The Lost Boys


In this series of posts, I aim to outline how we can tackle these challenges, bring about real improvement for disadvantaged children, and close the attainment gap.

“Giving education to the labouring classes of the poor… would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society had destined them.”

Whilst this quote from Davies Giddy(Gilbert) (MP) taken from 1807 may represent the morally abhorent views of a bygone era, perhaps we have not moved on as far as we would like to think that we have when it comes to socio-economic status, gender and schooling?

To begin with, let us consider the following:

  1. British disadvantaged boys are the lowest performing group in the UK;
  2. British boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are under-performing compared with disadvantaged children from all other groups;
  3. Consequently, the social well-being and economic success of communities across the United Kingdom is under threat. Suicide rates among young men from poor backgrounds are rising in comparison with other groups;
  4. The attainment gap of white British pupils is narrowed when girls are included in the measure which masks the extent of the attainment gap for boys;
  5. The attainment gap is holding steadfast at about 27% despite the introduction of the Pupil Premium;
  6. For disadvantaged boys the attainment gap is closer to 35%;
  7. 40% of the gapbetween disadvantaged pupils and their peers is already present by the age of five!

The Prologue

Since the Parochial Schools Bill was debated in the house of commons more than 200 years ago, a school system has developed which continues to discriminate on the basis of socio-economic status. Independent fee-paying schools exist for the children of the rich few, whilst the rest fight it out for places in the remaining schools.

Within this landscape, further ‘demographic’ discrimination exists. I have described this as the postcode lottery in a recent post on this site. The postcode lottery presents ‘lucky’ children living in affluent catchment areas the opportunity to secure cherished and limited places at the oversubscribed local good school/academy. These schools could already be considered to be grammar schools in all but name.

For the rest of the population, ‘the labouring classes of the poor’, there are the new and ‘rapidly improving’ spangly academies on the estate and perhaps a local authority run school, although admittedly a rarity these days.

Alongside these exist a range of ‘free’ schools, faith schools and technology schools which attempt to fill the void where schools have been unable to meet the needs of the community.

A New Hope

The national schools comissioner, Sir David Carter, is optimistic that he can increase the number of children going to ‘good’ schools and the evidence indicates that he may be right about that.

The Fair Education Alliance has successfully brought together key stakeholders with Teach First, Achievement for All and Save the Children all on board. The government has ploughed £2.5 million plus (annually since 2011) into the Pupil Premium funding and Teach First is recruiting more high quality graduates into the profession than ever before. On top of all that, £136 million has been invested into the Education Endowment Foundation.

However, regional variations indicate a deep rooted problem: a socio-economic chasm in outcomes and a stagnant achievement gap that remains the achilles heel for school leaders and policy makers alike.

In this series of posts, I aim to consider how we can tackle these challenges, bring about real improvement for disadvantaged children, and close the attainment gap. Together, we will explore a range of potential factors and solutions.

All children, irrespective of their ‘lot in life’ must not have their ‘rank in society’ predetermined by their postcode or their parents’ affluence.

In the meantime, here are six strategies for engaging boys in the classroom for you to review.



About blakeeducation

Assistant Head in Hampshire. Advocate for social mobilty through effective parental engagement, quality T&L, literacy, social capital, curriculum and culture.
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