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Revising Boys: A look at why it is [typically] difficult to get boys to study with Mark Roberts

Boys? Well, they’re just lazier than girls / don’t try as hard / procrastinate more / need to run around and let off steam. These are some very obvious stereotypes about teen boys that we could call on. Most of us would recognise at least one or two traits in sons – and perhaps other males in your life. After all, they’re stereotypes for a reason. They come up time after time. But there has to be more to it than dismissing an inability to knuckle down to revise with the age-old “boys will be boys” retort. Especially if we want them to do well in their GCSEs and an increasingly competitive world beyond that.

This week’s episode explores some perceptions of studying amongst boys. The Study Buddy founder, Nathan McGurl talks to Mark Roberts.

Mark explains why we should care about the attainment gap at this age, and what it means to boys as they move through adolescence. We talk about the dangers of perpetuating stereotypes and how parents can make positive reinforcements to encourage their reluctant teens to study.

It is a commonly held truism that boys – especially adolescent boys – don’t work hard. They are famously nonchalant about studying and exams, and notoriously difficult to motivate – unless it’s something they’re interested in. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all boys. Just like it can easily apply to some girls. But there’s no escaping the trend that parents of boys would recognise at least some of this description. And those that don’t would probably tell you “but he’s not a typical boy”.

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In a recent catch-up, Lee talked about his predicted grades. Currently, he is predicted 3s in all but two subjects. But – in spite of the fact he needs passes to go to college – he is not at all concerned. Certainly not concerned enough to have started revising for his mocks over half term. He ‘knows’ he’ll do better in the real things.

Whether it’s down to natural, biological differences through surging hormones or the perpetuation of certain societal attitudes, there’s no denying that boys and girls are different. I came to this topic a little hesitantly if I’m honest. It might have been distasteful to tackle the issues of boys underperforming at this level when they will grow up into such a male-dominated world. But Mark makes good points: it isn’t the case that all boys will thrive and many find themselves in despair – as borne out by the alarming suicide rates amongst adolescent boys. So, addressing this isn’t simply addressing an attainment gap amongst GCSE students. It’s important to help them go on to live fulfilled lives.

About Mark Roberts

Mark is the Assistant Principal at a mixed comprehensive school in Devon, an English Teacher, author of “You Can’t Revise for English GCSE: Yes you can!” and co-author of “Boys Don’t Try: Rethinking masculinity in schools” with Matt Pinkett.


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