Debate on the Educational Performance of Boys
Karl McCartney MP argued a case for bringing the issue of boys’ schools performance to the forefront of educational policy in a Westminster Hall debate this week.
Issues of gender vs. social mobility divides were the key themes, with Mr McCartney, the MP for Lincoln, arguing that boys are under-performing compared to girls at all levels of education, but those from traditional working class backgrounds are faring the worst.
Some of the statistics presented included 30,000 more female than male apprentices, percentage attainment gaps as high as 15 per cent difference between the sexes, and 460,000 fewer males going to university over a ten year period than their female counterparts.
Some of the recommendations put forward by the MP include:
- Inspiring more boys with practical experience and case studies, mentors and opportunities to meet local male role models
- More male teachers
- Ensuring boys have an outlet for their creativity and don’t shy away from traditional masculine roles
- Three, five and seven-year apprenticeships which are equivalent to degrees and which will benefit both sexes
- Schemes which encourage boys into female-dominated careers such as teaching and psychology, to rival programmes which encourage girls into STEM fields
- An implementation taskforce to focus on this issue
Mr McCartney argued that if the genders were reversed then the situation would be different and more would be done to help solve the issue. He also argued that taxpayers’ money has been spent in the past on programmes which inspire females into STEM subjects, but there have been no similar programmes to encourage boys into careers dominated by women.
There were a variety of suggestions voiced for why this demographic of boys is falling behind girls in school performance, including the lack of male role models in teachers and sometimes in families; boys maturing at different ages to girls; continual assessment at GCSE being more suited to girls; and cycles of underachievement within some families.
All Members who joined the session were grateful for the opportunity to debate the issue, but many were more eager to discuss the issue of social class more generally affecting performance rather than focusing solely on boys from lower income backgrounds.
Siobhain McDonagh MP wanted to make it clear that this issue was not one of gender but of social class. This was echoed by Judith Cummins MP, who said that the focus should be on levelling up all pupils from working class backgrounds and ensuring that any new reforms did not take money away from current funding for disadvantaged students. New reforms, she argued, could be funded by removing the charitable status of private schools and contributing this revenue towards helping all disadvantaged demographics in the school system.
In responding to the debate, the Minister for Schools Nick Gibb MP said that 1.4 million more pupils are now in schools graded as Good or Outstanding than in 2010, and the Government is setting high expectations with the rigorous new English Baccalaureate curriculum and ensuring pupils at primary schools reach a certain standard of numeracy and literacy. He also argued that new performance accountability measures including better tracking of all pupils’ attainment will make it easier for schools to support all pupils, not just those who are struggling, to achieve more.
In contrast to a reiterated point of the debate that more male teachers would be beneficial in inspiring male pupils, the Minister said that data shows there is no correlation between male teachers improving the attainment of male pupils, although the Government would of course still like to address this imbalance.
To watch the session please click here. The session began at 4.30pm.