Steps to tackle school failure for boys in Northern Ireland is being taken by the University of Ulster with a new trial project that promises to listen to the concerns of students themselves.

he research conducted as part of the university’s Taking Boys Seriously project has shown that boys start to fall behind early in life.

More than 600 delegates attended the launch, with the university’s new campus in Belfast hosting an event for the first time.

“Boys and young men are seriously behind at all levels of the education system,” said Professor Brian Murphy, director of academic affairs development at the university,

“At the University of Ulster, the participation rate for young men is now 40% of our student body. We have to ask ourselves, do we really take boys’ education seriously with statistics like this?

“The problem starts early,” he said. “The boy left behind becomes the young man excluded from a progressive and selective system.

“This is a social problem of aggravated disadvantage. This is why our research is interested, for the first time in the sector, in the formal and informal education of boys as relational learners, where teachers really get to know their students as people ”, he said. he explained.

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Professor Brian Murphy at the Taking Boys Seriously Lecture

Professor Brian Murphy at the Taking Boys Seriously Lecture

“These are principles based on the voice of boys and their teachers on what works. We are delighted to put together a series of case studies that experiment more broadly with the principles of relational learning.

“I have no doubt that what works for boys will be educationally good for men, girls, women and the full range of gender identities that society now recognizes.

Research findings indicated that boys who experience educational disadvantage thrive in an education system that adopts relationship principles and practices.

It comes as the executive begins reviewing the Fair Start report on school failure released by an expert panel for the Department of Education earlier this year.

As part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement, it identified eight major areas where improvements were needed in the education system and included 13 recommendations, among which the need to promote a comprehensive community approach to education and to find ways to maximize boys’ potential as they continue to encounter obstacles affecting their future.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen addressed the conference and said work has already started to implement the recommendations in the Fair Start report.

“Maximizing the potential of boys was considered one of the most critical elements given the emphasis in New Decade, New Approach on examining and addressing the links between persistent school failure and socio-economic background. , including the long-standing issues facing the working class, Protestant boys, she said.

“There are eight actions that need to be taken forward, including a boys education and engagement toolkit for school leaders on tackling factors limiting boys’ progress. “

Ms. McIlveen added that school development plans “should focus on improving boys’ outcomes.”

“The school authority will develop effective practice and co-design teacher professional learning around understanding boys.

“My department needs to develop a communication strategy to promote education in consultation with communities and young people and there should be sufficiently funded overall support for young men involving statutory and voluntary youth services.

“A new enrichment and extracurricular activities program involving sport, volunteering and leadership will be developed and encouraging men in higher education, including the teaching profession, is another priority.

“I look forward to seeing rapid progress on the Fair Start report and as a result £ 4million has been set aside in this year’s budget to start this work. This investment will initiate fundamental changes in early childhood.

So far, 18 of the 47 actions included in the Fair Start report have been launched.


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