chapter  8
16 Pages

Gender in the classrooms of more and less ‘effective’ schools

WithJill Duffield

Much school effectiveness literature does not address gender directly. The implication is that there is a generic ‘effectiveness’ which applies to male and female pupils alike and in which staff gender is also irrelevant. Lists of correlates of school effectiveness extrapolated from large-scale studies do not include explicit commitment to gender (or other) equality policies, and analysis of examination outcomes does not identify greater ‘added value’ for girls. However, to the extent that effectiveness and improvement have been recruited to march under the policy banner of ‘standards’, gender has become highly relevant. The Labour government has embraced the notion of raising the ‘performance’ of schools in all settings, and established demanding achievement goals under which 80 per cent of pupils in England and Wales will have reached Key Stage 2 literacy and numeracy levels at age 11 (DfEE 1997:2.21). Targets in Scotland are expressed more generally but the thrust of policy also highlights raising individual outcomes. Girls’ achievements across the UK have been rising faster than those of boys, so that, in principle, factors underpinning girls’ success might be of interest to policy-makers and the public. However, girls’ increased success in public examinations had scarcely been established before anxieties began to be expressed about the ‘failure’ of boys, particularly in working-class settings (Wragg 1997; The Observer 1998). A BBC Panorama programme, ‘The future is female’ (October 1994) clearly shaped its story in terms of panic about boys.