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Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys

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Gareth Malone Gareth Malone | 14:11 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

In the summer term of 2010 I was welcomed by Chris Thurgood, the head teacher of Pear Tree Mead Primary School, to teach a class of 39 boys. Since arriving at the school two years previously, she had been aware of the discrepancy in educational achievement between boys and girls.

Quite simply the girls were doing better and they couldn't seem to get the boys to knuckle down. She made an unlikely choice: She accepted my offer that I, a choirmaster, might be able to help her sort out the problem.

Gareth Malone with some of the boys from his class

To begin, I spoke to many educational experts and drew on my own experience as a boy at a regular state primary school. I remember our headmaster, Mr Brine, was kind but imposing.

I can recall three things about him: One - his favourite hymn was Morning Has Broken (through he preferred the Cat Stevens version). Two - he introduced me to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 (for which I'm forever grateful!) and three - he reprimanded me very severely when we were on a school trip for using a telephone without permission. I definitely deserved it.

Later on I attended Bournemouth Grammar School. The selective atmosphere suited me down to the ground because I couldn't bear to come last at anything academic. It was run on traditional lines and I think it's influenced the person I am today in a number of ways.

There was a great ethos of respect between staff and pupils - we stood when a teacher came into the room, hard work was rewarded, and there was inspiring teaching by people who loved their subjects.

Because I'm known as a choirmaster people imagine that I don't do anything else, as if all choirmasters sit around listening to music from 1605. So when I arrived at Pear Tree Mead I was worried that I would not be taken seriously by the teachers when it came to literacy.

In fact my degree was in drama with a heavy accent on the study of text so I consider myself to be fairly literate. But once you get a name for something it's hard for people to accept you trying something else - as anyone who's ever tried to change job will tell you.

This was a departure for me and that made me nervous. That and the prospect of teaching 39 boys.

I was advised that boys need to know who's in charge, what the rules are, and if they will be applied fairly. With that simple adage I progressed. I can't say I always prevailed but you have to show the boys that you are not to be trifled with.

Gareth Malone in the woods with several boys from his class

At the same time, boys can be very sensitive and when they are scared or not getting their own way they can lash out. Training the boys to listen to each other and be respectful of each others' feelings is the work of a lifetime.

I was amazed how often boys cry over tiny things. We have this image that crying is for girls but, wow, the boys could cry at anything: Falling over, petty injustices in the playground, or just because they were not able to do something.

From talking to the experts, teachers and parents, I've become convinced that modern life is pulling boys in directions that don't necessarily help the basic skills of reading and writing.

Many boys play hours and hours of computer games every day which can be over-stimulating. By contrast a book can seem rather dull and that too much effort is required for not as much reward. In addition, children aren't allowed to roam as freely as they were in the past.

There are obviously real safety concerns about letting kids out unsupervised but too much 'cotton-wooling' is damaging for a boy's sense of self belief, and I found that if I gave them responsibility to step outside their comfort zone they really rose to the challenge.

Some of the boys were very behind in their reading. It was deeply affecting and difficult to know how to help. Several times I wondered if my approach was having anything but a detrimental effect, because as a new teacher you measure your success minute by minute.

If an activity goes well then you are elated. If it doesn't go according to plan it can leave you feeling pretty dejected and make you question yourself constantly. I think that over time teachers learn to roll with the punches.

But over the course of the term we did make a difference. I'm really proud that I tackled something that is of real importance. I'm proud of what I achieved with the boys and that the school will be taking some of my ideas forward.

I loved the excitement of the boys debating with the girls in the first programme, but camping in the school grounds was the most memorable experience. Tending the fire in the dead of night whilst the boys slept under the starlight was magical.

This has been a very busy year for me and I'm looking forward to a bit of a break. My wife - who is a teacher herself - is about to give birth to our first child and I'm absolutely convinced it'll be a boy!

Gareth Malone is the presenter of Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys.

Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys starts at 9pm on Thursday, 9 September at 9pm on BBC Two and is part of the channel's School Season of programmes.

To find out times of all episodes from this series, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Read the BBC Parenting blog post about the programme by David Shaw, member of the BBC Parent Panel.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I have to say ... this whole idea is a red herring and completely unworkable outside this BBC programme!
    The burden of excessive admin and accountability already stifles our ability as teachers to go far off the strict curriculum enforced on us (and constantly changed) by the education department. Anyone who wants to do something exciting and different (to the extent of this programme) is unable to do so due to limited funding/too-big classes/no money for cover to allow teacher out of other lessons/excessive paperwork in order to justify why and how every minute of the activity links to some sort of learning objective or outcome!
    And don't get me started on the biblical proportions of paperwork and risk assessments which must be filled in and submitted to the local authority in triplicate to see if the activity falls within the authority's insurance and safety limits [which most of Gareth's activities fail to do] - choose any of the above since all apply.

    So ... before anyone starts to ask why every teacher and school doesn't do what BBC Gareth is doing for their own children ... get real! We would love to have such freedom and large mounts of time and money to transform our subject lessons ... it will never happen.

  • Comment number 2.

    I can not agree with Majella more. Teachers have known this for years!!!

    Does Gareth really think that he is onto something here and that he is now a pioneer in education? If I was allowed the time, money and release on expectations then does that mean that I can get a BBC programme too? Because I am sure that what Gareth has achieved is nothing more than every teacher would love that they could do on a daily basis. But, we can't, pure and simple because of the pressures that are put on us!!!

    Come into a real school situation and see the pressures that teachers are really under with monitoring, planning, no money, parents etc...

    If you want to make a difference then get into Goverment and do something about it!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Riveting stuff - but I knew it was going downhill when he said "Awesome" was a superlative :-(

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm watching with great interest as a Scout Leader in an area with some very poorly performing schools.

    I know many bright boys who are bored witless at school, and who would benefit greatly from the types of engagement that Gareth is experimenting with. It is sad that there is too much rigidity in the way the National Curriculum is applied in some schools - and sometimes too little imagination and creativity from school managements and teachers.

    The "Health and Safety" issue is a bit of a red-herring - I speak as someone trained in risk-assessment and in managing H&S. None of the activities I've seen so far present unacceptable levels of risk, when done under proper supervision and with the correct equipment etc. Teachers need to be more proactive in challenging over-strict interpretation of H&S legislation (which is usually a sign of an inadequate understanding of actual risks).

    This programme is a great opportunity to educate parents and the general public about the deficiencies of our current education system. Hopefully, this will lead to more pressure for reform of the curriculum and of teaching practices.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry Gareth, 'awesome', 'amazing' etc. are extreme adjectives. The superlative versions would be 'the most awesome' and 'the most amazing'.

    Looking forward to the next episodes though!

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh come on everybody!
    I am a teacher myself and understand the stresses of the job, but am unable to see such negative ideas!
    I think teachers today have forgotten what the point of our job is - to help children learn and develop. Yes we have stresses and deadlines, but what Gareth was suggesting IS possible. It does not need to be their full curriculum, but just to take some of his ideas and use them as singular literacy lessons would benefit boys significantly!
    Yes it isn't groundbreaking, but no one really does anything about boys in schools as I have seen from recently graduating and seeing numerous schools in action.

    Stop being so negative about the show and take it as inspiration! I think even to take a couple of ideas and use them within singular lessons would be incredible! Boys can develop through not just them taking risks but by US AS TEACHERS TAKING RISKS! For the good of the children have an open mind!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Everyone seems to be forgetting that Boys are fantastic and girls are elastic!

  • Comment number 8.

    A fascinating start. It may not be a new idea but as a mother of a boisterous boy, I have gained a lot of insight into how they tick.
    It may not be something that can be done in the education system but it shows where Scouts and adventure sports can assist in the education of boys. I disagree with the contributor who thought the word awesome sent the programme down hill. Find things they understand to give them the understanding then stretch their vocabulary. As much as we may dislike the work it is very much in common useage today. Did you see how excited they were about the highway man poem? I never got that excited over a poem at their age and I am a book worm!! I can't wait to see what happens next.

  • Comment number 9.

    Enjoyed the programme. I can't believe the weather was so good all the time. What happens to the plan when Gareth goes away?

  • Comment number 10.

    I am the mother of four sons. My third son had an IQ of 140+ but was 'diagnosed' as ADHD. He frequently skipped school during school hours, taking his younger brother with him. Reason? He was bored stupid. They made tents in the woods near the school. Despite my requests the school never alerted me when he was missing. Schools have been transformed into sausage making factories. if you don't fit the mould you won't get them the ratings in the tables and therefore they'd rather do without you. Why, if we are all different and appreciated for our diversity in the workplace, aren't we appreciated and taught as individuals at school when it matters? The education system destroys more lives than any other insidious drug. We need to transform it to engage all of our community in a fair and equitable shot at life. The investment needs to start here. Not in their later life as benefit payments.

  • Comment number 11.

