Editor's comment

13th July 2007 at 01:00
The latest confirmation that boys are still trailing girls in their school achievements is not much of a surprise (p2). Perhaps more striking, if not depressing, is the revelation that some of the much-vaunted solutions are unlikely to have much impact.

Increasing the number of male teachers and developing more "male-friendly" teaching styles have been seen as key to closing the gap. But the report issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in England, which reviewed previous research, begs to differ. It notes one study last year, which found that two-thirds of pupils rejected the idea that the gender of teachers mattered; it was their quality that made the difference. The report is also sceptical about the suggestion that girls do better because schools' learning styles favour them. It found little evidence that boys and girls had different learning styles. And even if there was such a thing as "boy friendly" teaching, anything that improved their grades would be likely to improve girls' results as well leaving the gender gap no smaller than it was.

There seems little doubt, on the basis of this research, that girls do well because of their greater maturity and attention to detail. But the huge strides of women in the labour market, though by no means bringing them economic equality, also account for girls' success. One result, the report states, is that "teachers have low expectations of boys' academic potential, which could contribute to their low achievement".

But we should not assume that nothing can be done. If there is a message from the research, it is the same one sent out last year by Hawick High, where boys have been beating girls at their own game. That message is: "raise expectations and you raise achievement".

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