One of the priority areas that we identified as a school was the performance of boys compared to girls. This in itself is not uncommon and one that many schools face. In the academic year 2017 – 2918 many staff carried at action research projects to identify strategies that would work in Tor Bridge High to improve the boys performance and bring in inline withe the girls.
The action research leads for this area are Chris Langmead (Head of English) and Andy Lyon (Head of Art).
This is not a simple problem, whilst there is a gender gap it is not found in every subject at Tor Bridge High, additionally when looking at the national research it is not as simple as saying that boys underperform compared to girls. The largest gender gap in the UK is found between boys and girls designated as ‘white working class’.
As a group of professionals we had to look at our own practice and consider if we were challenging negative stereotypes in education or reinforcing them.
Some of the ‘common thinking’ you currently find in education in the UK at the moment can be summarised as follows;
‘Boys are programmed to be destructive, boorish and rebellious’,
‘Boys underachieve nationally’,
‘Boys like competition and rewards’,
‘Boys don’t like school’,
‘Boys don’t show their feelings’.
We wanted to look at these again and see what could make a difference in out school. Through the action research projects we have come up with what we feel makes a difference in reducing the gender gap in Tor Bridge High.
What makes a difference?
- High expectations of boys; in their approach towards learning and their outcomes.
- Developing boys use of subject specific language.
- Positive relationships based on clear boundaries and consistency.
- Regular testing and feedback with opportunities to reflect and improve.
- Raising the self-esteem of boys.
What did people do?
The following are some of the action research areas that staff carried out, the findings of these eventually lead to the list above.
- Use of extra-curricular activities to boost boys engagement in learning.
- Developing positive relationships in the classroom.
- Use of visual stimuli to support engagement and learning.
- Use of rewards and short term goals.
- Explicit teaching of command words for examinations.
- Focussing on boys’ presentation of work.
- Use of skills based tests.
- Exploring the role of mentoring in developing boys’ engagement.
- Use of seating plans.
- Developing use of technology and apps in improving homework engagement.
- Use of competitions and rewards.