GIRLS may have a reputation for being conscientious in the classroom and statistics certainly prove they do better in exams than their male peers.
But the number of schooldays they miss is much higher than boys – and in Portsmouth the trend peaks during Key Stage 4, the two critical GCSE years of Year 10 and 11.
In the first two terms of the 2010/11 academic year, girls missed nine days of school, compared with eight for boys.
And the gap is widening. In 2008/9 girls missed 62 more days than boys, but in two terms this year the difference was 79 days.
Mark Marande, Priory’s deputy head, said: ‘In exams our girls perform extremely well, and better than the boys. This tells us they could attain higher if attendance improves.
‘There are many reasons why girls have poorer attendance rates, but one big issue that has come to our attention is the number of our girls who stay at home to care for disabled relatives or offer support.
‘In years 10 and 11 there is the added complication of puberty which affects things like sleeping patterns, resulting in students coming in late.’
Sharon Watt, head of City of Portsmouth Girls, which has a 92 per cent attendance rate – two per cent shy of the national average – said the attitude of some girls who don’t turn up for school at GCSE stage is ‘can’t be bothered’.
She added: ‘We need them to buy into the fact that it’s their future they are spoiling. As a school the most important thing you can do is raise aspiration.’
Richard Harvey, the council’s manager of targeted services, said: ‘It’s in KS4 that we see a spike.
‘The most prevalent reasons seem to be health issues as a result of puberty, as well as girls caring for relatives at home.
‘We believe strong school leadership and management is key to cutting down the absence rates, and many schools including King Richard School (where the overall rate of female absence has almost halved in two years) and City of Portsmouth Boys have made an impact.’
In 2009/10 across England girls missed an average of 12 days a year, compared with 16 days in Portsmouth.