Meeting the Learning Needs of Disaffected Boys in the Classroom

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Meeting the Learning Needs of Disaffected Boys in the Classroom

I selected the topic relating to disaffected boys because I have six years experience tutoring basic skills to young male offenders and I also have my second placement in a boys’ school. My personal experience from the prison was that many British-born inmates requiring help with basic skills came from severely disadvantaged backgrounds, had poor social skills and had dropped out of school between the ages of 9 and 15. Their resentfulness and rebelliousness against authority led to underachievement and curtailment of their school life which, in turn, severely diminished their employment prospects and increased the risks of social exclusion; it could and did result in a life on benefits or crime. Although this level of disaffection was not exhibited in my first placement, I found enough disruption and disengagement to spur me to study and reflect on this critical area. It is helpful to define the term ‘disaffected’ in educational parlance. According to Ofsted, (2008: 4) ‘Disaffected students are those who display one or more of the following characteristics. They are regularly non-compliant, but not aggressive or threatening, and cause repeated low-level disruptions. They are regularly disruptive, challenging or both, which leads to repeated entries in the school’s incident logs, recurring fixed-term exclusions or both. They are absent for 20% or more of the available school sessions in the year. They are quiet and withdrawn and uninterested in most lessons’. A shorter, and possibly, more helpful version is, ‘Pupils who display behaviour patterns that are disruptive to the delivery of lessons or those who are indifferent to the tasks planned’ (Pachler et al, 2009: 227). There appear to be three main factors of disaffection: family and social circumstances where there is total alienation from the education system; school factors which relate to either the curriculum (especially certain subjects) or the ethos and relationships encountered there by the pupils; and personal factors (Kinder et al, 1995, cited in Klein, 1999). Where disaffection is due to family and social environment, pupils tend to come from disadvantaged homes in deprived areas where parents may not value education nor consider it is for them. Such a cycle of educational alienation can usually only be countered by a multi-agency approach that crosses the education, health, social services and criminal justice boundaries (Williams and Pritchard, 2006). It needs to be well-resourced and run over a period of several years to reduce truancy, delinquency and exclusion. The school will be only a part of the equation. There are many causes of individual disaffection. Pupils may come from middle class stable homes and be emotionally stressed due to some family discord; pupils may be in care and moved around from one placement to another; individuals may be trying to cope with bereavement or perhaps the ‘feelings of alienation that can overwhelm less resilient young people of all backgrounds in adolescence’ (Klein, 1999:5). The school should try support the young person through their pastoral and referral system. Those factors causing the disaffection of boys at school appear to be intertwined with underachievement, with one often impacting on the other, as will be seen below. Firstly, it is helpful to look at boys’ underachievement in the national context. There is certainly a gender gap in educational attainment. Between 1995 and 2007 there was around a 10% difference between boys and girls for those attaining 5A*- C at GCSE with boys at 53.8% and girls at 63.4%. Scrutiny of the core subjects reveal that the widest gap is in English. Additionally, girls outperform boys in the majority of GCSE subjects, A Level and Key Stage results and are more likely to remain in education beyond 16 (DFES, 2007). It is salutary to note that the statistics mask a considerably more complex picture. Not all...
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