The fact that the proportion of female “techie” teachers has doubled over the past decade might be good in terms of encouraging girls to pursue subjects such as practical woodwork or graphic communication, but the impact on boys could be less favourable, says Caroline McFarlane, design and technology faculty head at Banff Academy.
Some of the harder-to-engage boys – many of whom come from single-parent families – do not take well to female authority, says McFarlane, and they might have benefited from the positive role models they would have found in the male-dominated techie departments of old. Last year at the annual School Leaders Scotland conference, Sue Brookes, a former governor of Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution, called for more focus on the particular struggles that boys face.
There was a big emphasis in schools on achieving equality in education for girls, and driving up female participation in Stem subjects, she said. This was right and proper but more attention should be paid to why boys were more likely to be excluded from school, be violent and end up in prison or take their own lives.