Girls pulling ahead as inspectors say failing schools are full of boys

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First, the statistics confirmed girls outstrip boys at every stage of their school careers. Now the education world has served up another harsh truth for the male sex - the majority of schools which are failing their pupils have many more boys than girls.

In its first major overview of the characteristics of failing schools, the inspection agency Ofsted yesterday said gender imbalance was a notable common factor.

Of 260 schools which have been judged to need "special measures" since the inspection cycle began in 1993, not one is girls-only, most are mixed but with a big majority of boys.

Ofsted's survey revealed that failing schools are almost alwayscharacterised by poor leadership, underachievement by pupils and a high proportion of unsatisfactory teaching.

The findings held true even though institutions failing their pupils spanned the whole range of schools, from inner-city secondaries to special schools and tiny rural primaries.

Conversely, schools which had failed but were on the road to recovery, or were among the 19 freed from special measures, were united in their tactics for improvement. The most common step, taken by half of those failing, was to replace long-serving headteachers.

Improving schools drew up clear action plans with measurable targets, boosted curriculum planning, tackled poor behaviour and attendance, communicated well with parents and managed their finances efficiently.

Twelve schools on the failing list have closed so far, though one has shut since last summer..

Ofsted's head of school improvement, Dr Elizabeth Passmore, said the evidence that most failing schools had a high proportion of boys added to the agency's findings in a report last July, confirming girls generally outshone boys in educational performance.

That study, The Gender Divide, revealed that girls did better than boys in English from the age of seven and were more successful than boys at every level in GCSE.

Education+ in The Tabloid