This report acknowledges that boys’ achievement is a complex area. Nevertheless, the central issue surrounding boys’ education is the ongoing achievement gap between boys and girls. In New Zealand NCEA results show that there is approximately a 10 percent gap in favour of girls across Levels 1, 2 and 3. There are also some important trends in these data, such as the low achievement of certain groups of boys, such as Māori and Pacific boys, and the increasing gap that is found between boys and girls as school decile becomes higher.

The overall complexity of the statistics and research on boys’ education means that there are very few definitive answers that would enable schools to address the achievement gap between boys and girls easily. Outside the more highly verified research on high quality teaching (for both genders), the research on boys’ education provides a collection of anecdotal, somewhat accepted and ‘proven by personal experience’ accounts of what works for boys.

Part of the reason why there are not clear answers for improving boys’ education rests with the fact that issues of male underachievement are linked to particular groups of boys, rather than all boys. In this manner, a variety of different strategies is needed to support and promote improved achievement among these diverse groups.

The case studies in this report reflect a variety of strategies implemented by the schools for boys who might otherwise underachieve. The key strengths across these schools reflect the extent to which good relationships and relevant teaching and learning characterise many of the initiatives. Many of these schools also have strong, positive school cultures in which boys can feel safe, take leadership roles, and be expected to achieve in a range of academic, sporting and cultural contexts.

These approaches can and do work well at other schools. Indeed schools can reflect on the initiatives described here to understand their own approach and consider how they might continue to improve educational outcomes for all boys.

Future directions for schools

School personnel can use this report as a starting point to:

  • inform their self-review about the achievement of boys at their school;
  • include in their analysis of achievement data, such as NCEA, how well different groups of students achieve at their school, and use this information to examine the factors behind the achievement patterns for boys and girls; and
  • review how well the school uses student feedback to inform their teaching, learning and co-curricular activities for different groups of students.