Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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We need to talk about the boys


GIRLS are out-performing boys at school. The latest league tables provide further confirmation. What is more, the attainment statistics have been showing girls’ superiority over boys for at least thirty years.

Is this female superiority deserved? Robert Southey (1774-1843), from the Romantic school of poetry, might have thought so. A traditional childhood ditty attributed to him claims that girls are made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’. Boys, in contrast, are made of ‘snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails’.

Our simple-minded educational establishment, the Blob, seems to have embraced, however subliminally, these gender definitions. They fit surprisingly well with prevailing pedagogic dogma. Girls matter – a  lot. Boys do not matter – very much. Such, indeed, is the level of inertia and complacency amongst our educational elite, including the Department for Education, that the continuing under-performance of boys is rarely up for serious consideration, let alone action. Poetic justice, then, as Southey might argue, that girls should be doing better than boys! There is nothing much more to discuss.

These days, boys are rarely seen as being as deserving as girls when it comes to ‘care and attention’. We live in an age when victimhood status is conferred more readily on females than on males.

True, there have been, and are, some appalling cases involving the treatment and exploitation of girls. The root of these cases has, invariably, been the reluctance of those in authority to challenge the strictures of political correctness. Albeit in a different context, discussing and tackling the continuing under-performance of boys in our school system is widely regarded as ‘off-message’.

With the growth of feral gangs, mostly boys, roaming our streets, one of the consequences of male marginalisation in schools is beginning to hit home and to cause panic. Dave Thompson, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, is directly connecting our rising crime rate – mostly committed by males – with poor provision in schools and colleges. He is concerned about the potentially damaging impact of raising the school/college leaving age from 16 to 18. This is a consequence of Labour government legislation passed in 2008, and has been operative since 2015.   

Thompson would like to see an investigation into what appear to be wasted years between the ages of 16 and 18:

‘Too often, though, the time between 16 and 18 is wasted on studying for low-quality qualifications . . . We’re not seeing young people enter the workplace until they’re 18 . . . As a result, I think particularly with young men, I’m not sure they’re maturing fast enough . . . The amount of time they’re actually in face-to-face time in class warrants some examination by bodies like Ofsted, because I actually think the class time is fairly low . . .’

Which gender group poses the most urgent problem – the 44 per cent of boys who ‘fail’ GCSE English and maths or the 36 per cent of girls who find themselves in the same situation? Whilst both groups matter, it is the boys who seem to be forgotten.

A BBC report quotes Mary Curnock, a former head of university and college admissions services, as admitting that that she is ‘baffled by this yawning inequality’and that it exposes a ‘massive policy blind spot’. She adds: ‘On current trends, a girl born today will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than her male peers . . . By then, the gap between women and men will be larger than the gap between rich and poor.’

She has sounded a warning. We need to talk about the boys.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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