Tackling Gender Inequality, Raising Pupil Achievement

By Jim O'Brien; Christine Forde | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

ORGANISING BOYS AND GIRLS: ARE SINGLE-
GENDER CONTEXTS THE WAY FORWARD?

Jean Kane


Introduction

The question of class management and how learning is organised is well recognised as an important aspect in gender and education. This chapter considers class organisation and, in particular, the practice of single-gender groupings as a strategy in raising attainment and in improving girls' and boys' whole experience of schooling. Gender as the main organiser of teaching groups is considered here but gender is a factor in other groupings, for example, ability groupings where gendered patterns are a secondary effect, with high- and low-ability groups having a preponderance of girls and boys respectively. Single-gender classes have been used by some schools as a means of addressing gender inequalities, particularly in attainment and we explore a case study of the use of single-gender classes in three secondary schools where such practice had been notified to the local authority as part of schools' endeavours to raise attainment. The case study is further discussed below but, first, a broader context is set for that discussion. Studies of gender in school settings are considered with a view to locating a rationale in the literature for gender-specific groups. Then studies of gender as a factor in class organisation are considered before an account is given of practices in three secondary schools in this particular study. Finally, the chapter provides comment on the effectiveness of this strategy.


Rationale for single-sex groupings

Riddell (2000), in tracing the history of gender in education policy in Scotland, notes that both national advice and local authority policy, although identifying gender factors in, for example, patterns of subject uptake, did not problematise these findings in relation to school practices. That was instead left to teachers' organisations, notably the Educational Institute of

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