Thirty years boys did better at school than girls. Now, it’s the boys who are the under-achievers across the North East. In Newcastle in 2016 almost half of white young men failed to achieve 5 or more ‘good’ GCSEs including English and Maths compared to 40% of young women. Stephen Lambert, a Newcastle City Councillor writes in FE News.
The number of BME youngsters from both genders achieving five GCSE’s at A-C (58%) is higher than those who are non-BME. Only four out of 10 men go to university today. In 1978 it was seven out of 10.
Alarmingly, male truancy rates in the region are well above the national average, and exclusions rates at secondary schools are at an all time high. In the de-industrialsied town of Middlesbrough 4,802 pupils (mostly boys) were permanently excluded from school while in nearby Redcare the figure is 2,594.
Educationists are divided as to the reason why young white working class men are doing less well at every stage in the school system whist young women are doing better than ever.
One, there’s some evidence that teachers are not as strict with boys. They are more likely to extend deadlines for written work, to have lower expectations of boys, and tend to be more tolerant of low level anti-social behaviour in the classroom. Young men are more disruptive than young women. Four of five permanent exclusions are boys!
Two, there appears to be a growing ‘lad’, anti-school culture amongst some working class boys in several of our urban schools. This was noted some years go by Paul Willis in his book ‘Learning to Labour’.
Increasingly primary school teaching has become ‘feminised’ with a lack of male role models. Even at secondary level 75% of all teachers are female. Learning for many boys at an early age has become a ‘girly’ activity and contributes to a negative attitude to schooling.
For sociologist Ken Brown, one key explanation is the sharp decline in traditional male jobs. The region’s coal mines have gone and heavy industries that took on thousands of young men in the 1970s have virtually disappeared.
Working class white men are going through an ‘identity crisis’ with loss of role, low self-esteem and self-image. Unskilled jobs are declining compounded by automation. Youth male unemployment is high.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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