The third reason offered also involves the issue of role models and is called ‘changes in families’. There are now 1,250,000 single parent families in the UK, mostly headed by women. This means that there are large numbers of boys with no significant man in their lives.
The situation is compounded by the fact that in the field of Early Years, less than 2% of the work force is male, a figure that rises to just 13% in the area of primary education. A lack of any male role model, as Noble and Bradford (2000) indicate, must lead to confusion with self- image and confidence.This in turn must affect the way children respond in school. Helen Bee (1989) supports this theory in Chapter 10 of her book, The Developing Child, where she discusses the significance of role models, when developing the concept of “self”.
She goes on to say that, from a very young age, children develop fixed ideas of what they can and can not do or become, because of their perception of gender roles. It is very clear that, for both boys and girls, contact with positive role models, both male and female, is a crucial aspect in developing self-awareness. ‘Curriculum reasons’ are also named as a factor in boys’ underachievement.The suggestion is that the pressures put on schools having to deliver the National Curriculum, mean that children spend a lot of time sitting, listening and writing. The more flexible, practical activities have tended to be squeezed out.
This is to the detriment of all children, but certainly the preferred learning styles of boys involve far less structure, with more flexibility and freedom to move. Marian Whitehead (2002:106) is clear in this when she states that the pressures of, “formal, passive and sedentary” teaching, introduced too early, are particularly damaging to boys.’School management and classroom management’ are the final reasons given by Noble and Bradford for the underachievement of boys. They believe that Head Teachers and Senior Management Teams are neglecting to act quickly enough on received information regarding pupil achievement. There is also the suggestion that managers are failing to tackle effectively the “anti-swot” culture which they believe is rife in our schools, amongst boys. However, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson (1999) stress the importance of parents and carers understanding the needs of boys.
We have already looked at some of the issues concerning the lack of role models within the school setting, as well as in the home. In addition to this paucity of male influence in the lives of many boys, there is the very real possibility that many of the numerous females caring for them, lack empathy and understanding. It is conceivable that they inadvertently enforce traditionally female values on them, i.
e. sitting still and being quiet equals good behaviour. This can lead to feelings of confusion and low self-esteem for many boys, as their essential maleness would seem to be deemed “inappropriate”.
This can result in disaffection, which inevitably impacts on attitude, behaviour, effort and, ultimately, achievement. As Kindlon and Thompson point out, the misunderstanding of boys and their needs can lead them to feel like, “..
.. a thorn among roses; he is a different, lesser and sometimes frowned upon presence and he knows it. ” (1999:30) It has also been mentioned that because younger boys are failing due to insufficient male role models in the female-dominated sector of nursery/primary and this failure follows them through the education system.Hence, secondary schoolboys interviewed by McCumstie (2001 secondary data) greatly valued the opportunity to talk to male teachers.
Comments were made such as these men ‘listen to you’; ‘are on the same level as us’; ‘a bloke knows where you are coming from’. McCumstie interprets these comments as the boys understanding the male teacher connexion differently from their connexion to female teachers. The first was seen as bonding with a male. The second was seen as connexion to a female, mothering or caring person.
The boys talked enthusiastically of their male teachers as male role models.They believed that a role model was someone who earned respect from others, gained admiration from other males; and showed leadership, perseverance, discipline and individuality. The boys saw these qualities in males in TV, movies, rugby, cricket as well as among their male teachers. The boys said their male role models were their fathers and male teachers (2001: 69).
These were needed by all the boys, they said, but particularly boys who had no father resident in the home. The boys felt men needed to pass on the baton of masculinity for the boys to develop as fully masculine males (2001: 70).Female teachers had admirable qualities, but were seen by boys in a different light from males. In an editorial in the Independent newspaper (5th January 1998), it mentioned that the Teacher Training Agency needs to tackle this issue and therefore ‘raising of the status of teaching in order to attract more men into the profession’. Mentoring is important because boys are influenced by peers. The arguments about why males need a mate and what mateship means to males, appears in West (1996). Boys want very much to be accepted by other boys. They are influenced by other boys to go out to play sport, see movies, or work.
Paired writing sessions, with an older boy or an older girl encouraging a younger boy. However, on a more drastic level, the Independent newspaper (5th January 1998) suggested cutting the amount of coursework leading to GCSE which supposedly favours girls. Coursework was introduced into GCSE examinations to improve the ‘fitness for purpose’ of the assessment, not because of any concern with gender. The ‘official’ view of what constitutes coursework is that offered by the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) in their document GCSE Regulations and Criteria.However, Stobart et al (1992) found that girls do better on coursework relative to exams. “Coursework consists of in-course tasks set and understand according to conditions prescribed by an awarding body. Coursework activities are integral to, rather than incidental to, the course of study.
Coursework is normally marked by a candidate’s own teacher according to criteria provided and exemplified by the answering body, taking national requirements into account. It is moderated by the awarding body”