9 Sep 2016

Karl McCartney MP: We Must Ensure Schools And Colleges Are ‘Boy-Friendly’

By Karl McCartney MP: One of the great things about being a Member of Parliament in a marginal bellwether seat such as the City of Lincoln is the sheer variety of issues that you see and hear, many of which never reach the confines of the Westminster or Whitehall ‘Bubble’. Some of these though are One Nation issues which not only affect our Country as a whole, they also have a detrimental effect on lives, families, businesses and communities in each and every constituency across our great nation. This is why I am leading a Parliamentary debate today on the educational underperformance of boys and the gender education gap. In a welcome post-Brexit positive Britain embracing the opportunities in the global economy this issue is even more pressing. The underperformance and education gap is an issue that I have regularly come across, or has been raised with me when visiting local schools, businesses, training providers, universities and colleges in my constituency. I also see its impact when I see young men hanging around when they should be in work, on an Apprenticeship or at university or college. It is also clear to me that this issue crosses all social classes, geographical areas and ethnic groups. It is not just a “working class” issue.
 The gap in attainment is stark, starts young and is not new. At Key Stage 2 (in old money that is 11 years of age) the gap is six percentage points. For GCSEs, the gap for five A*-C including England and Maths is nine percentage points in England and over seven in the other three nations of the United Kingdom.
In my County of Lincolnshire the gap is ten. At the age of 16, girls have been ahead of boys since the mid-eighties. Its impact is also stark. Currently 30,000 fewer boys than girls are Apprentices, 60,000 fewer now go to university every year (460,000 fewer over the past decade) and more young men who are Not In Education Employment or Training (NEETs) are unemployed. Fewer young men are joining nearly all of the professions every year.
So what to do? x
We need to make sure schools and colleges are boy-friendly through inspiring them, helping them see what they can achieve and also being positive about masculinity. It is OK for boys to like cars, building sites and generally getting dirty. Boys want to be young men, and young men want to be grown men – we should celebrate and nurture this, not try and make boys something they are not.  More male teachers would certainly help.
We should introduce three, five and seven year Apprenticeships that are both the equivalent to degrees and vocational for those who are not as academically minded. These of course should be available to girls as well. We need to think differently. It works in Germany and elsewhere, why not here? Life-long learning is valued and works in Germany and in the USA. In this global race we in the UK are not even in the top set.
Lastly, we need Government and the education sector as a whole to step up to the plate. This is why I believe the Government needs to set up an Implementation Taskforce to find solutions and then implement them.
There has been much focus, policy and leadership on matters such as the lack of women on Boards and the gender pay gap. There is an unarguable case now for the same focus on this matter. If the gender education gap was the other way round, and these statistics were reversed, I am sure there would not have been three decades of inaction.
This gap is a very serious One Nation issue affecting boys, their families, communities, businesses and our Country as a whole – even more of an issue now as we build a welcome post Brexit positive Britain in a global economy. I also have wider concerns around social cohesion and social mobility. Our boys’ underperformance at school deserves national attention and action. Today, Parliament now has the opportunity to start. They, their teachers, parents and our nation should expect nothing less.

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Boys nearly twice as likely as girls to fall behind by the time they start school as charity reveals full extent of gender gap crisis
By Save the Children: Save the Children has today launched a powerful new report laying bare the potentially devastating and lifelong consequences for boys in England who start school significantly trailing girls in basic early language skills.
Boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to have fallen behind by the time they start school, with the leading children’s charity projecting that if the results of the past ten years are repeated then nearly 1 million boys will be at risk over the next decade unless  quality early years education is in place across England.
The report highlights that last year alone, 80,000 boys in England started reception class struggling to speak a full sentence or follow simple instructions. Based on newly commissioned research from the University of Bristol, ‘The lost boys: How boys are falling behind in their early years’ finds that being behind on the first day of school is often an indicator that these boys will stay behind, potentially for life.
Nowhere in England are boys outperforming girls in early language skills, or even coming close. The gender gap is at its most extreme in St. Helen’s, Merseyside, where boys started primary school over 17 percentage points behind their female peers. In Rutland, the local authority with one of the lowest levels of poverty in England, the gender gap is still 14 percentage points, well above the 11 percentage point national average. The smallest gap was in affluent Richmond-upon-Thames which still showed a 5 percentage point gap.
While this underperformance is an issue for all boys across all ethnicities and social groups, it is boys in poverty who are falling the furthest behind. The stark reality is that a staggering 40% of the poorest five year old boys are falling below the expected standard in early language and communication.
The report reveals that those already behind at five are four times more likely to fall below expected standards of reading by the end of primary school than those who started school on track.  Many struggle to catch up, do well at school or succeed in the world of work. Boys’ social skills, relationships and behaviour are also affected when they fall behind at five. In the longer term, struggling in the early years damages their life chances, employment prospects and health outcomes.  
The report states that contributing factors identified include children’s experiences at home, at nursery and in the community. It also highlighted that boys are less likely to participate in activities such as story-telling and nursery rhymes which both develop language.  They are also less likely to learn to stay focused on a task or have the concentration, motivation and self-confidence to learn. These are crucial in helping children to read and write.
The research identifies a silver bullet, in good quality early years education, which has the biggest impact in preventing children from falling behind and therefore closing the early gender gap, giving both boys and girls equal opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Save the Children is calling on the UK government to support the development of a well-qualified nursery workforce, with a qualified early years teacher in every nursery, starting in areas with large numbers of poor children first. Early years teachers help to identify the children who are falling behind and support them to catch up.
Gareth Jenkins, Director of UK Poverty, Save the Children said:
“Every child deserves the best start in life. But in England, too many children, especially boys, are slipping under the radar without the support they need to reach their potential. They’re falling behind before they even get to school and that puts their life chances at risk. In 2016, this is unacceptable. A whole generation of boys is being failed”
Dr Elizabeth Kilby, a Clinical Psychologist and expert from Channel Four’s “Secret Life of Four Year Olds” programme says:  
“For many boys who start school behind, a life time of lost potential is the outcome. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. With quality early education, the gap could be significantly reduced.
“Quality childcare, with a focus on early learning, can offer a genuine chance for children to catch up. And it really doesn’t have to be complicated – simple word games, encouragement and reading is often all it takes to make a lifetime of difference.”

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