Blunkett to dispel myth that school is 'uncool'

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The Independent Online

Proposals to expand single-sex teaching in state schools will form part of a major Government study into measures designed to raise the exam performance of boys, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday.

Proposals to expand single-sex teaching in state schools will form part of a major Government study into measures designed to raise the exam performance of boys, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) will help assess the effectiveness of experiments in single-sex teaching, amid fears that boys increasingly see education as "uncool".

GCSE results to be published on Thursday are expected to show a wide gulf between the performance of girls and boys. These follow on from last week's A-level results, which showed girls outperforming boys in top grades for the first time. Results for more than 250,000 students showed girls had a greater pass rate at A-level and gained more of the top three grades.

Under the new plans, local authorities will also have to produce progress reports outlining what action they have taken to reduce the gender gap since they were ordered to address the problem two years ago.

Ministers will also investigate ways of increasing the number of male teachers in primary schools, to address fears that boys have too few male role models in schools.

Several co-educational schools, including Shenfield School in Essex and the Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, have been successful in raising standards after running experimental single-sex classes.

Officials denied the study represented a move towards wholesale single-sex education, but said schools would be urged to consider single-sex classes if experiments showed them to be successful.

Mr Blunkett said he wanted a progress report from local authorities to help dispel the "myth" among boys that school is uncool. He said: "The Government wants to identify the barriers to boys' learning, including peer group pressure, and ensure that there are more good male role models to challenge boys' resistance to learning. We will pin down what works and ensure schools and education authorities have the ammunition to turn round boys' academic performance.

"The gap that has opened up between the sexes at school is a long-standing and international problem for which there is no quick fix, but I am determined that our boys should not miss out. We face a genuine problem of underachievement among boys ... linked to a laddish culture which in many areas has grown out of deprivation and a lack of both self-confidence and opportunity."

But Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Liverpool University, who has carried out important studies into single-sex teaching, said there was little hard evidence that single-sex teaching made a difference.

* More than 2,000 of the 5,000 young Scots affected by inaccurate or incomplete exam results will have their positions clarified by today, the Scottish Qualifications Authority said. The remaining 3,000 could expect their results in "a matter of days".

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