Why Are Boys Underachieving?

  • #UKEdChat session 535
  • Much of the difficulties stem from social constructs and norms.
  • A wider conversation about masculinity is long overdue.
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Needless to say ‘not all boys’ and ‘not just boys’.

The reasons for underachievement are varied between individuals. But as a recent BBC podcast explored, there are some common themes which underpin underachievement in many of our boys. The evidence is that much of the difficulties stem from social constructs and norms which are placed upon young males to act a certain way to appear ‘masculine’. Peer pressure and failing on their own terms can also play a part.

As some of the issues stem from social pressures, could social remedies through a different classroom ethos help change the narrative to make learning more socially appealing than failing? A wider conversation about masculinity is long overdue, and changing the desire for the self-inflicted sabotage that many of our young boys and men, in an attempt to impress others, must be a central part of that.

In this #UKEdChat discussion, which took place on Thursday 7th January 2021 at 8pm(UK) we discussed how boys’ underachievement manifests in the classroom, some of the root causes, plus solutions and strategies to help boys get back on track.


  1. Do you think it is useful to talk about supporting pupils in terms of gender?
  2. Do you think there are patterns to the underachievement of some boys, and if so, what are they (ie age / puberty / peers / race etc.)?
  3. What are some of the common reasons for underachievement of some boys, and how have you addressed these in your own teaching?
  4. Much of the research shows that girls cope better, but boys are more likely to underachieve when teaching is poor. How can this be mitigated?
  5. What can schools and teachers do to change the damaging social pressures that lead some boys to ‘fail on their own terms’ and self-sabotage?
  6. What is the role of competition in improving the performance of underachieving boys?
  7. The achievement gap between girls and boys first appears in early years. How should early years provision change to address the gap?
  8. The achievement gap between girls and boys is most notable in pupils from working-class background. How can the gap be closed for these pupils?

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About @ICTmagic 780 Articles
Martin Burrett is the editor of our popular UKEdMagazine, along with curating resources in the ICTMagic section, and free resources for teachers on UKEd.Directory

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