Oh boy, this program really works

 Loftus Public School teacher Cameron Hallworth with his students.

A new boys' education program has swiftly increased learning, engagement and self-esteem at Loftus Public School.

Since starting in 2010, it has expanded from two days a week to five at Loftus School.

The genesis for the program began with the school's Boys' Education Strategy in 2009 with two staff members attending professional learning workshops and conducting research into gender differences in learning, and brain and motor development.

According to the school's assistant principal, Angela Gill, this initial investigation was so compelling it quickly led to the entire teaching staff attending a full day of professional learning.

"Staff were shown specific strategies to increase boys' engagement with literacy, the idea being that boys become more motivated and learn more. This in turn reduces disruptions, which is better for everyone,"  Ms Gill said.

Along with helpful strategies, teachers at Loftus Public School gained insights into gender differences such as boys' need to move, learn better with visual cues, need structure and consistent boundaries, need clear goals and feedback, and perform better when tasks are shorter and single-concept based.

"Generally, boys tend to be cognitively 12 months behind girls when entering Kindergarten, but with these strategies we found you can create a more level playing field for learning," Ms Gill said.

"Due to our fortunate inclusion in the '47 Schools Increased Local Decision Making Pilot Program' our school had significant flexibility in staffing so we could implement our strategies and initiatives."

These included:

  • creation of stand-up tables to allow students more freedom of movement 
  • increased use of interactive whiteboards within all key learning areas
  • demonstrated lessons for teachers on the use of visual literacy
  • employment of a boys' education coach and mentor
  • implementation of Boyzone
  • implementation of a fine motor skills program for Kindergarten and Year 1 students
  • purchase of graphic novels and literature for boys.

Among the improvements the school had noted were:

  • less classroom and playground behaviour issues
  • better relationships between individual male students
  • better relationships between teachers and individual students, particularly boys
  • evidence that boys are demonstrating higher levels of conflict resolution strategies
  • less distractions caused by boys, improving the learning environment for female students, as well as other boys
  • higher NAPLAN results in writing for all students, but a particularly significant increase for boys.

 "For Loftus Public School, the boys' education program has demonstrated that differences can become strengths," Ms Gill said.

Excerpts from emails and letters from parents

"Thank you for including Marcus in this valuable program. I'm sure that we will have some success this year as he is already telling me he enjoys the lessons with Mr Hallworth (and that is a big plus - as he does not like going to school). It is truly wonderful what is available for the children at LPS."
 

"From the inception of this program [Tim's] work has improved in all aspects ... Of equal importance is the improvement of Tim's overall attitude toward school. He is more confident, he has fun doing the work ... Tim has developed into a child happy and willing to go to school - as opposed to the child wanting to stay home."
 

"We are very happy Lachlan feels more comfortable in the playground as his social skills have improved with the boys' playground activities, giving him the opportunity to make new friends and learn new skills."

Photo: by Tina Muir

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