Dear Parents & Carers
One of the current challenges in education is boys’ achievement; it lags behind girls’ by quite a margin, particularly in subjects with extended writing. There are several pieces of research showing this has always been the case, but the effects have been masked by the established sexism which historically exists in education and the world of work. However, right now, these gender gaps are there for all to see. Like all educational gaps, there are many exceptions to the rule but the data doesn’t lie.
In very general terms, we boys are lazy, especially when it comes to written work. Our writing can be sloppy and our pens don’t write as fast as our brains work. While we are writing one line, our minds are three lines further on, therefore our writing can lack detail, spelling mistakes can be missed, and grammar and punctuation can go wrong. Because we don’t like writing, we do as little as possible. It isn’t that we don’t have ideas, it’s just that we don’t like writing them down. (It’s worth taking a moment to note that the education system is entirely reliant on handwriting whereas our working world is all typed. When was the last time you hand wrote a paragraph?)
However, writing is the key, and things can be done to address these tendencies of ours:
- Boys must check over their work, slowly and deliberately: checking spellings, punctuation and grammar. Reading it aloud can help with punctuation and grammar as it will sound wrong; spellings need to be checked separately.
- Homework should be written and not typed – practice makes perfect.
- In order to get it into his long term memory, spend 15 minutes each evening hearing what your son has learnt. Three minutes per lesson is plenty; it makes children reflect and, as they relay their learning to you, it helps it go into their long term memory. I have an 8-year-old son and getting him to tell me his learning is like getting military grade secrets out of a highly skilled operative (unless it’s bedtime and then I can’t shut him up). It takes time to train them but the technique is highly effective; keep questioning them and draw that information out.
- Finally, as with all children, focus on effort rather than outcomes. Generally, it is effort boys lack and effort is what they should be praised or criticised for. We can all control our effort, even if we can’t always control outcomes.
This is obviously all very general and your son may well be one of the many exceptions. However, I can tell you that our school data reflects the national trends in this: girls are doing better.
Thank you for your continued support.
Andy Perry – Head Teacher