Are boys actually failing at school? Henry Emmens believes that this is not so. Emmens wrote: “Boys are not actually failing in education. Their level of attainment is just not rising as fast as girls. So they are improving their grades just not as fast as girls are. However, some boys are doing badly, in particular working class boys. The collapse of semi-skilled and low skilled manual jobs has left the working class population significantly unemployed. The service sector jobs have been replaced from low skilled manual work to desk jobs in call centres. This change does not correspond well with the traditional working class attitude. Jobs in the public service have also been made more easily accessible for working class people, in particular the police and the fire service; these jobs require sensitivity; an aspect a working class male usually does not possess. The fact that more marriages are ending up in divorce, means that the man of the family is becoming less evident in working class families. Women are now leading the family which means that boys do not have a male role model to look up to as a father, causing discipline problems in the household. The fact that women are heading the household nowadays means the masculine identity is being threatened because of the lack of male influence.”


Aggressive masculinity: For many working class boys, the traditional route to status, pride and security is closed. What some boys are left with is a bitter sense that trying to get work is pointless, and an aggressive culture of masculinity to fill in the despairing gap. Adapted from Jackson, 1998.


If the sort of work available to young working – class people is largely in the service industries, they will need qualities such as warmth, empathy, sensitivity to unspoken needs, and high levels of interpersonal skills to build an effective relationship with customers. Adapted from Mahoney, 1998.


Paul Willis: Identified an anti-school subculture in his study of working class boys in a secondary school.


Willis identified 5 main pupil subcultures, three concerned boys:


The first was ‘White, male, middle-class subculture’: Initially enthusiastic and eager in first year but this diminishes in second year. Colin Lacey’s two theories were: polarisation:– growing gap between successfully and unsuccessfully measured pupils and differentiation – streaming pupils based on teachers perceived ability/behaviour. These contributed to subcultures of success or failure and were valued accordingly.

The second was ‘White, male, working-class subcultures’: Essentially there were 2 groups; those who saw school as a waste of time and those who wished to use school to better themselves. Willis had a theory about Lads/Macho Lads; they had an inherited anti-school subculture, lack of respect for authority wanted to do ‘real men’s work’ (manual labour). Mac an Ghaill recognised pupils in the class who were academic achievers – saw school and hard work as the path to success. New enterprises – use vocational subjects to achieve.


The third was ‘African-Caribbean male subcultures’: Gaine and George suggested that the anti-school subculture was developed inside and outside of school; their exclusion is one of the very big issues in education. This is one of the methods of social control which school use to deal with the troublesome.


Black people are more likely to be excluded than any other ethnicity in school. Statistics show that in 2000/1 38 in every 10 thousand African Caribbean students were permanently excluded from education. And for white students, 13 in every 10 thousand were excluded from education, and if you just compare the studies shown, there is a massive difference in what ethnicity can do.


         Most of these exclusions are mainly based on boys.


         It is said that most black boys bring their street culture into the classrooms, this means their own language and the act to rebel against norms.


         There are many reasons why black students are more excluded than other ethnicity. One of the reasons could be, appearance. Studies show that the  tall height of some black students can make teachers feel intimidated and can make them feel dominated over by.


         Behaviour was seen as aggressive, disruptive and challenging. Conolly believed this was because of racial discrimination towards African-Caribbean boys. Tony Sewell identifies four main responses to this: Conformists, Innovators and Rebels.

Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex