Here Come The Boys – Closing the Gap

A recent report entitled “Lost Girls: The overlooked children struggling to understand the written word” caused some comment on Twitter. One issue was raised by @MartinDaubrey (who has recently written about boy’s education in The Times (£) ) who said

I would suggest that the answer to this question is in the first line of the section he quoted –

We know that when it comes to literacy boys, on average, are weaker readers than girls.

We are already putting in place policies and initiatives to help boys close the gap and catch up with girls. Martin asked me to share some examples of such initiatives- so here we go.

Closing the gap – a department approach 

In my department we, like many schools, have had a distinct gap between male and female achievement. Boys have made significantly less progress and this has been a national trend for a while. Last year we put in place a number of strategies to try and address this. Now this has to come with the caveat that of course not all boys are the same. Many are hard working, dedicated and well motivated but we had noticed a culture whereby high ability boys were producing work of a lower quality than high ability girls. This is what we wanted to change.

  1. We returned work. We set and modelled very high expectations of the work we would accept and take in. If work didn’t meet these expectations it was returned to be reworked. Support was always on offer for anyone who needed help to achieve this but pupils rarely needed it. They just needed to put in the time and attention.
  2. We noticed that boys were much less likely to attend after school intervention sessions than girls so we increased the pressure to attend. We issued personal invitations, we involved parents and SLT to talk to the boys we needed to attend. We used peer pressure so that boys attended with their friends and knew their friends were expecting them to be there.
  3. We used competition. Who can write the best answer to this 4 mark question? Who can be the first to find the error in this answer?

School level approaches

Over the past few years I have seen an increasing number of policies and strategies at a school wide level to try and added the gap in boys achievement.

  1. Our school has a number if research and innovation teams including one dedicated to “Inspiring Boys” who are researching and sharing good practice.
  2. I have known a number if schools who have brought in motivational speakers to talk to boys. My last school had a very powerful speaker who came in to address the question “What makes a Man” with a focus on the idea that it is about stepping up and taking responsibility for ones actions. I have also seen boys taken out for the day to visit universities or places of work in areas they are interested in.
  3. Intervention in literacy is very common and as it tends to focus on closing the gap it most often focuses on boys.
  4. Reading buddies have been used to good effect to encourage boys to read for pleasure by providing role models in boys higher up the school who do so.
  5. Research by school librarians on what boys want to read and on addressing the barriers that might prevent them from doing so.

I see no issue in a report reminding us that girls may also be struggling with literacy. I have been in meetings with staff in other schools who have been told they can not offer support to the pupils they felt needed it because it was only available for boys as they were the school’s priority. This report can be a timely reminder that it is indivual children who require our support and should not be viewed as one gender against another.


One thought on “Here Come The Boys – Closing the Gap

  1. Pingback: “Here Come The Boys – Closing the Gap” | inversionsuicide

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