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Education News

'Boys do badly if they are told that girls are cleverer,' says study

Schoolboys perform worse than girls in exams because they think girls are cleverer than them, a study has found.

The research, to be revealed at the British Educational Research Association's annual conference at Warwick University this week, shows that by the time schoolboys turn seven they think girls are cleverer than them.

An experiment carried out among primary school pupils in Kent also showed they tended to perform badly if told by their teacher they were expected to do worse than the girls.

The class was split into two – with one group being told boys did not do as well as girls. Boys in the first group performed significantly worse in all three subjects they were tested in – reading, writing and maths. In the second group, there was little difference in results between the sexes.

The report urges teachers to be careful about the phrases they use in class. Adults should think carefully before using phrases like "silly boys" and saying: "Why can't you sit nicely like the girls?", argues the report's author, Bonny Hartley.