    Its kinda sad the comments that teachers from the comments "already know this" so why has nothing been done? Im sure there are parents who could volunteer to help to give the boys support?

    I rolled my eyes as a young girl talks about "positve gender mixes", the brain-washing already begining.

    Men and women both have there strengths and weaknesses but it seems school has become too feminised. I'm in my thirties and remember back at school, the girls getting to go to special talks by women outside from industry but the boys had nothing! I can only assume things have got more one sided as time has gone on.



  • Comment number 12.

    Hi

    I am not an educationalist but I just wonder if we pronounced our words correctly might that not help with the reading and spelling. For example, the teachers and the head were missing off the endings of their words - how on earth can a youngster learn to read and spell if the words are not prounced correctly? Whichever reading or spelling scheme you use fundamentally you have to rely on phonics surely?

  • Comment number 13.

    Great programme. I felt I could see the boys blossom by the end of the programme. I got the impression that the (all female) staff felt a bit threatened by the confident, articulate, optimistic and lively Gareth - qualities that the staff all seemed to lack. I feel that his approach with boys - competion, risk and learning via play - is a valid one. We are failing our boys, and well done to the programme makers and everyone involved for this experiment.

  • Comment number 14.

    I write as the mother of a (now) 16 year old boy. I think what Gareth is doing here is fantastic and about time. I suspect the teachers writing above are women - and this seems to be one of the major problems in the primary schools - way too few male teachers/role models. Way too much praising of the girls and how good they are at almost everything - this does nothing for the boys' self-esteem which, watching this programme, is very, very low.

    Also, not EVERY boy is into football - but when my son took up netball in primary school by the time he got to Year 6 was told he couldn't participate any more as the Borough only had girls' netball teams in yr 6 (even though, funnily enough, the girls could participate in football!)

    We will do our boys no good by emasculating them - after all they are our future fathers.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting stuff, much of which we try to use in our school. We firmly believe that talk is very important and that risk taking, not just the physical, is important to help children to develop their desire to learn and their writing. I loved the idea of getting the children to give a commentary during the football match, I shall nick that one.
    No Gareth Malone is not a teacher but I am sure that the research that backs up the program is valid and that he has had enough experience to do no more damage than the average student on a first practise...does anyone really think he has planned all of this without the help of well qualified teachers?
    If you feel that taking a risk in the classroom is not worth the effort or if you are worried that by doing so you might fail then you already have. Take a risk and be open minded.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sorry, but your moderation is taking too long so I will give up on this site

  • Comment number 17.

    Actually schools in Wales have long recognised the benefits of the 'outdoor classroom' and let's be quite clear that, whilst we can generalise and stereotype by allocating certain traits to the sexes we are really seeking to address the individual needs of individual children who are all thrust into 'mass' education. (The supreme irony is that a system devised by men for boys is now benefittng girls disproportionately) The space - so well described by one lad here - matters a lot to many. I have expereince of school visits to real family farms and the way the children can blossom (and their teachers relax!) when the four walls and classrooms next door to be disturbed are simply not there has to be seen to be believed. Yes funding and time are very real issues but teachers are resourceful and, when the impact is experienced, committed to the wellbeing of their pupils - plus it make teaching so much more fun! Let's stop hammering and try some variety. Mature parents these days are struck by how many teachers and teaching assistants are available compared to our own day and how much more the staff work as a team. One other point - more male teachers in primary schools are a must and that is an initiative that I hope this government can seize! (NB seize is the exception to the spelling rule: i before e)
    I look forward to the next programme - let's look and learn and not pre-judge! Hey we are educators...

  • Comment number 18.

    I was at school until the mid-80s when the govt announced that girls weren't doing as well as boys at school so the schools had to do something about it. It seems to me that they were left by the wayside in order to meet govt targets.

    I'm not a teacher and I don't envy them their jobs in the current PC world, they certainly earn their money. Is Gareth on the right track ? I don't know if we took risks at school but there was certainly lots of healthy intellectual competition, from an early age knowing things became exciting.

  • Comment number 19.

    I do like the ideas in the programme and I believe that the work with the boys has some mileage (I'm not saying that it would be practical in a "real school" environment). As some have already said, the practicality of doing this sort of thing is almost mind-boggling. The paperwork involved would be enormous, getting parents to agree etc.

    The problem is that as teachers we are judged by Ofsted criteria, where an Ofsted inspector comes in for approximately 20 minutes in which time they expect to see significant progress in the knowledge of the class, or majority of the class. There was certainly progress during tonight's programme for many of the students, but that was over a week. Unfortunately for Gareth, his entire week of lessons would have been graded "Unsatisfactory" by Ofsted as the progress was minimal in those short periods of time.

    I'm not saying that it's right, but teachers are now judged purely on snapshots of the school year, and the pressure placed upon teachers to cover the entire curriculum and show progress in short periods of time make what Gareth's doing ultimately unworkable. As people have said on this blog, it would be lovely to do this sort of thing but it's ultimately unworkable in the current education system.

  • Comment number 20.

    I can see what Gareth is trying to do but he could maximise the effect of the games and outdoor activities by getting the boys to write about what they've just been doing.
    He could also get them to stand up in class and tell everyone what fun it's been and how they think it's benefitted them. Also try to encourage them to read SHORT adventure stories and talk about them to an all boys class.
    He could also try to encourage the parents to read TO their boys at home but stop just when the story gets exciting and make them read it themselves.
    It worked for my boy

  • Comment number 21.

    I watched this because I was at a loose end - I really enjoyed the Choir programmes. I was very sceptical. I have 35 years experience of working with the most challenging boys in inner city schools. I felt that Gareth should stick to Music. I was so pleasantly rejuvenated; letting the Year 5 teachers have their say was inspired. It laid Gareth open causing him to be shown in his true light - a man tuned into to the basic 'boys' frailties within education - poor self esteem and a fear of success - demonstrated by a distancing from literacy. The programme in general has a basic flaw - it is 'dip in and muddy the waters' but Gareth's basic humanity transcends this - he IS bothered about those boys - and by the end of the programme - so was I. WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    It's brilliant to see such enthausiasm but feel that teaching the boys seperately from the girls is a mistake. Think that society as a whole through gender stereotyping restricts boys from achieving the same level of emotional inteligence as girls, with the outcome being that they trail behind girls in literacy. Encouraging boys to be emotional beings would be a good start. A good example being my 4 year old boy asked me if pink was a girl colour, to which i explained that a colour does not need to be assigned a gender....

  • Comment number 23.

    I was genuinely saddened to see the lack of confidence these boys displayed. I think it is fantastic that this programme is out there. It is a real shame that paperwork comes before the children. Perhaps this will get more people volunteering as teaching assistants to support the terrible strain that teachers face.

    The boys of the next generation certainly need to have the power of speech and belief in what they can achieve rather than the power of the bullet. It is true there are many factors that contribute to the shaping of our children but self-belief and compassion are the most valuable tools they can be armed with.

  • Comment number 24.

    I really do admire Gareths approach to teaching the boys in the way he did. As a trainee teacher I really empathise with what he is trying to achieve and make a difference. This is the aim of any teacher to improve standards and make a difference and a positive impact on the way children learn. I am approaching my dissertation and am looking into whether engaging with childrens imagination through speaking and listening activities and drama, can effect children's attitude towards writing. I especially liked his approach to using the highwayman poem. I hope the curriculum does become more fluid in times to come, and that teachers will not feel constrained, but will feel free to teach the way they want to achieve the best they can for their pupils.

  • Comment number 25.

    First of all I would like to congratulate Gareth for understanding the need for this kind of project but for also having the courage to challenge the status quo. Majella has missed the point here - despite many teachers and education experts knowing that boys need a different type of education, they have done nothing about it because "it can not be done". How ironic that Gareth shows that it is not impossible to tackle this issue and he gets derided for trying something that "can not be done". Such is the state school system: ignore what all the studies show works and just keep doing what doesn't work.
    The truth of it is that all it needs for boys across the UK to benefit from engaging them in education is someone actually stepping outside of the box. As an example, studies show us that boys prefer to be instructed "side on" rather than "face to face" but does the school system adopt that simple piece of research into their classroom structure? Noooo - no doubt this is impossible too for some excuse or other.
    A Teacher once lamented to me that if you fell asleep in an operating theatre 100 years ago and woke up today - you wouldn't have a clue where you were BUT if you fell asleep in a classroom 100 years ago and woke up today, you would know exactly where you were!
    I hope so very much that Gareth Malone is to the education of boys what Jamie Oliver was to the school diet of children: a breaker of negative patterns.

  • Comment number 26.

    Watched the programme and it made me feel sad. I left teaching this year after 14 years (secondary) despite good OFSTED grades etc due to the stifling target driven culture. This years results were our best ever, but I effectively "managed" coursework to ensure the grades. The system is a travesty and if I earn the cash I will send my kids to a local private school where they are actually treated like individuals. Rant over.

