A considerable number of UK academic studies on this issue have been published in the past five years. Of the more recent (see references below), Gray et al (2004) found that there are a considerable number of schools where girls have been making greater progress than boys between KS3 and GCSE. Also, that there are hardly any schools where boys’ progress has been superior to that of girls. Connolly (2006) concluded that both social class and ethnicity exert a far greater influence on the GCSE performance of boys and girls than did gender.
Despite the range of such research, some aspects of the issue, such as the lack of positive male role models both in the classroom and, increasingly, in the home due to family breakdown, appear not to have been explored in any depth.
Whatever the research may show, there is a general consensus and concern that more male teachers are needed, particularly in primary schools. Boys need boundaries and strong direction from ‘male mentors’ at an early age. The Government has in the past accepted the need for more male teachers(2), but so far with little obvious result. It is not clear how seriously the Government takes the issue. Articles on the need for more male teachers appear regularly in the press(3).
Some critics(4) complain that boys are being betrayed by our education system. There appears urgent need, therefore, to explore the phenomenon of boys’ academic under-achievement in a rigorous and impartial manner, so that Government and educational policies can be informed constructively on ways to address it effectively and fairly. In time, this will help to promote the fuller access and participation in society, both academically and generally, of under-achieving children, both boys and girls. It will also help to raise standards generally, including behavioural, and in particular help the children concerned to a better quality of life in personal terms.
In so doing, it will contribute significantly to a more “capable society”.