"ALARMIST panic" about underachievement among boys was strongly condemned by John Pickering, an educational adviser in the London borough of Southwark.
But Mr Pickering's view that all boys were presented as doing less well than girls while all girls were portrayed as high achievers was equally criticised by his audience, several of whom remarked that this was not the assumption in Scotland.
Linda Croxford, of Edinburgh University's Centre for Educational Sociology, told Mr Pickering that a distinction should be made between high and low levels of achievement. The latter area was where the problem lay, she believed. It was no longer possible to leave school with no qualifications and walk into a job, Dr Croxford said, and boys had probably not coped as well as girls with the greater effort required in adapting to social and employment changes.
Rory MacKenzie, head of Balerno High, told of "worrying attitudes" among boys, even senior ones who were academically capable. In his own school he had come across an attitude of "it doesn't matter if we don't get good grades, we'll still get the best jobs - which, unfortunately, is probably true".
Mr Pickering, whose research on the subject was published two years ago in Raising Boys' Achievement, said it was important for teachers to be sensitive to their teaching styles.
He had conducted a study which found that, while girls were actually more disruptive in class than boys, boys were told off more frequently by both male and female teachers.
The results also showed that girls were scolded privately while boys were reprimanded publicly across the classroom. "So it is not surprising that boys and girls end up with different attitudes to learning and teaching," Mr Pickering said.