11 Jul 2003 04:00 AM

Boys do well when good discipline, close monitoring and a sense of community give them an 'excuse to succeed'.

Boys perform well at schools where the traditional 'three R's' are complemented by a fourth R, respect, according to two new reports published by the Office for Standards in Education today.

The new reports, Boys' achievement in secondary schools and Yes He Can - schools where boys write well, find that boys respond well to teachers who set clear limits and high expectations, give constructive feedback, and maintain a sense of humour.

They respect teachers who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subjects.

To overcome a 'laddish' culture present in some schools where anti-learning peer pressure is a major barrier to boys' achievement, the inspectors note that close monitoring can provide boys with an 'excuse to succeed'.

Ofsted inspectors visited schools where the gap between boys' and girls' GCSE attainment was significantly smaller than the norm, or where boys were improving faster than girls. The reports identify a number of common characteristics present in schools where boys make good progress:
- there is a 'non-macho' culture of learning and pupils benefit from a strong sense of community
- pupils feel valued by an ethos that celebrates achievement - teachers provide prompt and detailed feedback in marking pupils' work
- pupils are set short-term tasks that can be tackled in clear stages - teaching is enthusiastic with good use of humour.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Schools, David Bell, said today:

"These reports give clear examples of good practice and valuable advice to schools looking to identify ways to engage boys in the classroom.

"I am pleased that many of the schools visited during these surveys have tackled an anti-learning 'laddish culture' and encouraged boys to make the most of their education.

"For too long, we have been seeing worrying statistics about how boys are doing, compared with girls."

Differences between the attainment of boys and girls have been widely analysed over recent years. The 1996 Ofsted report The Gender Divide highlighted a gap between girls' and boys' achievement at GCSE level. Recent GCSE results show girls doing better than boys in nearly all subjects, with boys doing broadly as well as girls only in mathematics and science. The differences between girls' and boys' achievement are greatest in English, modern foreign languages, religious education and creative or design- based subjects.

In these two surveys, which were carried out between autumn 2001 and spring 2003, inspectors identified features that supported boys' achievement. However, the study found that many of the teaching methods that benefit boys also have a positive impact on girls' attainment.

Yes He Can - schools where boys write well finds that boys write well where:
- pupils are given the choice on content of writing even when the genre is prescribed
- teachers respect the particular styles adopted by boys - pupils read widely for pleasure
- value is placed on the diversity of styles and pupils' approach to written work
- there is a good balance between support and independence - efforts are made to make writing real and purposeful
- there is a culture that enables boys to take pride in writing well.

Boys' achievement in secondary schools also highlights that boys do well where:
- the school ethos demands good behaviour and sets clear boundaries - there is a good range of extra-curricular activities and support outside normal school hours
- teaching is delivered at a 'sprightly pace'
- teaching makes good use of computers and interactive learning - pupils are rewarded for achievements and schools celebrate their success.

Mr Bell added:
"Today's reports highlight the vital importance of good teaching and classroom management. Where teaching is imaginative, sensitive and focused boys, as well as girls, can achieve their full potential."

1. The reports Yes He Can - schools where boys write well ref HMI 505, and Boys' achievement in secondary schools, ref HMI 1659 is available on the Ofsted web site, www.ofsted.gov.uk. They are also available from the Ofsted Publications Centre free of charge telephone 07002 637 833 or email freepublications@ofsted.gov.uk

2. The report Yes He Can - schools where boys write well was based on visits by Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) to seven primary and eight secondary schools between April 2002 and March 2003. The schools were identified for visits on the basis of their test and examination results in writing, in English and across the wider curriculum, over a three-year period, corroborated by the most recent inspection report. The schools selected had good results overall, either by national standards or in relation to similar schools, and a significantly smaller gap in the performance in writing between boys and girls than normal.

The schools visited during the Yes He Can - schools where boys write well inspection were:

Primary schools:
Coppetts Wood, Barnet
Grange Park, Enfield
Hook-with-Warsach, Hampshire
St Mary's RC, Studley, Warwickshire
St Patrick's C of E, Solihull
Walmsley C of E, Bolton
William Ransom, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Secondary schools:
Charlton, Telford
Colmers Farm, Birmingham
Colyton Grammar, Devon
The Cotswold, Gloucestershire
Kings Norton Boys, Birmingham
Pate's Grammar, Gloucestershire
St Augustine of Canterbury Catholic High, St Helens
St Edward's College, Liverpool.

3. The report Boys' achievement in secondary schools was based on HMI visits to 20 secondary schools that appeared to be doing well to raise the attainment of boys at GCSE, visits to 18 independent schools, evidence from specially enhanced Ofsted inspections of 15 secondary schools in autumn 2001 and spring 2002 and evidence from other Ofsted inspections.

4. Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Its role also includes the inspection of local education authorities, teacher training institutions and youth work. During 2001, Ofsted became responsible for inspecting all 16-19 education and for the regulation of early years childcare, including childminders

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Tel 020 7421 6800 Web site www.ofsted.gov.uk