Gender division has two vital sides

John Walmsley

It seems to be the received wisdom that boys will do less well than girls at GCSE and A-level. Now we seem to have new evidence that boys can outperform girls at bio-medical tests because of their quick thinking and risk-taking.

My experience is that boys can do just as well as girls in all external exams. At my school, a Quaker school that has always been mixed-ability and co-educational, there is no difference year on year between boys' and girls' performance at GCSE or A-level. For the past two years, boys have slightly outperformed girls in both.

Why? Perhaps because we have long experience of teaching girls and boys together. Or that we have the same expectations of both. It certainly has something to do with the lack of peer-group pressure. Negative peer pressure can mean boys underperform. It is not uncool to work hard at Sidcot, whatever your sex. All pupils are busy with activities after school, and boys - who have plenty to do - seem to achieve.

I think this equal achievement is also due to the Quaker idea that every child can be excellent at something. This idea can be applied in all schools, whatever their ethos or foundation.

John Walmsley, Headteacher, Sidcot School, Winscombe, North Somerset.

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John Walmsley

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