Audience Content Layout
Always Learning
Always Learning
6 July 2012

Girls forging ahead in practical learning

Girls outperform boys in Business, Construction and Engineering at Level 2 and 3 

New data published today by Pearson show that girls studying BTECs at Level 2 outperform boys across most subjects, including many traditionally regarded as ‘boys’ subjects’. A greater percentage of girls achieved the top marks compared with boys in subjects including business, construction and engineering.

The data show that while 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 and Services 28% of girls secured a Distinction* compared with 17% of boys.
  • In Construction and the Built Environment 18% of girls secured a Distinction* compared with 7% of boys.
  • In Engineering 28% of girls secured a Distinction* compared with 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 to 37% 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 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 received her award alongside other winners at a ceremony in London yesterday 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.”

Notes to editors:

1. Pearson is the world’s leading learning company. In the UK, Pearson comprises educational names including Edexcel, BTEC, Longman and Heinemann, as well as internationally known businesses such as Penguin, Dorling Kindersley, and the Financial Times. Pearson’s education work combines 150 years of experience with assessment services and online support for learners in more than 70 countries. Every day our work helps learning flourish, and wherever learning flourishes, so do people.  

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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. 

5. 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.

6. 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. 
7. See the full 2011/12 data release here.
8. For media enquiries, please contact Sam Cunningham on 020 7190 5372, or email

Sign up for email alerts using your Edexcel Online account details and you’ll receive an email whenever new documents or notices are added to this page – ensuring you don’t miss any vital updates.