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Gap closed in a year

Teachers at St Thomas More RC school in Tameside set out to tackle the underachievement of boys three years ago, at a time when girls had leapt 20 percentage points ahead of their male classmates in terms of GCSE success rates, writes Dorothy Lepkowska.

Within a year the boys had caught up. Some 50 per cent achieved five or more A* to C grades in 1996 - exactly the same as the girls - up from 33 per cent in 1995.

Mary Lawrence, the headteacher, said it was clear that boys and girls had different attitudes towards learning and it was from this starting point that the school began to reverse the fortunes of boys.

Teachers had also noticed an "anti-education sub-culture" emerging among boys in Year 8.

Detailed monitoring was done of each pupil's progress to ensure that teachers were aware of every boy's potential. At key stage 4 individual interviews were held with pupils, and targets set.

Five boys in every form in Years 10 and 11 - some 40 pupils in all - were targeted for special attention in class. Teachers kept a stricter eye on their work, praised them when they did well and kept them involved and motivated in lessons.

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