Monday, 28 April 2008

Boys do better without girls

The Daily Mail reports a study of gender difference. Researchers at Bristol University have found that boys do better in single-sex classes. They were found to achieve significantly higher test results at primary level without the distraction of girls.

The study of English lessons in every state school in the country showed that boys' performance fell as the proportion of girl pupils rose. Researchers suggested this was because mixed lessons allowed boys to hide in the background while girls took the initiative and participated more. The findings go against previous studies showing that boys do better in mixed classes because of the civilising affect of female peers.

Steven Proud, who led the Bristol team, said their results implied that boys of all ages would benefit from studying with as few girls as possible present in the same class. He added: "The more girls there are, the less they need to work. That is one supposition. Since girls perform considerably better in English, if there are more girls in the class, they are more likely to volunteer answers, so boys can hide in the background and it still appears the class is doing well. The other possibility is that there is some link between the sex of the teacher and how they focus their teaching. If a female teacher is teaching a lot of female pupils, they could focus their teaching toward girls and that could negatively affect the boys."

He argued that girls tended to be ahead of boys in English and so were more likely to answer questions, raise their hands and behave confidently in lessons.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said that where boys are outnumbered in class they can "feel swamped by high-attaining girls". "English is seen as a girly thing to do but that is wrong," he added. "What schools have to do is look at the subject matter in English and if it appears to have a feminine bias, then they need to look at that and see how it can be changed."

Parents have called for teachers to be trained in dealing with classes where there are gender imbalances. Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said, "I suspect that when there are fewer boys they are not going to feel as confident to put their hands up and are worried they will look silly if they get it wrong."

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