The good news is that the gender gap is closing. The bad news is that by the time they reach Year 6, girls have caught up with boys in their negative attitude towards school.
A longitudinal study of the attitudes of schoolchildren at Year 2 and then at Year 6 reveals that, while overall pupils are generally positive about their school experiences, they are significantly more negative in Year 6 than they were in Year 2.
The curricular area of greatest dislike among all ages is story writing, although girls manage to overcome this enough to out-perform boys in writing tests. Where they diverge most is in their attitudes to auhority. Girls at Year 6 still regard their teachers as a respected authority figure while boys report that they are less bothered about breaking rules, getting told off and getting into fights and arguments.
The study concludes that there needs to be as much attention placed on encouraging boys to be positive towards the hidden curriculum of discipline and respecting authority as there is to raising academic achievement.
The Closing Gap in Attitudes between Boys and Girls: A five-year longitudinal study by Julia Davies and Ivy Brember, School of Education, University of Manchester. E-mail: Julia.Davies@man.ac.uk