    On another note, it was good to see someone taking risks outside the normal remit. I hated the comment from the head about a measurable target, and where did the 6 month improvement come from - is that a "significant" statistical gain. In my experience boys benefit massively from competition, doing something achievable and succeeding. I was gutted they lost the debate, but trying hard and losing is a very important life skill, perhaps the most important.

  • Comment number 27.

    What Gareth is doing is not new to educationalists and does not encompass the many duties and red tape that teachers currently face. However that does not mean that what he is trying to do does not have value. He is trying to find that if the red tape and restrictions are removed then will it engage boys in literacy and raise their reading ages? And if the answer is yes then why are teachers not free to use this approach? And any programme which is able to do this, can only be a good thing.

  • Comment number 28.

    I am sick of all this, what appears to be, teacher-bashing nonsense! Malone certainly has his heart in the right place, but don't we all? The vast majority of teachers are stymied by unrealistic targets, (what exactly is the "Fisher Family Trust"?); which are set by managers/politicians that are so enamoured of league tables that they think they are an opportunity to make themselves look successful, regardless of the learning experience of children. Malone ought to try his methods at secondary school (I've tried and been frowned upon because what I want to do isn't easily "assessible"). We are ordered to teach children how to learn, and, for the most part, ignore subject specific content. God forbid! I despair! Why should we teach people how to learn? Surely learning is based on knowledge and experience? I quit!

  • Comment number 29.

    As the father of an intelligent (I know all parents think their kids are the next Einstein) five year old I was very concerned by the attitude of the teachers. It seemed to me that they had already written off the boys as lower achievers than the girls. If I see this defetist attitude in my sons teachers then I will not accept it, just like the teachers should never display such an attitude to the children. If they see you giving up on them as low achievers then they WILL be low achievers, it's a self fulfilling prophecy.

    I'll apologise for any spelling mistakes but whenI was at school I was forced to conform and never actually motivated, however in later life I have found I have a tested IQ of 142.

    I also really feel that primary schools must employ male teachers and encourage male teachers to provide role models. At my sons school the only man is the caretaker (sorry, building manager!)

  • Comment number 30.

    My husband and I have just watched the programme, we found the teachers showed favour toward the girls and although they said wanted boys to be more outgoing, they showed by their attitude after the first face to face with Gareth that they resented them speaking out and would have preferred them to sit down and shut up.
    The teachers spoken English was poor and they were no example to pupils as they were untidy. This school as with many other junior schools in today's education system needs more role models for both sexes, neither of this is evident in this school. Respect is a two way street, to get it you earn it but you also need to give it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Come on Majella... Excuses , excuses.I was taught in a class of 40 during all of my school years. Resources were poor in the extreme and yet we managed to play and learn creatively.But of course we were expected to learn and behave with respect, to peers and teachers and the wider community.More please Gareth you are brilliant.

  • Comment number 32.

    Well done Gareth loved it!!!!!!!! Brilliant learning,vibrant,engaging and great surroundings....................
    Just how every lesson and classroom should be ,well done sir

  • Comment number 33.

    As a teacher in a primary school I found this programme only took the view that primary schools were dull, boring places where boys could not be inspired about anything. This is really not the case. Today I engaged my class in a lesson about poetry using body percussion and re-enacted a battle with my class on our school field to explain how the Tudors came to the throne! Yes of course we still do learn how to read and write but it can be done in an inspiring way! There are some teachers left who do engage their classes and try their hardest to find creative ways to deliver an otherwise dull curriculum. And I have been teaching for 16 years and not in the throes of an enthusiastic NQT year! I know I'm not alone either. Maybe if teachers were left to their own devices we wouldn't 'destroy more lives than any other insidious drug'! Bee wise? Open your eyes!

  • Comment number 34.

    As a past school governor I strongly believe that girls are better suited to the standard classroom environment than boys. It is a question of engaging boys to stimulate them at a time when their communicative skills are less developed than girls. I do not believe that boys are any less able than girls, it is just that many are less engaged with a system which does not address these issues.

    I agree with previous comments in that teachers are too constrained by rules, regulations, lack of funding and an over reliance on a one fits all National Curriculum.

    Give schools and teachers back the freedom to teach our kids at their own pace! While all schools cannot re-create what Gareth is doing I feel that he is trying to address this fundamental problem and many lessons can be learned.

  • Comment number 35.

    I am a teacher too and totally agree with Majella. Boys might well love this kind of approach but it just needs such a substantial improvement in the teacher/pupil ratio that it wouldn't be workable.

    Young males can tire of this approach too. I've seen so many 'fun' teachers seem to develop strong relationships with the boys in the class and gain an initial improvement which would eventually reverse as the 'novelty loving' boys tired of them.

    I also worry that it isn't much of a preparation for real life - you need to learn to adapt to your real situation as well as overcome problems. I'm not sure that reading age is a sensible measure of success either. I'm sorry I do sound negative don't I, but it is only because I do care. I have sons myself, both took a while to get to grips with literacy - but they did in the end, I feel the pressure to achieve is applied too early perhaps. There can be massive differences between primary school children which often even out as they get older and yet we have relatively rigid ideas of 'age appropriate' levels, perhaps we should look at that too.

  • Comment number 36.

    Well Done!! Having a 10 year old son who is allergic to reading and writing I found this programme both inspiring and compelling!! Its about time someone realised. My sons favourite lessons are Maths and PE and Golden Time on a Friday! Lets face it even when they are allowed to play in the playground, there are so many health and safety rules on what they can play and do there is nowhere to be free! They are not even allowed on the play area if its slightly wet, in case they fall! :(

  • Comment number 37.

    I applaud Gareth's work with these boys who I feel improved remarkably in such a short space of time even if they did lose to the girls! Well done boys - you should feel proud of yourselves - you've gained more than you think! Don't give up now!

    It's a shame that there are so many Health & Safety issues in schools today which certainly weren't around when I was at Junior school in the 1950's. Whatever was wrong with British Bulldog then and conker fights come to that - what harm did it do us?

  • Comment number 38.

    I work in a nursery pre-school and the different in the genders is already obvious from a very early age. I believe that boys do need to be allowed to be more physical in their learning and to take risks to enhance their self esteem. I have long since believed that only by making all children believe in themselves and their ability is the key to engaging them in their learning journey. The early years paves the way for their later school life, which can affect their lives as a whole.
    I recently attended an Early Years Professional Conference where I saw images of 3 and 4 year old children using woodwork tools. The message was that rather than children being as safe as possible, children should be as safe as necessary - it took me a while to accept this, but I now accept this as a very serious truth. However, getting those in authority and the children's parents to accept this may be another matter. From what I see, the majority of boys who are now entering Primary School are pampered beyond belief, giving them a very poor start in life and little self esteem.
    I applaud this programme for challenging modernist beliefs that there is a pre-determined set of knowledge that all children must learn, and trying something different, that may be more relevant to the children. Well done.

  • Comment number 39.

    We definately need more male teachers in our primary schools. My 5 year old son reacts so positively to the male football coaches and gymnasts brought in on occasion. I think good male role models from early on is crucial for our boys.

  • Comment number 40.

    As a boy who went through the education system recently I am saddened by the negative 'no-can-do' attitude shown in some comments. It is a shame that bureaucracy surrounding teachers and their work stifles change in the classroom. Surely tackling this is the first step in having a progressive attitude in education that would allow boys to be properly engaged in schools. Right now there is a definite lack of positive male influence and excitement in schools - please don't bow to the idea that this is the way it is and nothing will ever change - let's think about it. The show stimulated debate, and therefore did it's job. I wouldn't be so quick to shoot it down.

  • Comment number 41.

    I really enjoyed this programme and find the teacher responses to it hilarious and predictable. Listening to those boys just shows how the system is failing them when the main concern is about form filling in and risk assessments. If boys don't learn to read at school they won't be getting those jobs that require form filling! They consistently had low self esteem issues and their boredom leads to distraction and under performance. No-one is suggesting every school builds an outdoor classroom but this highlighted how engaging boys into one of the fundamental skills of long term success in life requires thought. I currently care for four boys as a childminder and have specifically ensured that they are enjoying books and pick up on their interests wherever possible. It does involve more time but they shouldn't be disadvantaged by lazy teaching which doesn't address the problem early on.

    The health and safety concern serves to highlight why boys are being disadvantaged in general and many teachers need to think outside the guidelines. What's more of a barrier to getting a job? A bruise or the reading age of a 10 year old when they're 20?

  • Comment number 42.

    Fantastic programme, just what boys need at school, but don't they also need teachers that can speak english!

  • Comment number 43.

