Girls have outstripped their male classmates on results day under the new GCSE grading system, taking home far more of the coveted top grades.
While around 50,500 pupils (2.9%) earned the highest possible grade in maths, English or literature, more than 30,200 of these belonged to female students (3.5%), compared to about 20,200 boys (2.3%).
The results follow a major government reform to make GCSEs more challenging.
Under the changes, traditional A* to G grades have been scrapped in favour of a broader, numbered system to allow greater differentiation between the brightest students. 9 is now the highest grade, while 1 is the lowest.
While students will only receive numbered grades for English language, literature and maths this year, letter grades will be completely phased out by 2020.
Now, a breakdown of this year’s results suggest that the reforms could have worked in girls’ favour.
Not only did female students earn more grade 9s overall, but they also beat the boys when it came to English and literature.
Outperforming their male classmates by 2%, 3.3% of female pupils - around 10,200 - bagged the top grade in English, compared to 1.3% of boys - around 4,200.
In literature, there was a similar divide - only about 5,200 boys (1.9%) achieved a grade 9 in the exam, while almost 12,300 girls (4.5%) did so.
However, boys came into their own in maths. While 3.5% of the 565, 360 students who took the exam bagged a top grade, 4% of boys - around 11,300 students - achieved the feat.
Just short of 8,200 girls earned the same result.
Sally Collier, chief regulator of exams watchdog Ofqual, said that the new qualifications have allowed students to “better demonstrate their abilities and will have better prepared them for further study”.
She continued: “In turn, the new 9 to 1 grade system signals to employers and others that this year’s students have studied new, more challenging content, and better differentiates between their achievements.”
However, some school leaders have warned that the new, more challenging qualifications are increasing stress and anxiety for pupils amid a “rising tide of mental health issues among young people”, and that this was likely to intensify as more subjects switch to the new system.
Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary Geoff Barton, told the Press Association: “The new GCSEs are more challenging, and there are more papers, and this is putting severe pressure on young people.
“We support a robust qualification system, but it has to be balanced against the welfare of young people, and we are not sure the balance in the new system is correct.”