Action plan to tackle 'laddism'
At a time when concern about school behaviour has never been so high, Labour is proposing a coherent package of policies that it hopes will encourage boys to enjoy learning and stop girls streaking past them in exams.
Boys have been slipping further behind girls at secondary school for the past decade. In 199495, girls gaining five or more GCSE A-C grades outnumbered boys by 9 per cent.
Earlier this year, chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead declared that the failure of boys at school, and in particular the failure of white working-class boys, was one of the most disturbing problems facing the education system.
Labour says in its document, Boys will be Boys? Closing the Gender Gap, that it is committed to ensuring that boys reach their full academic potential.
"Too many boys are succumbing to the notion that there is no point in learning - to a group culture where it is 'cool' to truant and to indulge in anti-social behaviour. Our acceptance that 'boys will be boys' is damaging boys, disrupting boys' and girls' academic achievement, failing communities and costing society dearly in increased crime and vandalism," the document says.
Drawing together existing education policy, the ten-point plan stresses a greater role for parents and business in encouraging boys to stay at school and pursue a career.
A Labour government is committed to role model and mentoring schemes, out-of-school clubs, information technology, early career guidance and literacy schemes. It would require schools to operate disciplinary procedures to put a halt to the "worrying number" of boys being expelled from school.
The document says that failing boys are disruptive and anti-social in the classroom.
"Every day people working in and with schools are spending valuable time and money picking up the pieces after routine acts of disruption and vandalism which are mostly carried out by boys."
Releasing the plan, Shadow Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett told the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' conference last weekend that boys must start to achieve as well as girls.
"We must level up, not level down. We need to overcome what some have called 'laddism' - the belief that it isn't cool for boys to work," he said.
"Groups of boys are developing a culture of not working, of it being cool to truant, to misbehave and of some young men carrying knives."
Girls are now outperforming boys at school because of successful attempts to target weaknesses in their performance."We must also address the different strengths and weaknesses of boys, " David Blunkett said.