Popular boys get lads into learning

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
The lad culture which makes boys think it is uncool to learn can be tackled by targeting popular pupils, government-funded research suggests.

Researchers at Cambridge university have spent four years examining a range of approaches used at schools which have successfully raised boys'


One of the most effective methods involves teachers spotting pupil leaders or image-makers "whose physical presence, manner and behaviour exerted considerable power and influence within the peer group".

"Key leaders are not always hostile, challenging and continually set on conflict, but are seen by the school as needing encouragement and support to remain on track," the report said.

These leaders were divided into three categories: Rebels, who broke the rules but were intelligent; Clowns, immature boys who incited poor behaviour; and Stars, who were successful, yet not seen as swots.

A secondary school in the north-west of England, which was not named, has been running a scheme where teachers meet to identify up to a dozen pupil leaders in each year group.

The leaders are then each assigned a "key befriender", a teacher who regularly meets them for informal chats.

The scheme differs from standard mentoring schemes because it aims to have a knock-on effect of improving the behaviour of the pupil's classmates. The leaders are not told why they receive the extra attention.

Exam data from the school indicated that boys' grades had soared since 1998 when it began piloting the approach, with the proportion gaining at least five A* to C grades at GCSE rising from 48 to 85 per cent.

Neighbouring schools which copied the programme also noted improved students' attitudes.

The befriender scheme is one of several "socio-cultural" approaches to raising boys' achievement which the researchers said helped tackle the notion that it is not masculine to work.

Other methods included paired reading projects where Year 3 and Year 5 boys worked together. The researchers said there was some evidence that single-sex classes made boys and girls feel more at ease in lessons and improved their attainment.

However, they added: "Single-sex classes are not a panacea. In some schools, boys-only classes have become very challenging to teach, or stereotyping of expectation has established a macho regime which has alienated some boys."

"Raising boys' achievement" is at www.dfes.gov.uk

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now