Boys failed by education system says Eton headmaster

[, 19 January 2010]

Boys are being failed by the British education system because it has become too focused on
girls, the headmaster of Eton has warned.

By Laura Roberts

Tony Little said that the different sexes required different teaching methods to bring out students' potential and that GCSEs favour girls more than boys.
He also blamed teachers for failing to realise that boys are "more emotional" than girls, despite the fact that girls "turn on the waterworks".

Mr Little, who co-hosted the International Boys' Schools Coalition Conference at the Guildhall with David Levin, headmaster of City of London School, said: “As a nation, we do not support and nurture boys, especially teenage boys, at all well.
“It is foolish to assume that boys can always be helped in the same way as girls. We feel our education system needs to face up to that fact.”

Boys, he believes, require a more physical and active style of learning. He said that an increased verbal element of GCSEs favoured girls over boys and that educational techniques had become skewed because of the male-dominated society of the past.
“It's assumed that opening up opportunity means giving a better deal to girls and women. I don't decry that in the slightest — we have moved hugely forward,” he said. “But there's a point at which that agenda has been at the expense of recognising what's happening in boys and education.”

Eton, the school attended by David Cameron, has been boys-only for nearly 600 years. Mr Little's claims were supported by research submitted at the conference which claimed that boys and girls benefited from different teaching techniques which could be administered either in single-sex environments or at mixed schools.

It also said that boys were more likely to be labelled "disruptive or rebellious" in mixed classrooms where the presence of girls might encourage them to try and be "cool" rather than studious. This situation affected the learning experience of both girls and boys, it stated.

Meanwhile it concluded that arts, music, creative writing and design and technology was more likely to "flourish" in all-boys schools. For the last 20 years girls have outperformed boys at GCSE and A Level with some education experts complaining that coursework is more suited to female pupils.