Boys are catching up to girls when it comes to educational achievement in the Bay of Plenty.

According to Ministry of Education figures, 79.3 per cent of Bay of Plenty girls left school with NCEA level 2 or higher last year, compared to 73.9 per cent of boys.

Those percentages had increased since 2009, when 68.9 per cent of girls and 59.2 per cent of boys left school with NCEA level 2 or higher.

According to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, NCEA level 2 provides the foundation skills required for employment.

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Nationwide, the gap between girls and boys closed by 2.8 per cent over the six year period. In the Bay of Plenty there was a 4.3 per cent improvement.

Aquinas College principal Ray Scott said the gap in the educational achievement between boys and girls became smaller as students progressed through the senior school.

That was, in part, because boys took longer to commit to their work and to make decisions about what they wanted to do.

The school had been working on identifying small target groups of students that needed help at junior and senior levels. That included students of either gender but a slightly higher proportion of those students were boys.

Mr Scott said it had been encouraging to see boys' overall achievement going up. Boys' achievement at the school was also high against national statistics.

However, girls at the school were still achieving at a higher level in terms of merit and excellence results.

Otumoetai College acting principal Bruce Farthing said achievement was rising at the school but girls were outperforming boys, particularly at endorsement level.

When students perform consistently above the "achieved" level, their results can be endorsed to reflect the high achievement.

However, there had been a steady increase in boys' endorsement, he said.

Traditionally girls had outshone boys at level 1 and 2 but the tables reversed after that.

"The worry is, of course, how many boys we lose along the way," said Mr Farthing.

Otumoetai College was focusing on raising the achievement of NCEA level 1 boys. It had created a tracking group, where it observed and mentored a group of boys across several subjects.

Next year it would begin a programme where students learned maths and literacy in the context of how the subjects related to life.

Ministry of Education associate deputy secretary, student achievement, Lesley Hoskin, said nationally boys were slowly closing the gap on girls in terms of NCEA achievement.

"Girls are still performing strongly, but boys are making good gains. We're aware that many schools have done a lot of work around supporting their boys to engage, aspire and work harder to achieve more."

She said the Ministry's programmes, which aimed at lifting literacy, did not discriminate on gender. However, boys were disproportionately represented among children being helped.

"They make up more than half of those receiving assistance for lifting achievement in reading and writing."

Figures showed that from 2009 to 2014, there had been a consistent pattern of female students attaining NCEA level 2, or equivalent, at higher rates than male students.

In 2014, the trend of female school leavers continued, with 79.9 per cent of girls leaving school with NCEA level 2 or higher, compared to 74.5 per cent of boys.

However, the size of the gender gap is closing, with the difference reduced from 8.2 per cent in 2009 to 5.4 per cent in 2014.