Bringing out the best in boys

Our keynote session for our January INSET day this year was delivered by our Head of Humanities, who has written this guest blog based on her presentation.

So, I seem to hear everywhere, all through my teaching career that ‘boys aren’t doing so well’, ‘why won’t the boys just do what the girls do’ and so the list go on…. What better way than to consider these gender learning differences than to apply a bit of sociological study and a bit of everyday hands on practice to understanding our boys.

Fast forward 12 years of pondering and research and I’m standing in front of my colleagues in my relatively new school praying that my research and boys learning experiments do not involve me doing anything involving ‘grannies and sucking eggs’.

To start then, warm up the crowd and get them thinking, what do we already know about our students? I have worked in leafy suburbs and the tough inner city (with an onsite police officer I may add) so let’s see what we know and what we expect. Getting staff to order these “students” based solely on gender and race starts the ball rolling regarding what we think, or what we think we think about our students and any stereotypes that we have.


Frantically organising the students, trying not to have any preconceived ideas or second guessing ourselves with our decisions, everyone has now ordered their students with regards to their achievement……. Nobody got it quite right. Some of us more surprised than others about who is statistically more likely to achieve by the end of secondary school. It did the trick though, it got us thinking. By the second task which involved guessing the time difference to predict the gender gap of reading, writing and attention span between boys and girls we were hooked……. There clearly is a difference, yet why and what are we going to do about it?


It’s easy to believe the hype, media do not help the case with our boys, are teachers guilty of the Pygmalion effect? Self-fulfilling prophecy? Possibly, but can we help it? Do we really realise the difference between boys and girls? The real difference?


It’s all well and good hearing all this research from my observations and some top notch sociologists and academics including Becky Francis and Lucinda Neall to name a few but what can we actually do with it? What is actually different about boys and girls, really?


On your feet…… This works well…..I’ve tried it and so have the department….. Routine breeds boredom…….. Just try this next slide and google ‘mission impossible timer‘ whilst you do it…… No words I can write here speak for the urgency and heart palpitations you will feel the need to complete these tasks! Competition, yes we know boys like this, however they also like excitement and purpose….the music adds to these tremendously!


If I had a pound for every time I heard ‘boys do not like writing’ or ‘boys won’t write anything’ I would be able to wear my ‘nice shoes for school’ and have more money to buy nicer ones for the weekends! Boys WILL write, they just need to see the point, try these:



Accelerated learning, we’ve heard it before, it works, try it….. Boys like to see the point, the point is not a secret, share their learning journey with them.


The last slide says it all. Boys were pushed to the front naturally, have we forgot about boys now that girls have become equals and there is an expectation that girls can do anything boys can do? Are our boys looking for their place again?


Good luck with our boys, this is the tip of the iceberg, mere toe dipping in the gender waters of learning…. But it’s a start and it’s something to try….. Have a go and get back to me I would love to hear your success stories and your ideas.

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