    Surely the one of the big factors on boys underachievement at Peartree Mead is the lack of positive male role models on the staff. The female year five teachers who appeared on the first episode came across as very defensive and excessively negative of Gareth's alternative approach. They seemed most concerned that the boys were kept in their place. How are boys meant to flourish if their essential nature isn't accepted, celebrated and positively channelled through example?

  • Comment number 44.

    I think it is great what gareth is doing, my son gets quite depressed when he is at school. He is himself when he is at home because he knows he is free to be himself.
    Also i think there is a need for more male teachers in primary schools. Boys need grown up boys to look up to, to learn respect and trust. This is not sexist as I am female, how can you input a female way of doing things when you are not female in the first place, its like trying to make a cat be a dog.

  • Comment number 45.

    We thought the teachers themselves had a lot to learn about use of the English language!

  • Comment number 46.

    I thought tonights programme was brilliant. These boys have been changed and inspired by the intensive care from this man. The teachers sour grapes were very dissapointing, but reflect the intereference of Government over the past years that, because of constant changes have removed from them all their motivation. I cannot understand that whilst we have a national curriculum that we leave it to individual teachers of varying quality to produce lesson plans and materials (forcing long hours and a lot of stress on them). Why don't we have lesson plans provided for all levels within a class plus materials shared between schools - produced by people at a top level with proven experience of interacting with our kids. Am I a genius or missing something? Obviously if teachers think they can produce something better let them work that hard and let the others enjoy teaching without the hassle. Steven Blake mba, former senior lecturer Boston College, Lincolnshire

  • Comment number 47.

    For 30 years the system has been destroying the ability to engage boys whilst making efforts to improve the outcome for girls.

    I speak as someone who trained as a teacher but never taught because the training 30 years ago was fundamentally flawed - with the worse bit being that our tutors could not understand they were contradicting themselves from one week to another.

    I have often debated with teachers their desire to be seen as professionals - yet they insist in having a trade union rather than a professional body.

    The teachers at tonight's school highlighted many problems with the system unintentionally. What chance to our children have when their teachers struggle to communicate adequately? Their poor speech - especially their appalling diction was tragic. Combine that with their poor dress sense and we can see they are anything but professional.

    Teachers need to lead and inspire.

    Maybe Gareth's time would be better spent teaching the teachers how to breathe, project their voices and pronounce their words correctly - treating them like a choir wouldn't be a bad start!

  • Comment number 48.

    I think the comments of Jenny "oh come on" and the scout leader articulate how I feel. All I add is that I felt very moved watching. How close each child everywhere comes so close to being let down by us adults and writing himself/herself off. For boys, maybe some positive discrimination process to get more men into primary schools required to offset the girl power. Those boys eatured just exhibit so many adult male characteristics and didn't seem happy for it!

  • Comment number 49.

    I completely agree with Jenny. The current education system is failing boys and as a parent with three boys aged between 9 and 19, two of whom are severely dylexic I have known this for years. Under the current system boys are feeling lost and "thick" as my boys have said they feel. The current system of course has limited funding (I work in the NHS and funding issues are a fact of life) but that doesn't stop teachers being creative. It doesn't cost a penny to take a class out into the playground or onto the school field, just a degree of imagination and creativity. Girls would learn this way just as well as the boys. Come on teachers it's up to you to push the boundaries here. We all remember the teachers that inspired and motivated us. Gareth may not be a teacher but he most definitely has the right idea. Our boys deserve better.

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm one of only two male members of staff in a primary school (the other being the caretaker) and have always been a passionate believer in helping make a difference in boys' lives and education. I am currently a Midday Supervisor and Voluntary Teaching Assistant. Ever since I first started at the school three years ago I have been told regularly by other staff members, parents, children and members of the local community that boys need a "good male role model" like myself. I know for a fact how much the boys look up to me and respond differently to me than to any of the female staff because I have seen it. I am hugely popular both in and out of the school with children, parents and staff. Unfortunately, the head-teacher has repeatedly turned-down my suggestions and requests to do more work with the older boys, instead I am left to work with the Infants. She is completely aware of both how much I am needed and how much the boys want me, especially as some of them have even tried writing her petitions and letters to get her to let me work with them more. But she still won't back down. I think this is extremely detrimental to their development as I have seen first hand how much they respond to me and how reluctant they can be to learn or read. I also think there are too many times when boys are quickly written-off as being badly-behaved or a "bit of a handful" in class, when in fact they have a huge potential to be better and have occasionally demonstrated this.

    Anyway, I think Gareth should be commended for trying to bring this out in the open about just how seriously boys need help, particularly from men to succeed and learn. He is a true inspiration to me and I will definitely be watching the rest of the series.

  • Comment number 51.

    I work in a large nursery school and thanks to excellent staffing levels, an enlightened headteacher, and fantastic practical support from parents, I am able to take groups of children to work in a nearby wood each week. The results at 4 years of age are remarkable and I feel priveledged to be a part of it. The boys really come into their own! The levels of co-operation, team-work, problem-solving etc are amazing and well worth the hard-work. None of this would be possible without all the things I mentioned in my opening sentence. The government needs to sit up and recognise that the majority of National Curriculum requirements stifle learning - particularly for boys! Less paperwork and more support in the form of motivated and inspiring adults is what's needed! Well done Gareth - you inspire me and reinforce my hope for better things for ALL our children!

  • Comment number 52.

    I have just really enjoyed the programme - but sadly - as I also work in education - must agree with the comments by teaching staff - there is way too much emphasis on "form filling" and "National Curriculum" to allow teachers to deliver the right teaching for boys & girls. My generation was probably the last one where the teaching staff had real CONTROL over HOW they taught anything [I am just about to be eligible for the state pension!!]- end every child I attended primary school with left to go onto Secondary Education able to read & write. Sadly that no longer happens. Good luck to those fortunate young gentlemen who have this chance to ENJOY school in this way. I do think that unfortunately for the boys - there are no "adventure stories" which capture their imagination [and I have to say I grew up reading "Boys" books as well as girls - they were always so much more exciting - but there are too many words for boys - in the books I read] Lack of literacy all round - is the greatest failure of the current English education system - the ability to read is the key to the door which opens the rest of the world - so what does it matter what is read as long as they are reading??? Comics and Graphic novels are just as valid reading if it is enjoyed by the reader.
    Get rid of the National Curriculum - give schools and teachers the right to TEACH - in the way best for the children and the school - and scrap those ruddy legue tables - they are STATISTCS - and we all know what STATISTICS are - LIES!!!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    Finally someone who recognises the value of active learning and outdoor learning in motivating children beyond the age of 5. The boys comments to me outlined everything that is wrong with our education system. They are not being stimulated or challenged in a traditional classroom, are bored and have given up believing that they are capable.

    Recognising that speaking fluently is a pre-requisite of reading and writing is also vital. Surely part of the problem is that boys are being forced to read and write in a formal classroom before they have had a chance to develop the underlying skills. Let's look not at those children who have already given up and lost interest but instead look at what we can do to encourage interest in literacy from the youngest age and continue to foster this as they grow up.

    I understand that there are many obstacles to providing a different literacy experience for boys , but surely creative and reflective teachers can find a way.

  • Comment number 55.

    Yes we all know teachers are shackled by central government and the straitjacket known as the National Curriculum. We also know that education is as much the domain of social researchers and analysts as it is of the politicians. Lets get something straight. Boys and girls ARE different. They are different in ways that predetermine certain abilities. This is common sense . It doesnt require bucketloads of research to establish this although an inordinate number of educational researchers seem to think it is necessary. This is what makes me laugh about the mantra in education of educating each individual to achieve their own maximum potential. How can this possibly happen if the government and educationalists dont even recognise the basic differences between the genders in terms of how they learn and how they develop.It simply is not natural to have growing boys shackled to a desk for over 5 hours a day. What this BBC programme is being aired for also defeats me.

    As someones else has said im sure ALL teachers would love the time and resources to do what Gareth is doing but of course we live in the real world so it is simply not going to happen. In my opinion this whole programme is a red herring. Government pays lip service to education for all. They dont want the general populace to achieve maximum academic status. They just want to socially engineer the population for the maximum economic effect.Everything changes , everything stays the same.

  • Comment number 56.

    If anything shows just how much schools are failing boys [and active girls] it was this programme.

    Gareths not so innovative approach - already in use in Scandinavia for many years - motivated most of the boys in his class - something that the trained teachers had so spectacularly failed to do for the whole of their Infant and Junior school life. Yet these self same teachers complained to Gareth that the new regime was disrupting their class as the boys were no longer taking them seriously.

    Maybe the fault lies in the teaching rather than the taught.

    I have taken a mixed age group of children from 2 years to 12 years to a Forest School where all of the children used sharp tools, made fires, cooked over the fire and not a hard hat in site despite the fact that saws and knives were used.

    It requires more effort to make lessons exciting and maybe that is where the problem is.

  • Comment number 57.

