Thursday, March 26, 2009

Single-sex teaching

Well, well. It's a strange feeling to see the BBC Scotland news featuring something I did several years ago and hailing the development as something new and exciting. I'm talking about the "experiment" in Kilsyth Academy's English department, where they have decided to teach boys and girls in separate classes. They are evangelical about the positive effect on the work of all concerned.

Of course, I'm glad about all this. I'm glad someone else has cottoned on to something I've known for years. Because it must be eight or nine years since I first offered to solve the gender imbalance in a yeargroup by taking a boys' class as they started S2, and five or six years since I attempted to publicise the results of this experiment. Of course, we weren't blogging then; the only computer in my classroom belonged to the now defunct Pupils' View magazine and I merely circulated memos - which obviously didn't get very far.

The news story ended with the reporter wondering how their Standard Grade results will benefit - if at all. I can tell them already - at least, if they're anything like my boys. I taught this same mixed ability class from S2 - S4 - three years together for boys whose predicted grades ranged from Credit 1 down to Foundation 5. In the event, no-one achieved a Foundation award: of a class of 30 I had 15 Credits (8 of them at Grade 1) and 15 General, of whom only two were a Grade 4. The most able boys helped the less able without the slightest embarrassment or resentment on anyone's part; every one of them found that they were able to write more effectively and express genuine emotion without fear of ridicule. One boy startled me in S4 by announcing that he had learned John Donne's Batter my heart off by heart because he thought it was "amazing", and offered to recite it to us all. Another became fascinated by Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child and wrote, off his own bat, a critical evaluation of it. So much for the fear that an all-male class would read nothing but so-called macho texts.

Many of these boys stayed with me for Higher English, though for that they were rejoined by some girls, and most of them did extremely well. One of them even comments on this blog from time to time. In all the time I taught them I looked forward to their period in the day as a time of hard work, enthusiasm, adventure and frequent hilarity.

So I wish the boys - and the girls - of Kilsyth Academy well. I hope their teachers enjoy the classes and the opportunity for some exciting cooperation. But I wish someone had told the Beeb about my class - because whatever it is, it's not a new idea.


  1. I have always mused about the possibility of boys raising their academic standard without the distraction of girls! I had assumed that boys did less well for that reason! The RW assures me that girls are just as bad. Or maybe that was just her?

  2. I think that at all ages there is an immeasurable relief in being just wit one's own sex. Mind you, I would not want that all the time.

  3. Duffy1:06 AM

    Those were the days, eh? Certainly nothing new to the likes of us.