As a survey of eight to 11-year-olds reveals that 39 per cent of boys have no male teachers, former teacher Kurt Browne explains why male role models in schools are vital
He was one of the brightest boys in the year, with supportive parents but when he was 15 he suddenly stopped trying.
He left school at 16 with two GCSEs and two children by different girls. He felt very proud of himself. I'm convinced that one of the reasons that made it cool for him not to care was the power of his peer group.
Peer pressure is one of the strongest influences on boys today and one reason why so many are leaving school with no qualifications and virtually no chance of getting a job.
The absence of positive male role models in many of their lives - at home and particularly in the school environment - means that their peers are the only people they have to judge themselves against.
More male teachers in primary schools mean we could pre-empt this problem. Once boys reach year 10 (at 15), a surge of masculinity takes over and they will want to assert their authority, and challenge both parents and teachers.
The teacher's battle is then against testosterone, the peer group and the street where the culture is never to back down to authority no matter what.
I have spent all my adult life trying to help disaffected boys. I was born in Trinidad but came to London when I was 19 because my father could see I was mixing with the wrong crowd at home.
I did ''A'' levels followed by a teaching degree then, in 1984, became a youth worker in the tough Stonebridge Estate in north-west London.
I met many parents in despair because their children were failing in school so I decided if I wanted to make a difference, then I would teach.
I taught RE and PE for 20 years in comprehensives and in 2000 I became the lead learning mentor in my school, supporting children through their problems and motivating them.
Many former pupils have told me that I've been like a father to them.
Some parents have low expectations for their children and that is another reason for failure. Boys in particular don't value education.
They don't see men succeeding in the professional world so it doesn't occur to them that they could make something of themselves.
Schools are at fault here, too. Due to the immense pressure on teachers to gain results, students are spoon-fed and trained to pass exams, rather than encouraged to think for themselves.
Instead schools must help children learn to take responsibility for their education and their lives. After all, school is the most powerful influence on youngsters after their parents.
We can't change a child's mother or father, but schools can provide the environment for change, and provide the right role models for them.
Without male teachers as an alternative role model, the influence of peers and street culture is all-powerful. Boys want to be part of a club or gang.
Teachers need to be trained to challenge that but not in front of a child's peers. You have to do it one to one, because that is when you see the real child without bravado.
It's pointless sending a child home if he or she has done wrong. They see it as a welcome day off to watch television or play computer games.
Instead schools should have a special unit where a child who misbehaves goes for the day and is counselled about his behaviour -somewhere he can work away from his peers and go home after the other children.
We need to build up a culture of education; ditch political correctness and give teachers the means to do the right thing.
We have to make it cool to learn rather than cool to be deviant, and to do that we need more men in the classrooms to show young boys that there is another path they could take.
· Kurt Browne was talking to Angela Levin
Wednesday, August 8th 2007
By Alistair Owens
A global issue. The following comment were made by Patrick Manning Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning says research has shown that parents have a vital role to play in reversing the ongoing trend of girls outperforming boys at school. He did not identify the research data to which he was referring, but Manning urged parents to pay particular attention to the education of their male children."Early intervention in the home is therefore most necessary. We must keep a careful eye on the boys as well," Manning said.
Manning was speaking less than two months after the results of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination taken by primary school pupils showed female pupils again outperformed the boys.Manning said it was becoming a global phenomenon that girls were outperforming boys at school. "And whilst our education systems must diagnose and prescribe cures for this growing trend, for this growing malaise, parents have a vital role to play in arresting this trend, particularly since the research shows that the gap starts very early in the education process," he said.
Manning said earlier that while Government acknowledged its responsibility in ensuring education played a critical role in national development, it was a fact that the vast majority of successful students came from homes where parents took a keen interest in the education of their children.
The painstaking and highly effective role achieved by parents when their children were toddlers, teaching them for example to walk and talk incurred two major facets. Learning was at the pace of the individual child and the learning process involved constant practice.As the child goes to school this vital interaction is generally lost. Parents don't want to interfere, feel inadequate, or are glad to get some free time back! Although teachers introduce the subject effectively the vital practice function, where 75% of learning retention is obtained is the most difficult aspect to achieve at school. Class size, range of ability and the reluctance of children; too shy to ask questions, embarrassed that they do not understand or peer pressure means they can easily slip behind and lose interest. The diligent teacher with some free time in their hectic schedule can help to correct the gap in their understanding but this is often a bridge too far.
Modern teaching resources used in school are predominately in the form of educational games and ideal to practice the lesson at home, critically at the pace of the child. Parental interaction in maths games, word games, science games, all have an element of "learning in disguise" and not seen as conventional homework. These learning games follow the curriculum from ages 3 - 15 years have a substantial benefit to the child in improving their understanding - and also the parent who can once again becomes pro- active in the schooling process.
Alistair Owens www.keen2learn.co.uk
Alistair Owens is passionate that modern fun based education increases interest and understanding, and by re-engaging parents in an interactive role at home using these educational games and educational toys can substantially support their child's progress at school. He has developed an Intel award winning web site http://www.keen2learn.co.uk that promotes an extensive range of classroom games and educational learning programmes for use in UK schools and with parents at home.
Boys say having friends at school and having a lot of physical activity are very important for their happiness and success.
These were priorities for most of the more than 350 secondary schoolboys interviewed by University researcher Michael Irwin in a study of what boys believe enhances and inhibits academic success.
Auckland-based Mr Irwin, from the College of Education, initiated New Zealand’s first national conferences on the under-achievement of boys (when, two years ago? Three?) and has been at the forefront of research exploring the reasons why boys lag behind girls at school and feature in many of the negative statistics relating to accidents, learning difficulties, and educational achievement.
\ Asking boys themselves what makes school a good place for them to be is, he says, an important part of providing successful education for them.
He found that having a group of friends, supporting them socially and assisting and motivating them educationally, was a huge factor in boys’ lives.
“Almost without exception the boys I interviewed said being with their mates at school was very important to them. I have found that throughout their schooling these close groups of, say three to five boys, are very important to each boy individually in significant ways. They develop their own identity through these groupings, they share ideas, they will often discuss learning issues in these groups and it is often these ties that have a very positive influence in keeping them at school.”
Physical exercise was also a high priority and Mr Irwin says schools need to look seriously at how they meet this need.
“Schools need to provide much more opportunity than they currently do for boys to be physically active. We know from existing research that physical activity and sport brings many benefits from bonding to stress release, mental stimulation and providing an outlet for competitive spirits.”
He also found boys wanted learning to be challenging and for school to be fun.
“They don’t want learning to be too hard or too easy. They want to be challenged and they feel the best way of meeting those challenges is to work together in groups with a problem-solving, hands-on approach.
“Most showed a high dislike of what they felt to be too much copying and writing things down at school.
“Almost all wanted to have fun, to have a laugh and for their environment to be one that they enjoy. This is the same thing that motivation researchers are also telling us.
“Schools need to take note of what matters most for boys at school – the importance of mates, the need for physical activity and for challenge in learning and the desire for school to be fun.”
Mr Irwin’s research highlighted some common attributes boys expected of their teachers. They wanted their teachers to focus on learning not content, to use humour, to collaborate and listen, to explain, to set clear expectations, to help them individually, to give specific feedback, to use activity based learning and co-operative learning, to be fair in managing behaviour.
Mr Irwin will present his research, Boys’ perceptions of what enhances and inhibits their academic success, in London next month to the British Education Research Association.