    What was really evident to me was that the centre of it all was the teacher. Gareth was an imaginative and courageous teacher, with little experience, training, behaviour or 'classroom' management skills. It was like watching a first term PGCE placement of a promising pupil. Give him another 3 or 4 years and his talent would have been grounded in experience and been wonderful. His premise works to a point, but a reflective practitioner would have been able to refine it further rather than dogmatically pursue his theory. I experience the lack of self belief amongst boys everyday with my own son. Many teacher oare demoralised by all the excessive paperwork designed for politicians to look good on the hustings. I was very sorry to see the scrapping of the Rose review ideas, as those seemed to be giving the power back to teachers

  • Comment number 58.

    I hope all parents and teachers watching that programme winced as I did when one of the boy's fathers said his son was not interested in reading because books were boring! Therein lies the a big part of the problem. I bet the vast majority of those boys' fathers aren't interested in reading either because, when they were at school, reading was definitely seen as "girly" and here they are passing on those same jaded views to their sons. It's also a fair bet most of those dads (and too many of the mums as well) never read a bedtime story to their boys when they were younger because they either still don't read well or still think it's boring!
    However, their viewpoint could have been vindicated by the female teacher's choice of getting the class to write about a very "girly" fairystory in the first part of the programme!! No wonder the girls thought it was great but the boys were bored witless. And before anyone gets on their high horse about "sexism" and how boys "need to know about fairystories too", I also think we should be teaching girls that changing a plug and knowing the difference between a Phillips and a flathead screwdriver and what an Allen key does in flatpack furniture assembly, are not just male activities!
    It is also right to say that teachers need to challenge overuse of H&S but sadly too many of them still seem to think it is a jolly useful tool (along with the perennial excuse of paperwork)to avoid having to do their real job which is providing their pupils with the motivation to learn which is exactly what Gareth is doing. Stop moaning and whining about how difficult it is to do your job and get on with it instead.

  • Comment number 59.

    This programme deals with 39 boys who were considered to be under-achievers in literacy. Why therefore were 3 or 4 boys featured above the others? Were these boys chosen as truly representative of the whole group or because they made interesting viewing?




  • Comment number 60.

    A very interesting programme! Gareth Malone is inspirational. I wish that, in almost thirty years of teaching in inner city schools, there had been a 'Gareth' available !! I can't wait to see to next episode.
    I was very disappointed with the attitude of the young teachers interviewed. What a pity they were so negative and apparently so unsupportive!! A bit of 'vision' would not go amiss!! ALL teachers face huge pressures, accepted, but we can't let those pressures stifle creativity.

  • Comment number 61.

    I take it that some people have never heard of forest schools.

  • Comment number 62.

    I watched this programme with great interest, not as an educationalist but as a mum of two boys (plus I happen to like Gareth Malone too). My boys are 22 and 16 – my eldest went through secondary education at a boy’s grammar school and my youngest is currently going through a mixed sex secondary school.

    Both boys are bright and above average intelligence; my eldest under achieved at the grammar school because the school was too focused on their position in the school league table and not on the education of their pupils and my youngest is doing ok but with a lot of encouragement and motivation from home because he is one of 1200 pupils and the teachers are too busy completing paperwork to actually teach!

    Whatever the problems may be within our education system in the UK, the main cause of a whole generation of boys under achieving at school is in the way they are being taught. Boys are different to girls – their brains function differently, they learn differently and therefore they need to be taught differently. The sooner this fundamental difference is acknowledged by the Government and so-called educationalists the sooner the problem can be rectified.

    It’s too late for my sons, both of whom have been the guinea pigs of experimental educational whims and policies but I do hope Gareth Malone’s approach to helping these young boys at Pear Tree Mead improve their literacy skills is taken on board by government ministers, the education departments, teachers, and parents alike! Every primary school should have a Mr. Malone.
    Am looking forward to the next episode.

  • Comment number 63.

    Does the fact that there are no male teachers at this school highlight the performance of the boys.?

  • Comment number 64.

    As an aspiring teacher with specific intentions towards the advocation of Literacy and the skills involved, I am heartened to see Gareth's attempt to make it more fun and refresh the whole concept in the wired, HD, full colour minds of children as they are today. It takes maturity, a sense of patience, almost a kind of deferred gratification to get from a book that which a game console can deliver with very little effort on behalf of the user. Children don't fully possess these traits, indeed, they are on the cusp of understanding them, but largely forge them for something more interesting.
    Interest is a huge part of education, I can remember myself that I did do and continue to do better in those subjects that I feel a passion for. Hence I am hugely disappointed in the comments of Majella and Ali who show a desire to do something on par with Gareth but seem resigned to the fact that it could never happen outside of the BBC and are even rebuking him for going against the grain and doing something unrealistic.
    Call it idealism, call it naivety but I am a great believer that one person can make a difference, especially in teaching, and inspire children to extend their reach and be more than they think they can be. True enough, I shudder to think of the paperwork, the health and safety checks and the sheer organisation involved etc, but that's not to say that unorthodox teaching methods like those shown tonight are an impossibility.
    The education system needs people like Gareth once in a while to refresh ideas and break the mould a little bit. It must be very easy to get stuck in the repetitiveness of lesson plans, meetings, spoon feeding one class, then another, just to get it so they can pass their exams.
    While perhaps not a pioneer, Gareth is fulfilling a very important role and certainly, watching his attempts to make learning fun was nothing short of inspirational. Should I indeed join the ranks of teaching professionals, that is the kind of teacher I want to be. Innovative, engaging and energetic. I look forward to the next one.

  • Comment number 65.

    As Gracie mentioned BTL, sad to see the negatives coming out of their mouths. "Can't", "won't", "no", "shan't". It tells you all you need to know about their upbringing and schooling to date, constantly being told no or upbraided for minor infringements on our increasingly restricted view of children and their capabilities. Of course kids do things wrong, they're kids, but need to be given the chance to do it right, then be recognised for that - while bearing in mind their individuality.

  • Comment number 66.

    While acknowledging the difficulties Gareth's experiment bring you can not deny that it was an inspiration.

    I teach languages so any ideas to engage students, in my case not just boys, are always very welcome.

    For a multi-cultural society we are increasingly arrogant about the importance of English. Being able to order a meal in a restaurant in Europe does not mean 'everyone speaks English' as many students seem to be more & more convinced by their parents.

    Gideon is King - a King that still needs a bit of work but nonetheless ideas wise a King in the making.

  • Comment number 67.

    At the end of the debate, Gareth kept telling the boys they had done really, really well and that they shouldn’t be disappointed in losing to the girls. While I agree with his emphasis in pointing out how far they had come in a week and what they had learnt etc, I believe that it would have been even more powerful if he had empathised with the boys’ feelings of disappointment.

    What he was doing was repeating what has probably been done to them time and time again over the years by (often well-meaning) parents and teachers, namely invalidating the boys’ feelings by telling them they were wrong to be disappointed. Such invalidation is very destructive to a young person's emotional well-being and could well contribute to one of the problems he struggled with, namely how to do something about the boys' low self confidence.

    It would have been much more effective if he simply said how he completely understood that they must be shattered, frustrated, annoyed etc having put in such an effort, progressed so far and still come second in the debate.

    Great programme all the same! As my wife put it: "it must be autumn as there are some decent programmes on again".

  • Comment number 68.

    Hmmm, The first Comments on this blog are a disgrace. Anyone who has read a Steve Biddulph book would know that. Boys are in general are bonkers but always in a good way. I work in schools every day, not as a teacher generally though occasionally. By that I am a school photographer and run several photography courses. Though with this subject the boys are brilliant in primary schools because there's a gadget involved.

    I know from school principals that budgets are horrendously tight but from a few enlightened school heads they know that boys are very different from girls when it comes to comparing levels of ability in early years. Our society has changed dramatically in a very short space of time. For hundreds of years boys have been moved to apprenticeships at roughly age 13 to spend time with older all male peer groups. With the collapse of heavy industry and manufacturing this no longer happens. In ancient societies, American Indian for example boys left the family to be brought into manhood by other men within the tribe but not their father.

    During these times in the industrial age school for boys was something to get through and tolerate. Obedience was hammered into them rather than engaging them. Boys simply develop slower than girls but catch up in later years when they have decided that academia is for them.

    Good on Gareth for giving it a go. If Majella is a teacher then heaven help the boys in her class. I'll give her one tip though that is true of all males - If a man (boy) is not giving you eye contact he's not listening.

  • Comment number 69.

    I have to say I enjoyed watching someone with a possitive attitude having a go at trying to make a difference. Rather than milling along with the usual poor teacher response that there is too much red tape and not enough time to do these kind of things in a normal school enviroment. I help in my childrens school doing gardening, general running around, pond dipping and shown 4-6 year olds how to cut hazel wood to make canes to grow the beans up, there are no health and safety problems around me doing these activities with the children. otherwise why would i be asked to come in and do it all the time.
    My sister in-law has just opened up the woodland at her school (that she is the head of) so the children can climb trees and explore and make shelters etc, following the idea of some scottish schools that have outdoor classrooms.
    Also my mother in-law has been complaining about how much outdoor activities they have been doing in the school she works in, because as my father in-law does scouts/cubs etc there is a lot of cross over from the school into what she termed as 'scout activies'.

