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Shropshire Star comment: More needs to be done to help those falling behind in education

By Shropshire Star | Education | Published:

Equality of the sexes?

Not when it comes to education. In this field the boys are, so to speak, demonstrably less equal than girls.

The evidence comes in hard, cold, facts. For the last 30 years, English schoolgirls have outperformed boys.

You can break down the proof further. Girls are now significantly more likely to pass English and maths GCSEs than boys.

And if you extrapolate that into life chances and opportunities, we can say that girls are leaving school and moving into the world of work or higher education with that wider range of choices which comes with having the better set of qualifications.

Nobody is calling for positive discrimination in favour of boys, so they just have to make the best of things.

This educational chasm applies not solely in the realms of gender, but also in the realms of household income. Data from the Department for Education shows that poorer pupils are falling further behind their better-off classmates in GCSE achievement.

Why boys are falling behind girls so consistently in levels of attainment is baffling the experts, but there is plenty of scope for homespun theories.

The least charitable conclusion would be to assume that boys are inherently less clever than girls, but intuitively many people will feel that the underlying reasons for the discrepancy are not a matter of intelligence, but of application.

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Adolescence is a tough time for both sexes, but it is at least arguable that teenage boys face a particularly strong set of factors which will distract them from school work, including peer pressure in which to be perceived as a “swot” is decidedly uncool, while young girls mature more quickly, both in outlook and otherwise.

Or is that a sexist notion?

As to why poorer pupils are falling behind, it would surely help them catch up if they have champions, both in school and at home, to make sure they have access to the educational path which is best able to release their potential and let them bloom.

Well done to education’s high fliers, but evidently we need to do more to give the others wings.

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Children playing football in the street or in playgrounds, with jumpers as goalposts, imagine themselves in the roles of their heroes.

Dribbling through all opposition, perhaps providing a Motty-style commentary for themselves in their imaginations as deliver a shot, a goal, a celebration.

Rarely do they imagine their moment of glory coming with a header.

So the move by the Football Association to limit the amount of heading among children during training is unlikely to ruin their dreams. It is a measured response to the rising worry that heading can lead to degenerative brain conditions in later life.

West Brom legend Jeff Astle died in 2002 of chronic traumatic encephalopathy linked to heading footballs.

Thanks to the campaigning of his family, the footballing world has been made to sit up and address the implications, albeit late in the day when you consider the damage the heavy leather footballs of the past must have done.

While this move is a long way from a general ban on heading, it can hardly harm our national game to have a new generation of youngsters trained to play to the feet.

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