Boys get room to learn in single-sex classes
BOYS-only classes are helping lift pupils' school marks.
A co-educational state primary school started trialling the segregated classes to see if boys would achieve better without the distraction of girls during their lessons.
Staff at Dawson Road School in Otara realised five years ago their senior boys were "switching out" of learning.
Angela Funaki, principal at the south Auckland primary, says junior boys started on an even footing with the girls, but by the time they were in Year 5 they'd fallen behind.
Without asking the Ministry of Education's permission – Funaki says they didn't have to – the school started an all-boys Year 6 class.
The class's style is "active/passive" – the boys do a passive activity like writing for a while then move to something on the computer or a quick run around the confidence course, then come back to their writing.
The approach "most definitely" lifts their achievement, Funaki says.
"The big difference we notice is an attitudinal change," she says. "They are interested in learning again, want to be involved in everything that's happening in the school [and] a lot start to take on more responsibility. We've also found it's improved behaviour in the playground."
The school doesn't have a corresponding girls-only class but they do have classes with fewer boys. There is also a quiet, girls-only area in the playground where they can go to avoid rugby balls.
Funaki brushes off a suggestion that segregation reinforces gender differences.
"The boys mix with the girls a lot – in sport, at assemblies. It's just during class that they're not mixing with them."
Down the road, Yendarra School is running a boys-only class for the fourth year. Principal Susan Dunlop says the school "saw a need to do something better for our senior boys".
The decile-one school trialled a single-sex class and the results were so marked the class became a permanent fixture. Behaviour, achievement and attendance all improved.
"We have a class competition each week and the boys' class is always in the top," Dunlop said.
This year, the boys-only class is for Year 3 and 4 students.
"We thought we could catch them earlier," Dunlop said.
Parents now ask if their boys can be put into the single-sex class.
Palmerston North's Roslyn School this year launched a boys-only class for 8 to 10-year-olds.
Deputy principal Matt Schmidt says the traditional classroom approach wasn't working for some boys and "if your foot doesn't fit the shoe, you don't change the foot, you change the shoe."
The new "shoe" doesn't have desks and boys sit on the floor, around three big low tables.
They also start their day off with a "pretty rigorous" fitness programme. Class teacher Ewen Mason says boys like to work in an informal way so there are cushions, bean bags and computers for them to use.
Parental support has been "pretty overwhelming".