    So, shame the outdoor edge isn't available to everyone to involve in the national cirruculum, or is it just that some schools/people opt not to use it? as surely it is national?

  • Comment number 70.

    Gareth Malone's efforts are well intentioned but poorly executed. He fails to stay true to the course that he charts at the outset.
    For instance the choice of the debating team was not done on merit or degree of improvement, or in fact on any criteria that the boys could be reasonably expected to understand. Unfortunately that fundamentally flawed policy of inclusiveness dictated that the selection of the team was fairly random and that made a sham of the spirit of competitiveness Gareth was attempting to engender.
    He then failed to prepare the boys adequately, wasting the motivational opportunity of the upcoming battle with the girls to maximise the ethos of discipline that could be milked from the event. When the boys lost he should have drawn out the lessons that could be learnt from losing such as how to reflect on your performance and use it as valuable information and motivation to improve for the next competition. Instead out came that lame cliche that it's the taking part that counts.
    Gareth efforts are to be commended but he needs to follow the logic of competition through more comprehensively. The boys' fragile self confidence will improve if competition is used to motivate them, and the results of competition are used to inform them so that they can see the opportunities for improvement.

  • Comment number 71.

    I loved this programme it shows what could be done if teachers were allowed time and oppotunities to teach outside the "Ofsted Box".
    I work in early years and was upset to see how many boys think so little of themselves at such a early age,these are the problems that need to be addressed and if Gareth can make a difference to these boys then his job has been done.

  • Comment number 72.

    Really liked this programme and thought he had good ideas. So looking forward to the next one.It gives us all plenty of food for thought.

  • Comment number 73.

    Health & Safety issues - our school send its shorter members of staff on a ladder climbing course giving them a certificate allwing them to reach the higher cupboards (bizarrely this is not a joke!), so please don't tell me that doing these sort of activities would be easy within any school. The only reason Gareth can do this kind of thing is because it's on the television, if their usual class teacher had suggested it the influx of complaint letters would have been huge.

    And those who keep saying "employ more male primary teachers", short of an 18th/19th century press gang policy, this isn't going to happen. Primary schools would snap up decent (and I stress the "decent" bit) male primary teachers if there were loads around. The fact is that most trainees for a primary teaching qualification are female. It's quality of teaching that's required, whatever gender those teachers happen to be.

  • Comment number 74.

    Gareth Malone is right to start with speech training and isn't it time this became more important in the curriculum. Two of my grandchildren go to a small rural school in New Zealand and from starting school at 5-6 years they have a daily ritual whereby they sit in a circle in their respective classrooms and are encouraged to speak to the whole group in turn. They often take along 'props' to help like a favourite toy and, of course, if something exciting has just happened in their life, they are just bursting to tell about that. As each child finishes the group are invited to comment and then the child next to him/her is invited to speak and so it progresses round the circle. No child is obliged to speak but they all seem to at some time (according to my grandchildren) as most children do like to be the centre of attraction if only for a short time. The teacher makes sure that comments are kindly, that no one child 'hogs' the time available and generally gives encouragement.
    I remember I emerged from school at 16 with a impressive number of '0' Levels and an inability to speak! I'm glad this won't be so for my grandchildren.
    As for introducing a spirit of adventure into school life here again New Zealand seems to triumph. Playtime has them playing on a 'jungle jim' arrangement in the playground or enjoying the copse beyond the achool field where they build huts, etc. At the slightest hint of trouble this becomes banned land for a period so the children respond accordingly with reasonable behaviour.

  • Comment number 75.

    to add to my previous comment, I agree with caroline davies who wrote the 17th comment on here, my mother in-law is working in a welsh school, she says the enthusiasm and general involvement in the 'outdoor' schooling is much better than it ever was in the 'normal' classroom enviroment.

  • Comment number 76.

    Watched Gareth and his 'experiment' with teaching boys. Yes it was fun and exciting but we have to remember that it was also edited! We didn't see the fall outs between the boys, the panic on teachers faces when Bulldog was reintroduced, the extra staff that were on hand.

    We also have to remember that every move the boys made was recorded on camera. There was a whole extra team, not just Gareth who would have got to know the children and even without any contact with the recording team, this would have had an effect on the boys. All those extra expectations to live up too.

    As the new coordinator of the school library I wait with baited breath as to how Gareth gets the boys into books.

  • Comment number 77.

    Congratulations Gareth, Well done sir. Nothing new but you have kick started new debate. Intresting that one of the difficulties you had to overcome in the first programme was negative teachers in the staff room telling you it could not be done. That you would loose control. Well done for pressing on. I am glad to see from the messages posted on this bog that there are still teachers that still have a 'have a go' attitude and don't just want to press how hard they work, how imposible the job, how cleaver they are.
    I don't think that in this fist show you proved your point. Risk taking and being outside did not make the difference. You did. You kept going. Kept being positive. When faced with challenging behaviour you insired the children and kept steering the helm. The children believed in you and followed where you led. Prehaps other teachers rather than getting caught up in the practicalities of how to run such projects just need to be inspired by your energy.
    It seems that we are increasingly loosing the battle to engage both young boys and girls in our schools. It is not the fault of educators but it is clear that we need new or re invented ways of reaching out to all children.
    Once again congratulations for trying something different. I look forward to the next programme.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    My son attended a State Upper School, which is a Sports College. When doing his compulsory GCSE qualification in PE, the whole class he was allocated to was not allowed to play physical sports such as Rugby because there were girls who were unable to participate in contact sports.

    The bias toward the adverse teaching of boys is not confined to the classroom.

    Boys are losing their sense of identity as boys and this aspect does need to be addressed. We have three sons and from this and other experiences through their education I do feel schooling in some lessons taught separately would benefit both boys and girls.

    I understand why the promotion of teaching methods of girls has improved but there is now an imbalance in many schools, particularly in schools that do not have many male teachers.

    I never thought I would say this, but I have come to see the value of an All Boy School or All Girl School as I feel the benefits would outweigh the deficits educationally. We have the knowledge today to make it work better than in the past.

  • Comment number 80.

    The most worrying aspect of this first programme was listening to the two young teachers. If an official teacher cannot string a sentence together without including 'er like' 'yer know' and 'literacy an stuff' what hope is there for those poor boys. Are those two young teachers actually qualified and if so how?

  • Comment number 81.

    I've watched and enjoyed all Gareth's programmes and have always admired his determination and ability to get everybody motivated and involved. However, I do have some reservations about this programme. I think the project is subject to stereotyping and that many girls would also benefit from Gareth's enthusiastic approach to teaching literacy. Not all girls are better than boys at reading, writing, listening and speaking and not all boys are better at competitive sports and enjoy risk-taking activities more than girls. To say they are/do is to make a huge generalisation and I suspect that some of the girls at this school may feel the boys are getting preferential treatment. And they may not be wrong. Feminist research has long argued that as soon as females start to out-perform males in almost any area of life it comes to be seen as a 'problem' area (for the male of the species?) that needs to be rectified. Can someone please tell me why it's wrong for girls to exel above and beyone boys ocassionally?
    It is well known that there are many different theories of teaching and leaning and that different approaches will appeal to and produce better results from individuals according to their personality type rather than simply their sex. Also, as the mother of a boy with limited mobility who attended an all-inclusive mainstream comprehensive school, I wonder where he would have fitted into Gareth's experiment. I fear he, as well as my very able daughter, would have been excluded from the start since it kicked off with a very vigorous running race. I realise there are difficulties in including everyone in everything all of the time but this opening programme left me feeling slightly uncomfortable on quite a few levels.

  • Comment number 82.

    Gareth has recognised a dismal failing in our state school system repeatedly failing boys which many people have suspected for some time: there are simply too many women teachers or rather not enough men teachers. I believe this teacher gender imbalance can have a negative affect on the developmental growth of self-worth and feelings of competence in boys. If anything, there is a need for more male teachers than women in all state schools to compensate for the large number of single parent matriarchal households. I have the deepest empathy for these growing boys struggling to express their masculinity surrounded by all these women no wonder they feel diminished and lack confidence. Good luck Gareth you are doing a splendid job!

  • Comment number 83.

    I too was struck by the low self-esteem that seemed to have been indoctrinated into the boys, perhaps they have been told to sit down and shut-up too often in, what is to them, a female dominated environment with lessons tailored for girls.

    The improvement was clear, keep it up boys.

  • Comment number 84.

