Session 320: The Educational Performance of Boys

Thursday 15th September 2016

Inspired by UK Parliament debate secured by @karlmccartney MP – Click here to read tweets from the debate – the #UKEdChat poll this week established that the discussion focused on the Educational Performance of Boys.

The discussion points below were set, so participants could agree or disagree with the statements, and then justify this with real-life experiences that has helped form opinions.

Discussion points:

  1. Causes: A cycle of underachievement. Parents pass on this cultural isolation (Agree/disagree? Justify).
  2. Roles of father and role models a significant factor 2 boys attitudes and support received (Agree/disagree? Justify)
  3. Concerns that boys are underachieving in speech & language development (Agree/disagree? Justify).
  4. Educational system is not focused enough on supporting boys (Agree/disagree? Justify).
  5. Edu sector shies away from boys education, as it is not politically correct (Agree/disagree? Justify).
  6. Lack of male teachers and male role models in school – Edu just for girls (Agree/disagree? Justify).
  7. Need to stop blame culture. Need to look at education as a whole (Agree/disagree? Justify).
  8. There should be no difference about what children learn, but ‘how’ they learn (Agree/disagree? Justify).


The chat started by discussing underachievement and cultural isolation. Many UKEdChatters spoke about raising aspirations. Interestingly the aspirations were discussed in this week’s Naked Scientists podcast and the researcher started that the problem was overstated as most pupils want to succeed, but don’t necessarily know how. Many participants spoke about positive role models to show possible paths, in particular, male role models. Perhaps position mentors are also needed to guide pupils along their chosen path to achievement.

The discussion moved on to speech & language development. Seemingly everyone commented that, in their experience, boys on average had poorer language skills, with the heavy caveat, than individual of either gender can excel or have poor skills in this regard. Many people commented they felt that a lack of communications skills was the cause of much frustration and behaviour issues. It was also mentioned that the perceived gap begins before formal schooling and but gradually improves as pupils leave compulsory education. It was not made clear whether this comment took the fact that pupils with poorer language skills were less likely to continue in post-16 education. It was also interesting to note that MFL teachers notice the same gap, even when the ‘baseline’ language begins later in life.

The responses to the fourth and fifth discussion point were mixed. Not many teachers felt that it was particularly focused on boys education, but they also didn’t feel there was a focus on girls either. See the archive for a full range of answers.

The discussion about a lack of male teachers and male role models in schools saw lots of disagreement, mostly due to where you look. To cite one example, the proportion of males teaching in primary schools in smaller compared to secondary schools, but naturally each individual school has a different proportion for a variety of reasons.

In the final moments, the discussion turned to culture. A great point was made that education changes culture, but culture changes education for good and for ill. The final discussion point was what whether every should learn the same things at school. The answer was a resounding yes, but how individuals learn is another matter with personalised, pupil lead learning providing the opportunities for pupils to do their best.

Image credit: Via Gareth on Flickr under (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat. “Mastery is an unattainable illusion”

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