Let's Hear It from the Boys What boys really think about school and how to help them succeed£17.99*
- Let’s hear it from the boys is an important book, as it represents the voices and views of a group who are not represented on a national stage.
- Gary’s book is certainly a starting point to make sure our schools are places where all pupils can achieve.
- The simple message of the book is that teachers make all the difference.
- All boys want is respect and consistency; teachers who are real people and treat everyone fairly.
- The book offers a great selection of reflective questions, resources and strategies that can positively impact on boys’ underachievement, for the benefit of all pupils.
Of all the issues faced in the modern UK education systems, there is one challenge that seems to provide inequality in society. Boys’ underachievement in schools remains a problem, especially within communities where opportunities, disadvantage and aspirations are low. This assertion is not valid in all sub-cultures, but the continued underachievement has maintained with boys from white, working-class communities.
The continued under-achievement of this sub-group of boys has remained of concern to Gary Wilson, whose new book gives a voice to this often-ignored group who (surprise surprise) want to do well academically and go on form a purposeful career. But what about the girls – you may ask? Indeed, girls in education are equally as important. Still, Gary argues that developing and curbing disruptive masculinity behaviours can go some way towards combating sexism and making things better for everyone: boys and girls. Working towards the goal of listening to boys and building a school culture that they can come to respect, achieve and (even) enjoy, Gary confidently presents strategies that hit all the buttons for boys without disadvantaging girls.
Let’s hear it from the boys is split into three parts: Part one of the book tells of the challenges faced by Gary growing up in a white working-class culture where barriers faced slowed achievement opportunities and what he saw as he became an education professional. England’s Year 8 (the second year of secondary school) is the time that Gary argues is the most important crossroads for boys, as they have become used to life away from the primary school setting, and just before important decisions are needed as to what qualifications they will focus on. For Year 8’s, the peer police influence whether they will orientate themselves away from education. Offering strategies – including ideas to boost emotional literacy – Gary warns educators to avoid lazy negative labelling of boys, trying to build a dialogue with home, and defining the barriers within your own educational setting with a really helpful Likert Scale to explore why boys might be underachieving. (Review continues below Gary’s video presentation at the 2021 UKEdChat Online Conference – Click here to see more)
The second part of the book considers 15 specific aspects of life in secondary schools from the perspectives of the boys themselves from what makes a good teacher, to rewards, academic setting, peer pressure, homework and more. What boys really think about these issues: What helps them? What hinders them? And what we can do to raise their achievement and improve their experiences of schools? Reading the responses, you soon realise what boys need is not rocket science, so to speak! Without spoiling the book too much, all they want is respect and consistency; teachers who are real people and treat everyone fairly. They are just a few of the many comments made by the boys who helped Gary with the book, and there is nothing listed that is unreasonable. Yet, boys can themselves be unreasonable, so making sure that you can see their side of things, understanding the lives they are leading and being an empathetic positive role model will go a long way in reaching and engaging with groups who might be written off elsewhere.
Bringing everything together, the third part of the book raises further issues for consideration when focusing on boys’ achievement, such as getting all teachers on board and the influence of street culture, social media and mental health. The simple message is that teachers make all the difference, and setting high expectations, clear boundaries and giving the boys a voice can really make a big difference.
Let’s hear it from the boys is an excellent and important book, as it represents the voices and views of a group who are regularly not represented on a national stage. For them, they are not likely to reach the echelons of education secretary; they are not likely to be taken seriously as they try to find opportunities to climb career ladders, or; they are not likely to reach out to services that can support mental health, with the likely outcome being grim for them, their families and society as a whole.
The disadvantage cycles need to be broken, and maybe it is time for a different approach, a different policy and more positive futures for all concerned. Gary’s book won’t do all that, but it is certainly a starting point to make sure our schools are places where all pupils can achieve, no matter what their gender, socio-economic or cultural background is.
*RRP – Price correct, at time of publication.