Charles on 26/06/2023 at 11:14 PM
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        So two wrongs make a right? Like I would not mind, you have shown the approach to the issues men and boys face on a daily basis, is to wrtie if off due to “toxic masculinity”, and use straw man arguments that men and boys are raised to be entitled, and boys are curious and girls are naughty, when those things are not the case.

        Until we admit, that the problems men and boys at least in education exist, and are due to sexism, and look at the real issues men and boys face, we won’t have parity, and certainly not equality.

      • L on 19/06/2021 at 7:20 PM
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      you really shouldn’t raise children with that attitude dazza?

        • DAZZA on 27/09/2022 at 10:11 AM
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        Yass slay agreed! dazza, You should not even be able to raise a lemon with that attitude!

      • A bloke on 22/08/2023 at 10:53 PM
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      Is it feminist that more women than men work in occupations such as teaching and nursing?

      far ore senior medics are men than women (majority of nurses) and so

      Is it feminist at secondary level, that women make up 62 per cent of the workforce but just 38 per cent of headteachers. Those 62% being – you guessed it MEN.

      And most early years childcare providers have women staff showing that women should play a caring and nurturing role rather than men – how is that feminist exactly?

      I recommend you do some reading on the subject. You’ll be surprised how your understanding can be improved

    • Darren Churchill on 30/06/2020 at 10:21 AM
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    I recently added a comment relating to the
    Gender Inequality in the British Education System. It has not been added to the comments section. Please could you explain why? Thank you.

    1. I have been busy with other things but I’ve added your comment now. Thank you.

    • Kevin Heath on 25/02/2021 at 8:48 PM
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    Keep going like your going now in western world and we will eventually get to the stage no males go to university only females. Or at least no white males. For absolute sure we are close to that as regards no poor white boys going to university. They are not helped by female teachers who cheat and mark up girls scores and mark down boys scores. Such so called teachers who systematically cheat a whole gender outta their greatest chance to build a good life should be sacked and prosecuted.

    • Cherry on 23/03/2021 at 9:06 AM
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    My 11 year old boy said this morning before school why are girls treated differently to boys, he explained he lost 5 mins of break yesterday and a girl in he’s class did the same thing and didn’t loose any time ?
    In nursery girls were nurtured more than boys I noticed teachers had a preference for girls could this have something to do with it

    • Saad on 15/01/2022 at 9:25 AM
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    In my view, we all are same . Only social division makes us divided.

    • Gary on 27/07/2023 at 9:29 AM
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    It’s time to admit that the problem lies with boys themselves, not with perceived inequality of treatment. Boys and girls were achieving nearly equally up until the mid 1980’s. So what happened? . . . There was a big change in the social aspect of education in the 1980’s which reflected a general social change in society. In schools this was known as School Centred, and Child Centred Education, In School Centred Education schools decided how children were to be taught which was usually within a rigid framework (as I well remember being a pupil of the 1950s/1960s). This particularly suited boys as their learning was directed, often in a disciplined environment. With the movement to Child Centred Education (where the child directs their own education) boys have generally lost their way whereas girls tend to be independent learners and naturally aspire. Boys, on the other hand, generally languish and do no more than absolutely necessary, and are more disruptive. Additionally boys receive a rush of testosterone around age 14 which tends to make them more resistant to being taught. This was countered in my school days by my mother who drove me to succeed at school. This parental encouragement and discipline is now sadly lacking generally, and boys need it the most! Indian and Chinese parents still provide this parental support for their children and their boys are achieving at least as well as their girls. They also outperform all other ethnic groups. Unfortunately I believe that the social change that has led to boys’ underachievement is irreversible.

    • Bea on 02/02/2024 at 9:15 AM
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    Hi, loved this article, I am currently writing a master assignment on the topic of gender bias in UK classrooms, i was hoping You’d be able to provide some of the sources for the data referred to.

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