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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Establishing beacons of success for boys

Stuart Trist
Project Manager, Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools Programme

There is growing evidence that some Australian boys are not achieving their full educational potential. Recent research indicates that boys are under-achieving across a broad spectrum of measures of educational attainment, including early literacy achievement, results in most subjects at Years 10 and 12, school retention levels and admission to higher education.

Recent research reports commissioned by the Commonwealth Government (1) have shown the following.

  • There are problems for some boys in terms of their engagement and literacy achievement in schooling.
  • High quality pedagogy is a key determinant in the educational experiences of both boys and girls.
  • There is no universal solution to improving boys' outcomes.
  • In addressing a boys and literacy agenda, schools should cater to a range of learning styles in assessment and curriculum.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training has conducted an inquiry into the education of boys. The report of the inquiry, Boys: Getting it Right, was released in October 2002 and made 24 recommendations covering a broad range of educational issues.

The Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools Programme is one of a number of strategic measures that the Commonwealth Government is implementing to help achieve improved educational outcomes for boys as well as girls. The initiative is funded from the Government's Quality Teacher Programme (QTP), which aims to improve teacher quality and increase the number of highly effective Australian schools.

Programme objectives

The first stage of the programme involves documenting practical and informative examples of successful practices in boys' education that can be disseminated and supported in Australian schools.

The issues surrounding the performance of boys are complex and the first stage is not intended to define a single principle or framework for what is best practice in boys' education. Instead, it is hoped that the examples identified will provide a rich source of information for teachers across Australia to use in increasing their understanding and effectiveness.

Importantly, the findings of Stage One will also inform the second phase of the programme. In Stage Two, which will commence in 2004, up to 30 'lighthouse' schools across Australia will be identified to champion, demonstrate and disseminate 'best practice' in boys' education to schools around them.

Examples of projects for Stage One

Projects may focus on one or more aspects of good practice in the education of boys, including:

  • adapting pedagogy, curriculum and assessment for different learning styles, including interactive and experiential styles
  • improving literacy and communication skills and performance across the curriculum, including the integration of phonics into literacy teaching
  • developing effective and sustainable behaviour management programmes
  • improving student engagement with schooling and motivation to learn
  • drawing school and community resources together to provide positive role models for students.

For groups of schools in regional, rural and remote areas, participation may involve innovative methods, such as information and communication technology. This could be an aspect of the best practice model demonstrated.

A statement from the Honourable Dr Brendan Nelson MP, Minister for Education, Science and Training

I welcome all school principals and teachers to the Commonwealth Government's Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools Programme.

I encourage your interest in this vital project and invite you and your school to apply to take part.

As you know, much excellent work has been done in the last 20 years to address gender issues affecting the education of girls.

In Australia, as in many other countries, we now have evidence showing that while some boys are performing well, many others are not realising their full potential and are falling behind when compared with results achieved by girls.

I know it is as unacceptable to you as it is to me that 14-year-old boys are now doing worse in literacy tests than they were 25 years ago - in 2000, 89.6% of Year 5 girls achieved the literacy benchmark compared with 85.2% of boys.

The problem illustrated by these results also carries through to later years so that in 2002 the Year 12 school retention rate was 80.7% for females and just 69.8% for males. In Higher Education, males made up 43.6% of the 61,076 domestic students in 2001 compared with 46% in 1991.

The Commonwealth Government is committed to addressing the issues behind results such as these through a number of projects including the Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools Programme.

As part of the $159 million Quality Teaching Programme, the Lighthouse project will run over two years. Curriculum Corporation will manage Stage One on behalf of the Department of Education, Science and Training.

As part of Stage One of the Lighthouse project, I am pleased to invite all Australian schools to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to document and showcase successful practices in boys' education.

Schools selected as Lighthouse schools will act as beacons to champion, demonstrate and disseminate successful practices in boys' education to schools around them.

Up to 70 individual schools or groups of schools from around Australia will be selected to document and showcase how they successfully develop and use educational practices addressing the specific needs of boys.

Stage Two, beginning in 2004, will see approximately 30 clusters of schools across Australia established to support successful practices in boys' education. Each cluster will contain a 'lighthouse' school to support the professional development of teachers in schools around them.

For full details of the Lighthouse programme including how to apply for Stage One grants, visit http://www.boyslighthouse.edu.au

Further inquiries about applications for Stage One should be directed to Mr Stuart Trist at Curriculum Corporation on (03) 9207 9629.

Applications for Stage One close on 25 March 2003 and I will announce successful schools in April 2003.

Brendan Nelson

1 Copies of research on issues relevant to boys' education can be downloaded from the DEST Boys' Education website at http://www.dest.gov.au/schools/boyseducation/


Subject Headings

Boys' education