    I await the results with baited breath actually - no doubt measured with another yawn inducing test and displayed on a multicoloured spreadsheet. At the school I've just left the figures were also displayed as a Venn diagram of achievement with photos of target pupils moved about according to their predicted performance in English, Maths and other subjects. This was of course not related to the Govt. statistical requirements in league tables. I actually wrote the Venn diagram producing spreadsheet originally to display to my pupils how they were doing at a range of (verbal, numerical, kinaesthetic) tasks in a visual way, but it was taken and bastardised by the SMT to my deep shame.

  • Comment number 85.

    Well done Gareth & a big "Thank you" to Mrs Thurgood for being prepared to take such a huge risk!
    I am the mother of 2, now grown up, "boys" one of whom was completely unable to concentrate at school whilst the other couldn't get enough of books. I understand the difficulties teachers face with large classes (although there were larger classes and no classroom assistants until fairly recently), league tables and risk assessments but agree with Gareth about what he calls "cotton-wooling"?!? We live in a risk averse culture caused by the "sue" culture imported from the USA. Not only does it hike up the cost to all of us with insurance but it stifles creativity and experimentation. Personally, I have had to make choices between freedom+risk or safety+no risk many times in my life and, after considering carefully I tend towards freedom because I believe that it isn't life without freedom.
    I hope that this debate (hope the kids from Pear Tree Mead School are reading this!) will contribute to a move towards more freedom and, hence, more risk. It will go wrong sometimes but perhaps that's the best way to learn. It certainly was in my day!
    Keep up the good work, Gareth!

  • Comment number 86.

    I have boy girl twins and have seen them both have completely opposite experiences of junior school. Whilst my daughter has been engaged and enjoyed most aspects of school life, my son has been disinterested and bored, particularly with literacy. It certainly seems to me that teaching in schools appeals much more to the way in which girls learn. Boys are excitable, energetic and challenging by their very nature and need to learn in a different way. I don't know if the approach of Gareth Malone is right or wrong but I think there does need to be a debate about how boys are taught and his programme may just be the trigger required to stimuate this.

  • Comment number 87.

    Firstly, I would like to say that I found Gareth's attempt at 'inspiring' the boys completely archaic. I can understand his thinking by getting the boys outside, mixing it up, using drama etc. All these things are strategies that would benefit both genders. I think it's a slightly sexist outlook to think that chopping trees, hunting criminals in the forest and commentating on football will appeal to ALL boys and not any girls.
    His encouragement (at times) to the boys would not please an ofsted inspector. Especially the young lad who 'never saw himself as a winner before.' Maybe it was the editing, but Gareth very rarely offered praise to the boys. When they were in a large group he only told them what they were doing wrong and no praise was offered to those doing the right thing.
    I agree with the comment that the teachers of the school seemed to have formed the opinion that the girls would outperform the boys, and that was just the way it was. If you expect children to fail...inevitably they will.
    The inner london school I work in has no such gender difference in regards to attainment. We attribute this to the fact that of the 8 class teachers-4 are male and 4 are female. Children receive a balanced gender education (with all it's human flaws) and have role models of both sexes they can look to.
    On another issue...are there any children at Pear Tree Mead PS who come from an alternative ethnic background to those shown?

  • Comment number 88.

    Actually the education system up to Key Stage 2 is doing a manful job in churning out what secondary schools require - namely pupils who can sit down for long periods and churn out huge amounts of written coursework. One lad in my yr11 mentor group this year had 51 individual pieces of coursework across all his subjects. It's safe to say that if I'd had to churn that out at O level when my interests were a bit more mundane (girls, sport, fags) then I'd never have done A levels, Uni etc.

    We are not really educating many pupils any more, but training them instead, and the chance of change is minimal (Ruth Kelly, when education supremo some years ago, got this very same point muddled when visiting my school).

  • Comment number 89.

    Hello there,
    I'm a teaching assistant at an outstanding school and I love my job. I enjoyed watching the programme this evening with Gareth Malone. I decided to tune in because I was interested in seeing his teaching strategies because in my opinion a good teacher is one who can learn from others and try new things. I'm very proud to be working in the school I do. The values and targets that were trying to be met in this programme I feel in my school are being achieved on a daily basis, we are always trying new exciting ways to engage the children and the best lessons are the ones that they had fun in and forgot they were actually learning! Personally I would take a more stricter approach and make sure rules, boundaries and respect are firmly put in place before any real learning can take place which was Gareth's downfall, sometimes you can be too much the friend and nice guy and like the featured teachers said they soon start taking that for granted ,although I did think that they were too quick to poo poo his strategies at times. However their years of experience and hands on knowledge did give them that right to their opinions it just came across as though it wasn’t just a competition between the boys and girls it was between him and the female staff. I would like to point out though that as much as I am proud of the school I work in and the figures talk for themselves I am aware that I work in a privileged area and that can really make a difference. I have only ever worked in this school and from what I can gather from teachers who have worked in deprived areas, T.V and parents there is a phenomenal difference in behaviour learning etc depending on the area. My partner lives in Harlow with her son and I live in Kent and I feel a jab of guilt in my snobbery for wanting to get them down here and him into my school when he comes of age. The fear and hopes for him drive me to do my upmost to make that happen. It was so lovely hearing the children’s voice in this programme often I think how the child is feeling is overlooked it was heartbreaking at times and there were a few Kleenex moments. The lack of confidence and self worth was tugging at my heartstrings; it isn’t fair that some children aren’t open to the same opportunities and starts in lives as those that are fortunate to go to schools in less deprived areas. What I found surprising and liberating in this programme was the allowance of taking risks like the tree cutting. Risk taking and fun activities are being taken away by our ever growing PC mad western world. There is so much red tape it’s unbelievable. I’ll never forget the news article years ago about conkers being banned unless they were used with protective glasses because one child got hit in the eye! Our children cannot go through life with protective glasses on! When it comes to children upset or having accidents there is not a lot we can do take comfort them when rules on not giving them hugs or helping them get a little one undressed and into clean clothes if they soil themselves etc is mad but I do understand it in some ways because children and parents can do and say anything which could put your career on the line. Its just ridiculous. I know of a school where all the children’s books are destroyed at the end of the each year because some parents started making complaints about marking and comparing their children’s work so because of them there are many mums with bookless attacks to share dig out in the many years down the line it is so sad! And frustrating to the teachers as well no doubt! Although the head teacher in this programme allowed the making an outside classroom for this programme do not be fooled into thinking that happens alot many schools won’t allow anything that may be to risky for fear of being sued or breaking red tape rules and for their job. So many great experiences and learning oppertunites are lost. My other bug bear which seems to be across the board in public services is the paper work the amount of evidence and paperwork that has to be done is often pointless and could have been spent working with a child giving them the support they need this is particularly a problem in foundation. You’re so busy observing and documenting a child’s special needs that your too busy to actually help them with them to your full potential.
    Anyway i’ve started to rumble teaching isn’t for everyone but those that is is for are the lucky ones the money might not be great but the satisfaction of moulding and changing lives is a great gift and an honour. I’m happy to share ideas or give my opinions and advise as a TA with 6 years experience I’m full of ideas and new resources and i’m always on the lookout for new ones so if anyone would like to share please feel welcome.
    Kelly 26

  • Comment number 90.

    as a non parent i think that teachers should learn from there own mistakes as i was put i a slow learners group Back in 80's at the age of 12 then i desarrged with the teach and said i wasnt slow at learning so i done a spelling test got 99% in spelling then went into main class rooms i have learned more out of school then when i was in school i was things would have been different back then but there will never be no change in school unless there get more funding and more surpport

    Here is a goood web site which i hope people will look at and learn from it http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm

  • Comment number 91.

    While I think Gareth is doing a great job, but what will happen after his 2 months? will the boys go back to normal or carry on being "new" boys?

    I'm watching to see if I can use his ideas in my 10yr old Daughter, not only boys suffer in school, get bored or whatever, also my daughter has fibromaylgia, ME/CFS so learning is hard, she's had to have her tonsils out about 5yrs ago then speech therapy, she has had lots of days off due to illnesses/infections, moved to a new area, seperated from her dad, this school she is at, well, not sure what I think of it, She started yr 6 this week and only now realised she need 1-1 tuition, she is behind average in everything.

    She often complains her teachers dont listen or ignore her, mainly cause she takes so long to say what she needs to say, they give up.

    I do agree strongly, more male teachers are needed - why, she has had stand in teachers 3 times a week for nearly a year, only the male teacher took his time with her, it like the female ones just go to work, do their job and home, this male teacher livened the class up, listened etc - sorry to the female teachers who arent as drawl and boring as these are!! Saying that, so far, two days at school and she likes her female teacher.

    I have found through play they learn more and quicker, its a shame teachers cant do this in class more.

    I will watch and hopefully learn more myself, just seems a shame, the boys are having a great time 3 days a week for 2 months, then nothing!

    Also i agree with one post, if teachers cant pronounce their words fully, what hope do the children have?

