Help boys to focus

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
They need separate classes and some support from the girls, says professor

Boys need to learn how to become more organised to help them perform better in exams, a leading educationist has claimed. David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth university, also said there should more single-sex classes across Wales in some subjects.

A growing number of schools in England are using single-sex classes to improve boys' results in certain subjects. Professor Reynolds, who is based in Wales, said separating the sexes would allow teachers to focus more on boys.

But he said girls, who traditionally do well in English, should help struggling members of the opposite sex.

His tips for tackling underachievement of male pupils comes as Assembly government figures show that boys' results in 2006 from key stage 1 up to A-level, lags significantly behind girls.

The gap is widest at GCSE, where overall boys have trailed around 11 per cent behind the girls in terms of A*-C grades since 2002. However, it is smaller in science at KS3, where boys' results are just 2 per cent behind.

In her annual report for 2006-7, chief inspector Susan Lewis suggested boys may find it more difficult coping with transition to secondary school.

But Professor Reynolds said more appeared to be happening over the border to attack the problem. A report sent to the Department for Education and Skills by Cambridge university suggests more target-setting and mentoring of boys.

It says drama could be used to boost boys' performance in English.

Professor Reynolds also said some teachers needed to demonstrate more classroom management of boys.

"There is no magical solution - single-sex classes would have to be used alongside other systems."

He also said sport could be used to encourage boys to do their homework by giving incentives to those who take part in school teams.

A Welsh Assembly spokesperson said: "It is up to schools to use methods which suit their particular circumstances - single-sex lessons have on occasion been effective but other methods have been equally successful.

"We have commissioned work from Estyn which looks at factors that affect the difference in performance between boys and girls, and examples of good practice in schools that succeed in closing the gap. This is due to report this financial year and will form the basis for policy considerations.

"The 14-19 learning pathways approach offers a broader range of opportunities to meet differing learning styles.

"This includes offering alternative pathways that may be more suited to boys."

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