They have reversed a 20-year downward spiral in exam results (compared to girls) since GCSE’s were first introduced in 1988 with their reliance on coursework, according to research by Professor Alan Smithers.
However boys are more extreme in their exam performance, either getting top grades (A*) or failing. They seem to cope better with ‘sudden-death’ exams – when all marks are acquired in the exam room.
Girls seem to prefer the methodical approach, doing coursework that counts towards the final grade.
That’s all very well, but it does not answer the question: why do (some) boys behave the way they do?
As any parent knows, boys and girl are quite different. Boys are active, energetic and physical. They are natural risk-takers, love adventure, have a great sense of humour and a low boredom threshold. Many have a brash sense of self-confidence, overestimating their ability (…..” I am naturally talented”) and find it difficult to ask for help. They want to fit in with their peers, and don’t show much interest in pleasing adults. The ‘here and now’ is what matters to them, so they give little thought to the their future or Bayside revision!
Sadly these qualities do not help boys succeed in the present education system, which values good behaviour, conscientiousness and presentation over energy, humour and creativity.
When it comes to exams, boys often leave revision to the last minute, hoping they will pull a result out of the bag. Highly intelligent boys can get away with this strategy, but it is unlikely to work for the rest – that is, average pupils !
These boys need to understand quickly that school is like a game of bluff: a boy may ‘choose’ to give his mates the impression he doesn’t work hard; but behind the scenes he should do what it takes to get the best results he can.
If boys find the prospect of exams scary they don’t usually admit to it; they distract themselves with facebook, Fifa 2016, Whatsapp or playing sport. My son (ex- Bayside), during his A level revision, decided to mix a ‘Deep House track’ rather than revise; pure distraction!
When a boy becomes aggressive or spends a lot of time on his own, it may be a sign that he is anxious or depressed. Parents need to look out for signs of stress and provide emotional support.
Boys can thrive in examinations, but they must take their GCSEs seriously and hit the books.
My advice to parents (if your boy resembles the above) is to have that difficult conversation, encourage him to make a revision timetable and start studying – the sooner the better. They need your (tough) love and support – not sympathy.