Chris Woodhead, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector for education, has written that the under-achievement of boys is the greatest challenge and crisis facing education. Others have gone further.
If there is a growing underclass, poorly educated young men are its vanguard. …It is certain that one of the critical equal opportunities issues for the next decade is the motivation and achievement of young men.
(Barber, 1994, p. 7)
It is easy to see why this view prevails. The tables in Chapter 2 show clearly that boys are achieving less than girls in most subjects, but particularly so in English and other subjects which demand higher level language and organisational skills. Given that the demand of the modern employer is increasingly for these very skills, the implications for boys, for their future and for society as a whole are very stark. For some boys, their low level communication skills affect their achievement not only in other areas of the curriculum but will also blight their life experiences and chances. Their potential is being left woefully short of being fully realised. There is the likelihood that they will find themselves marginalised and irrelevant to the next millennium’s job market.
Once out of education and with few qualifications, they become trapped in a revolving door of benefits and low-paid jobs. Within months, many fall off the margins and face a lifetime of social exclusion and crime.
(Finding the Missing, a report of the National Youth Agency)
For society, the prospects of a large cohort of under-employed, unskilled, under-educated and quite probably unpleasant young men is not a healthy one. We have to do something about it.