HAMPSHIRE schools boosted their GCSE scores this year with boys' performance improving faster than girls'.

But the gap between girls and boys remains wide, with girls ten percentage points ahead, just as they were nine years ago.

Across the county, 55.8 per cent of pupils attained five or more A* to C grade GCSEs, a 3.1 per cent increase on last year. The provisional national figure is 49 per cent.

A total of 61 per cent of girls achieved the benchmark - up 2.17 per cent on last year - and 50.7 per cent of boys - up by 4.1 per cent .

Perins Community School, Alres-Ford, achieved the highest score in the county, with 81 per cent of pupils gaining five or more A to C grades, but was down one percentage point on its top ranking score last year.

It was closely followed by Kings' School, Winchester, where 80 per cent of pupils reached the benchmark and by Thornden School in Chandler's Ford at 78 per cent.

Lowest score was that of John Hunt of Everest School in Basingstoke, with 12 per cent of pupils gaining five or more A to C grades. Bridgemary School in Gosport was fourth from bottom, with 20 per cent of pupils reaching the benchmark.

Hampshire's overall result narrowly missed its target of 57 per cent for this year, but the figure is not final as some schools are waiting for papers to be remarked.

Tory councillor Mel Kendal, deputy chair of education, said: "It shows that our policies for improving standards of education are working. Early indications are that not only are we highly-placed in comparison with national figures but also among our peer group of 11 similar county councils.

"This year's results show that our efforts to improve standards among boys are working but more needs to be done. Every time we narrow the gap by a couple of percentage points, we are winning the war by inches."

Chris Carr, deputy head at Bridge-mary, said: "The GCSE results were a disappointment to the school but there was a very small improvement of 0.5 per cent in the right direction. We have set ourselves a target of 30 per cent for next year."

Hampshire schools also saw im-provement in the attainment of children aged seven, 11 and 14 under the national curriculum, with the county ahead of the provisional national figures and improving or maintaining its own standards in all subjects and key stages.

In Southampton schools, 40 per cent of pupils attained the benchmark five or more A* to C grades. The provisional result is half a percentage point down on last year.