Study suggests boys achieve better in an all-male environment New research has backed the argument that single-sex schooling narrows the gap in educational achievement between boys and girls, and may even give boys the edge.

Evidence has been mounting in recent years that boys are slipping further behind girls in their schooling.

Statistics from last year's results in the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams added fuel to the fire: girls outperformed boys at every senior level.

Only last month, Auckland researcher Alison Derbyshire said boys would continue to achieve below their potential until schools accepted that they learned differently from girls and looked at initiatives to help them.

Research released yesterday by the University of Otago from the long-running Christchurch Health and Development Study showed single-sex schooling may be the answer.

The study, published in the Australian Journal of Education, compared the educational achievements of more than 900 boys and girls who attended single-sex and co-educational secondary schools in New Zealand.

It found that for students attending single-sex secondary schools, there was a slight tendency for boys to outperform girls. In contrast, for students attending co-educational schools, there was a clear tendency for girls to outperform boys.

The pattern remained when students were followed up to age 25.

"These findings are consistent with the argument that attending single-sex schools reduces or mitigates the current gap between boys and girls in educational achievement," said principal researcher Sheree Gibb.

The next step was to identify the particular features of single-sex schooling that were responsible for improving the boys' achievements.