Boys enter a new league

Jon Slater

A scheme imported from the NHS is getting impressive results in schools. Jon Slater reports

Thirty-nine secondaries have boosted boys' GCSE scores by double the national average by taking part in a scheme created for the National Health Service.

The Breakthrough programme helps schools to focus on areas such as strong leadership, enhancing teaching and learning skills, and using data effectively.

Schools can pick the ideas best suited to them from examples of best practice from home and abroad.

Sir John Oldham, the man responsible for the scheme, said it could help 1,000 schools to get similar improvements within two years for no more than the pound;1.99 cost of a Big Mac per pupil.

Outward Grange college in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, used the popularity of rugby among badly-behaved and underperforming boys to raise achievement.

The PE curriculum was changed to allow pupils to gain a GCSE in the subject and pupils were given "team talks" by their PE teacher to motivate them to achieve across the curriculum.

Boys at Sandhill View school, Sunderland, had their seats in class determined by the points they won and lost by their behaviour and performance.

The school has also developed a "books for boys" area and entered a group of boys in a competition to build and design a prototype Formula 1 car.

Speedwell technology college ran a "Real Men Read" poster campaign featuring members of the rugby team and male teachers, while Thomas Aveling school in Rochester, Kent, created a revision pack that went down well with both girls and boys.

John Wilkinson, head of Royston high in Barnsley, said: "Each school tailored the programme to the needs of its pupils. Many teachers have started changes that will have a lasting effect on the ethos and culture of our school."

The programme was developed by the national primary care development team (NPDT) and the Department for Education and Skills' innovations unit after David Miliband, the former schools minister, heard of its success in the NHS.

Schools taking part increased the proportion of their pupils gaining five or more A*-C grade GCSEs by an average of 4 percentage points this year, compared with the national average of two points.

Sir John, head of the NDPT, who still works as a GP two days per week, said that in the NHS the scheme had achieved measurable change in primary care and the management of heart disease and diabetes for 35 million patients.

"It is important that you make changes sustainable and that means doing it within existing resources," he said.

"The principles we use can be applied to any sector. It is not just about management techniques. It is about winning hearts and minds. You have to take schools with you."


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