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Girls study better at home

On reading last week's article in The TES Scotland, "Falkirk calls time on study leave," it seemed to me that the council has taken a less than even-handed approach to the problem they have identified with S4 pupils.

Nigel Fletcher, Falkirk's head of policy and quality assurance, states that study leave is to be cancelled because "young people do not always make the best use of study leave at home" and that "this relates particularly to boys who may be distracted by other activities". He concludes that, "given the poor levels of performance in Falkirk secondary schools, especially by boys relative to girls of the same age, this is an area that merits serious consideration".

The comments by David Miliband, Minister for School Standards in England, mirror this concern "that a laissez-faire approach to revision seemed particularly damaging to boys".

However, recent research studies on the classroom experience of boys and girls would indicate that girls could be seriously disadvantaged if they had to spend their study leave in classrooms, rather than at home doing private study.

Christine Howe (1997) conducted a large-scale study into "Gender and Classroom Interaction" and concluded that girls were routinely disadvantaged in the classroom situation. She found that boys dominated the physical context by controlling the use of limited resources; during whole-class interaction boys contributed more and received more feedback from teachers.

The research also discovered that the role of girls in the classroom is "to do the listening and to some extent the responding" and that "when girls'

voices are heard, it is in a more private context".

In general it was apparent that "the learning of boys is a more public process than the learning of girls". When girls were asked their opinion on their experiences of classroom interaction and how it affects their learning, the research showed that "girls are not always happy about the situation, as they in general experience the classroom situation as being less than satisfactory".

Although it may be an advantage for boys to spend more time in the classroom, girls could be at a disadvantage. Their preference appears to be for private study, away from the domination that boys exert over the learning and teaching process within school classrooms.

Sylvia Latham Edinburgh Road, Perth

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