A Shirebrook school has launched a new drive to encourage male students to raise their aspirations by installing a wall of fame aimed specifically at praising boys.
Shirebrook Academy has launched its ‘Boys Will Be Brilliant!’ scheme which celebrates the successes that male students experience in their studies, sports and activities.
It has installed the large boys-only wall of fame in the school atrium, which includes a High Five! League of male students in each year, who are ranked by the amount of points they earn through good conduct.
There are also individual testimonies from teachers singling out students who have displayed excellence at sport or in the classroom on a Boys Only Wall of Pride.
The campaign has been launched against a backdrop of studies which show boys, especially white working class boys, are lagging behind everyone else in terms of attainment at school and, as a consequence, can expect to achieve less throughout their lives.
It was devised by staff who attended a talk given by educationalist Gary Wilson, who is one of the UK’s foremost experts on raising boys’ achievements, and inspired by the recent and controversial Gillette advert, which appealed to men to reject typical masculine behaviour such as sexual harassment, bullying and fighting.
Andy Gilbert, vice principal of Shirebrook Academy, said: “Persistent underperformance of boys in school is a big issue and while plenty of schools will have their own schemes to raise boys’ ambitions, I don’t know of any which have been quite so overt about it as we have.
“Our display is making a very big statement and we’re saying that we want to change the traditional male culture in school, which suggests it isn’t cool to work hard or strive to do well at studies and that it’s acceptable or even admirable to muck about.
“That’s the kind of behaviour that has been legitimised by the saying ‘boys will be boys’, which is why our campaign is called Boys will be Brilliant.
“There are a great many boys in school who do get on in school and who work hard, and by openly praising them, it’s sending out a message to everyone else to say it’s worth following their example.”
“So far, it’s working extremely well. We have had one or two comments asking why we don’t have a display or a similar campaign for girls, but once we explain the thinking behind it, everyone agrees that it’s a good idea.”
Shirebrook Academy student Ben Clarke, 16, said: “The general consensus in school is that boys like to mess about and there’s pressure to not be seen to achieve anything because it’s not cool.
“I like the way boys are being encouraged for doing well at school. It was a shock at first when you see your peers being displayed on the wall but if it helps to change the culture it’s a good idea.”
The school is also appealing for men in the community to get in touch and volunteer as role models, who will come into school to talk to boys about their lives and their careers.
Mr Gilbert added: “Role models are so important. I had excellent role models when I was growing up and we’d love men in the community to come in to inspire our boys to work hard and aim high.
“All of this is part of the same campaign and while it isn’t as drastic as the Gillette advert, it’s following similar lines. It’s encouraging boys to question their behaviour and then showing them that there is a better alternative which leads to rewards.”