An Investigation of the Gender Gap of Boys' Underachieving in Literacy

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ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to investigate the gender gap, especially of boys’ underachievement in literacy, and discover if there are particular strategies that schools can implement in order to raise the attainment levels of boys. As the issue of the gender gap is so wide I selected literature to review which covered a wide range of theorists and existing studies. Specifically I wanted to identify some of the suggested causes for the underachievement of boys and any already proposed effective strategies which I could execute in my own study. The data I collected from the study was both qualitative and quantitative in order to give a more valid outcome; these included an open-ended, semi-structured interview, which I felt would enable the respondent to provide a wider range of ideas; questionnaires, observation and existing data. The results showed that there is in fact a close correlation between boys who do not read for pleasure/enjoyment and boys who underachieve. However it also showed that there are specific strategies that can be applied to meet the learning needs of boys in order to raise their achievements. However due to the scale of the topic this small study cannot provide a definitive outcome for the causes and solutions of boys literacy, it has merely suggested some probable reasons for and some possible remedies.

HYPOTHESIS
During the past twenty years there have been rising concerns over the achievement gap between boys and girls, particularly with boys underachieving in literacy. The aim of this investigation is to identify if reading is the main factor for the achievements of boys in literacy, or if there are other strategies that can be implemented to raise the attainment levels of boys and therefore close the gap. To complete this study, I will undertake the investigation at an all boys’ school (for ethical reasons of anonymity, the school will be known as School A) located in a leafy suburban area in the North West of England. School A is a high achieving school compared to other mixed and same sex schools in the Local Area. The current Head of English (HoD) is driven, ambitious and highly motivated towards pupils’ achieving the best results possible. During the research I expect outcomes to show that there is a correlation between high achieving boys and enjoyment of reading for pleasure. I also expect to find that particular classroom strategies can effectively impact the attainment levels of boys, particularly in those who do not read for pleasure.

LITERATURE REVIEW
In 1993 Ofsted reported that boys do not perform as well in English as girls (cited in Bearne, 2004), and more recently the National Assessment of Education Progress (2009) has found that ‘female students consistently score higher than boys on average in both reading and writing’ (Watson et al., 2010: 356). However this concept is not a new one; researchers for the Gender and Education Association noted that in the 1950s and 1960s the pass rate for the eleven plus examinations, taken by almost all eleven year olds at this time, were different for boys and girls; Epstein et al. (1998 cited in Watson et al., 2010) claims that the pass rate for boys was lower than girls because girls supposedly matured earlier than boys. Gareth Malone, writing for the Telegraph in September 2010 stated that nationally ‘boys lag behind girls in reading by 6 percentage points and in writing by 15 percentage points’ (Malone, 2010). Despite this, Gorard (2001, cited in Malacova, 2007) believes that, the panic about the gender achievement gap is exaggerated; he blames the concept on lack of sufficient data, which until recently had not been available, and believes that a lot of the assumptions regarding boys underachievement is based on statistical misinterpretation. Gorard (2001, cited in Malacova, 2007) conducted the first UK analysis of national data set over a six year period; he found that the gap only...
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