Children should be taught some subjects in single-sex classes within mixed schools to help overcome the 'laddish' culture that stops boys learning, a government research project has concluded.
Teaching boys and girls separately for some subjects can help them concentrate better and achieve higher exam results because they no longer need to show off in front of the opposite sex, the study by Cambridge University academics concluded.
The study was commissioned by the Department for Education in 2000 amid fears that a 'laddish anti-learning culture' was seeing boys fall further and further being girls.
Every year girls perform better than boys, with few signs that the gender gap is narrowing. Last summer, 58.5 per cent of girls achieved five good GCSE passes compared with just 48.4 per cent of boys.
However, badly planned single-sex initiatives can actually make boys' 'macho' behaviour worse, the study also warned.
The researchers observed unruly all-boys classes where sexism and laddism went unchecked and female teachers 'almost flirted' with pupils in a desperate attempt to establish a rapport.
Meanwhile girls' 'bitchiness' can cause friction in all-female classes and their compliance could often mask underachievement. The study also condemned the current fixation with 'boy-friendly' teaching strategies, arguing that there was no evidence boys learned differently to girls.
The four-year project examined initiatives in 50 schools. The research found that single-sex classes for some subjects could be a good way to help boys.
But it also warned that it was unlikely to close the gender gap " as a successful project would also boost girls' performance.
The study, led by Mike Younger and Molly Warrington, found: 'Many girls and boys feel more comfortable in single-sex classes because of the lack of distraction of the other sex and feel more able to . …