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Bradford's broad curriculum is a success for both genders

For the past 18 months, schools in Bradford have been working to boost the achievement of boys. Last year, a pilot group of 22 schools began the work.

This year, 77 schools are involved - 18 secondaries and 59 primaries. The scheme involves in-service training, and each school developing a tailored action plan.

"We are concerned about the overall achievements of boys, their behaviour patterns and job aspirations, not only their results," says Chris Ford, director of the city's Excellence in Cities action zone, which runs the project.

"It's clear that over the past 15 years, school has become a more narrow and drier kind of affair for some pupils. The pressures and drives are all about literacy and numeracy. There is less time for a broader curriculum.

But if you have a rich curriculum, hands-on learning, a rich life beyond class, and behaviour policies that are firm and plain, then boys and girls achieve equally."

Schools have looked at how pupils can gain kudos and success in the arts, sports, and academic subjects. They have considered their books and libraries, and their behaviour policies. They have also made sure that there is more to school than just the curriculum, and respected the aspirations that students bring to school with them.

"There are about a dozen small things you can do, but when you have got them all going on, the overall culture of the schools shifts and you see reactions very, very quickly - usually within a couple of terms," says Mr Ford. "Then that needs to be consolidated over a couple of years to make sure that it stays in place."

Last year, 18 out of the 22 primary schools in the pilot scheme improved boys' attainments, with 13 of them seeing an average increase of 5 per cent in literacy and 10 per cent in numeracy.

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