  • Comment number 92.

    Final point. Gareth if you look at the comments I wonder how it makes you feel, and... what did the girls do in their time? I'm really interested if the other teachers found this an exciting opportunity to give them some more varied class techniques, or more sitting, reading and writing.

  • Comment number 93.

    We have just finished watching Gareth Malone and feel dismayed at the negative response from the female teachers. The young children are our adults of the future and they are being taught by teachers who can not string a sentence together without a like or you know included. If this is how all of our teachers talk ,dress and behave then it is no wonder that our education of our children is going so badly and is constantly under review by government. The only Teacher in that school who would gain my respect was Gareth Malone.

  • Comment number 94.

    Forest School leaders up and down the country must, like myself, have been bouncing up and down on their sofas shouting at the telly, "Tell them it's Forest School!" Many of these methods, employed in an outdoor classroom, are employed in school grouds and local woodland by educators trained in tool use, health and safety, woodland ecology, learning styles, behaviour management techniques and how to raise self confidence and self-esteem in our students. The benefits of Forest School are well documented and, although I welcome the programme, deivering it as though it is all Gareth's idea is disappointing. It would have been beneficial to teachers, parents and students across the country to know that this is available in many counties and can be delivered by trained individuals either in school grounds or in local woodlands. The problem is raising awareness and changing the attitudes of some of our teachers. Most of the curriculum can be delivered outside and, usually, more effectively for many learners. Have these people never heard of the 'Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto' which was adopted by our Government and, therefore, our schools? I look forward to seeing how the programme progresses and how it is received by the families and schools I work with.

  • Comment number 95.

    A few more thoughts from me - several people have commented on the poor diction and language of some of the school teachers in the programme, and I have to agree that I too was dismayed (to say the least) by the apparent lack of language skills in these professionals. A couple of the negative comments from the teachers struck me as saying little more than "so what if we are failing these kids, he'll fail too", an attitude which I find unacceptable.

    One comment above referred to "conkers being banned". The Health and Safety Executive have an excellent "Myth of the Month" section on their website - and conkers is one of them. They say "This is one of the oldest chestnuts around, a truly classic myth. A well-meaning head teacher decided children should wear safety goggles to play conkers. Subsequently some schools appear to have banned conkers on ‘health & safety’ grounds or made children wear goggles, or even padded gloves!
    Realistically the risk from playing conkers is incredibly low and just not worth bothering about. If kids deliberately hit each other over the head with conkers, that’s a discipline issue, not health and safety."

    They published that in 2007, and have since actually sponsored the World Conker Championships.

    Sadly, too few teachers (and others) are willing to challenge daft or idiotic rules put in place by people who clearly are incapable of assessing risk properly.

    One little anecdote about the restrictions placed on some children today:-
    A 10 year-old boy joined my Scouts a little while ago. On his first camp, we had some free time on the first evening, so we let the children go off and play in the woods. He was unnerved by this - he had never played in woodland before, never played without direct adult supervision before, and never been outdoors after dusk without his mum. One comment of his really stuck in my mind - "But how do I play? What should I do?" With encouragement from leaders, and support from one of the older Scouts, he gradually overcame his fears, and started to discover the joys of exploring and larking about. His self-confidence have come along in leaps and bounds since then - he's been caving (even going back for a second go after he got stuck the first time), rock-climbing, hiking, learnt to cook, and more importantly is more outgoing and able to express himself and stand up for himself.

    Children - boys and girls- thrive on positivity, challenge, and adventure. Gareth seems to be bringing that to children who clearly need it.

  • Comment number 96.

    I trained as an Adult Literacy Tutor and one of the concepts we learned about was about how much value Literacy ability is given. We judge people on their spelling and grammar skills and pronunciation. As a society we place less value on other skills.
    However a factor in this is because we need such high levels of literacy to function in society. Even our vocational qualifications are obtained by producing written descriptions and reflective accounts on how we do a task. My own personal opinion is that in the past we never really monitored our performance in schools because it didn't matter as much. It is possible we are no worse off these days than we were. In our more industrial past there were always economically productive roles in society that didn't require such high levels of literacy and famillies and communities were not as widespread so were able to offer support to those with literacy needs.
    During my teaching experience I met an Italian lady that was illiterate in both her native language and in English but had still worked for over 30 years in England in a factory assembling components. She also lived in a vibrant supportive Italian community in this country. She had had a very successful life. She turned to learning literacy skills in her retirement years because she struggled to fill in the never ending forms that we now need to fill in and the vibrant community that she was once part of started to disintegrate as people got older and the younger generation moved away because they couldn't afford the house prices of their prosperous parents neighbourhood.

    Probably what I am trying to say in a long and rambling way (I need a debating coach!) is that literacy targets are there for several reasons. They provide a trigger for funding to be released and they provide a cost/benefir analysis which is ingrained into the public sector. The education system has to produce a workforce/society that meets modern requirements. So unless those requirements change then the targets remain and teaching will retain its present focus.

  • Comment number 97.

    We urgently need more male primary teachers!! Come on all you fathers who'd like a bit of holiday time with your kids! It's the perfect job for a hands-on dad, or for any man who feels they can be a positive role model for younger boys, many men are out there doing this job already as instructors in sports or outside activities - you are needed in school!

    When I was looking for a school for my boy then 4, now 6 and asked schools specifically what they were doing to address the needs of boys within their schools, the headteachers looked at me like I was an alien. Gender differences are a fact of life, failing to address the differences between the sexes does everyone a disservice, particularly boys at this time, in this system. My son is currently in Year 2 and has been assessed as 'under average' in reading and writing, despite the fact that he is very bright. The realisation that this trend is likely to continue for the rest of his school life is profoundly depressing. It shouldn't be like this. All children are natural learning machines, there's no reason why girls should be better than boys, or vice versa.

    Our children's brains are changing. Mass media consumption, saturation and speed is affecting attention span, this coupled with anxiety about child safety and a litigious culture makes being a child in the UK today a very different experience from even a generation ago....

    I can't offer any solution to this, but if you are a parent - TRY to limit the amount of time your kids spend in front of any box, get your boys (and your girls) out in the open as much as poss, and look after their self-esteem because school is likely to damage it. If you are a teacher - try, try, try to find ways to engage the boys - don't give up on them because they don't have the same kind of brain as you do (because if you are a primary school teacher, you are more than likely female). Don't be complacent and do the PE properly!! (I know teachers are not all the same, but I've lost count of the amount of times my son has not done his PE at school for no good reason). Try to be creative, even though the system is stifling you at every turn, and pray that somebody high up recognises the urgent need for change and tries to make it easier for you to teach rather than constantly self-evaluate.

    Great to see this issue get some air-time. Even if it is celeb-rified.

  • Comment number 98.

    A lot of negative comments above, many suggesting that it's OK on a programme from the BBC, but couldn't be adapted to practical everyday teaching. I disagree.

    There isn't a school in the world, even the most impoverished, that can't introduce,(at no cost) debating skills, an essential ability in answering those exam questions later in life that go "blah di blah di blah" –discuss!

    Even the poorest school in the world can act out the meaning of a poem or the storyline of a book, at no cost.

    When I was in school, a long time ago, many of the things that Gareth is doing were extracurricular. Debating and acting (passages of the Bible) was done in Sunday school.

    The rough and tumble outdoor activities were done in the Cubs and the Scouts.

    Competing in elocution, poetry reading or writing, singing, dancing, artwork and a hundred other forms of expression were provided by the local to national eisteddfod movement, encouraged by schools but outside the school curriculum!

    It is a shame that children aren't members of as many extracurricular societies as I was 40 years ago. If schools are expected to make up that deficit, then school hours need to be extended.

    An interesting point that Gareth made is that boys have to take risks. I agree. It is interesting that girls started overtaking boys academically when corporal punishment in school was abolished, when the risk of six of the best for the rudeness to Gareth that some of the boys on the programme displayed would have earned them a whacking in my day.

    The abolition of CP has reduced the risk in boys education and reduced their achievements at the same time!

  • Comment number 99.

    Building a forest classroom is a normal part of the curriculum in Steiner schools. Both boys and girls take part in equal measure. Steiner schools respect and understand childhood in a way that does seem to have been forgotten in a good number of state schools - although I do know that many, many teachers are frustrated by this. Perhaps they should take more risks in challenging bureaucratic prescription? Would they need to be male teachers to do that?

  • Comment number 100.

    Once again I've thoroughly enjoyed seeing Gareth coping so well with the challenge of managing 39 boys. I was also amazed at the inability of some staff members to pronounce their words correctly.I realise local dialects feature in language, but am appalled at the lack of attention in diction generally given to our speech today. How we express ourselves initially in any situation/interview must be one of the most important lessons we ever learn. Well spoken English is a joy to the ear and we all should be proud to hear and speak it correctly.

 

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