The aims of this research were to examine the uptake of science at A-level among boys and girls in Northern Ireland and to investigate changes in patterns of attainment from 1985 to 1995. The student’s level of ability was assessed by the GCSE scores and results were analysed with reference to sex, type of school, type of student, religion of school and ability of student. The mean number of science A-levels taken by boys has decreased and for girls has increased. Boys are still choosing significantly more science subjects at GCSE, but girls are now performing better. For girls, the mean number of science A-levels taken has increased in Protestant schools, but has decreased in Catholic schools. Whereas recent evidence from Britain has indicated the educational advantage of single-sex schooling, with respect to girls’ participation in science, the evidence of this study suggests that they are more likely to take science A-levels in coeducational schools and boys are more likely to achieve high attainment in such schools. In terms of attainment and participation in science, there appears to be no advantage in choosing single-sex schooling, or for a single-sex setting in science teaching at coeducational schools.
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