Blunkett targets scourge of lad culture

25th August 2000 at 01:00
Education Secretary asks Cambridge research team to find out if single-sex classes will help under-achieving boys. Sarah Cassidy reports.

SINGLE-SEX lessons will be tried out in more mixed schools as part of efforts to tackle boys' under-achievement.

The move was announced by Education Secretary David Blunkett after this year's A-level results showed girls further ahead than ever.

Mr Blunkett last week blamed the widening gender divide on a "laddish culture" which had grown out of boys' "lack of self-confidence and opportunity". He said this was a particular problem among working-class boys.

Mentoring and stopping boys sitting next to each other will be other strategies trialled by schools as part of Cambridge University research for the Department for Education and Employment.

School inspectors will also look at local authorities' success in boosting boys' performance through their education development plans.

Government literacy and numeracy strategies had already helped boys regain ground, Mr Blunkett said. In key stage 2 tests last year, they had narrowed the gap in English, and matched girls in maths. <> He claimed other measures had also addressed the issue, including learning mentors for disaffected pupils, pound;140m to help excluded pupils, the integration of careers advice and youth services, and the development of vocational GCSEs and A-levels.

However, girls' advantage was further highlighted by this week's GCSE results which showed a widening gap between girls' and boys' performance: 61.1 per cent of female candidates achieved a C or better compared to 51.9 per cent of boys.

Since GCSEs were introduced, girls have done better, and improved faster, than boys.

In 1989, 35 per cent of girls and 29.8 per cent of boys got five or more A-Cs at GCSE; in 1999 53.2 per cent of girls and 42.6 per cent of boys got the same results. In English, the divide is even wider; 61 per cent of girls achieved an A-C grade last year, compared with 45 per cent of boys.

However, at degree level, male undergraduates still achieve narrowly more firsts.

In last week's A-level results, for the first time, a higher proportion of female students won A-grades than males: 18.1 per cent of girls compared to 17.5 per cent of boys.

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