Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: It's time to rescue failing schoolboys

The report that our schools are failing boys, particularly those from working class areas and those from a Protestant background, underlines a long-standing problem in education in Northern Ireland.

Underachievement by boys has been recorded for many years, but this report shows the problem starts in primary school and is often not properly addressed. Teaching methods do not seem to take into account the way boys think and do things and the problem continues from generation after generation.

We know the lack of attainment in school creates a sense of low-esteem and discontent among those with few or no qualifications. They see little future for themselves and they feel envy for those who, they feel, have been given a better chance in life. In times when jobs are plentiful they still have a chance to make something of their lives, but into today's economic climate they are certainly at the bottom of the heap. An estimated one in five young people aged 18-24 are unemployed in Northern Ireland and these include boys and girls with good academic qualifications.

So how can this lost generation be assisted? Starting in the schools there needs to be a new approach to teaching boys seen as a risk of low achievement. More male teachers who are more on the same mental wavelength as boy pupils should be recruited and the pupils themselves should be consulted on how education programmes should be designed to help them.

And they have to be given the confidence and support mechanisms to help themselves when they leave school. Organisations like the Prince's Trust specialise in assisting those in danger of falling through the net. As our reports today demonstrate, encouraging young people to believe in themselves and then offering programmes which can lead to worthwhile jobs have given thousands of them the opportunity to carve out a better life.

We have seen too often the dreadful results of non-intervention, when young people left to fester in the backstreets turn to crime or violence or self-harm. We cannot continue to fail them.

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