Boys Struggling More With School Closures, Charities Tell UK MPs

January 26, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

Boys are struggling more with school closures because they are less suited to remote online learning, and need physical activity, the head of a charity told UK MPs today.

“The big impact for them is their learning style,” Sonia Shaljean, Managing Director of Charity Lads need Dads told MPs on Jan. 26. “They’re not naturally used to sitting in front of computers—girls aren’t either—and they don’t thrive learning in that way. They’ve got natural impulsivity, spatial kinesthetic learning styles, and physical energy that’s just not suited to remote learning.”

“I feel when we go to review [online learning], that actually boys are going to be at a greater disadvantage because of this way of learning, ”

“If we look at the way girls and boys are taught, to sit still take notes, listen carefully, that’s a female-friendly approach of teaching—that is not conducive to the way boys learn.”

Shaljean giving evidence to the Commons Committee for Education during a hearing on left-behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Her comments were echoed by some other children’s charity representatives who more broadly outlined how school closures disproportionately impacted pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Claire Smith, Talk Halton Project Lead, Halton Borough Council said, “Particularly for adolescent boys need to have that peer group interaction, lots of socializing, that children are missing out on at the moment across the age range. I think that’s going to have a huge impact.”

Epoch Times Photo
A Grade 6 student takes part in a virtual school session with her teacher and classmates via Zoom from her home. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

The committee has been exploring the reasons that white pupils from poor backgrounds, especially boys, lag so far behind their peers.

Chinese, Asian, and mixed ethnic children on average outperform white and black pupils at GCSE, with only Roma gypsies and Irish travelers performing worse.

For those on free school meals, the gap widens. White pupils attained an average score of 31.6 at GCSEs in 2018, compared with 42.9 for Asian peers and 38.9 for black peers. That difference is bigger for boys.

Yesterday, a report from a government watchdog said that poor white teens were least likely to go to university.

Challenging ‘White Privilege’

Last year, during another meeting by the committee on the topic, some experts warned that pushing the concept of “white privilege” was damaging to working-class children already at risk of falling through the cracks.

That theme was again picked up by several Conservative MPs who challenged the head of Barnardos about a statement on the charity’s website that sought to guide parents about “white privilege.”

Among other things, the post said, “white privilege is reinforced in all aspects of everyday life, and understanding and unravelling it is a constant process of learning and changing your behaviours.”

The chair of the committee, Robert Halfon, said that the post was a huge mistake, “I think it’s insulting to disadvantaged white people in my constituency.”

MP Jonathon Gullis said that the concept of white privilege is “effectively critical race theory, which in itself is political activism.”

Javed Khan, Chief Executive Officer, Cheif Executive of Barnardos said that they were still learning, but repeatedly defended the post.

He said that he also did not like the phrase “white privilege”, and understood that some people did not like it.  “However, you will know, you know, it’s a phrase that is commonly used at the moment ever since the killing of George Floyd,” he said “And it’s in that context, that we’ve used that phrase as well.”

Shaljean said that the related notion of “male privilege” was also damaging to boys from less privileged backgrounds.

“I think we’re not doing enough to address the kind of new wave of feminism that’s infiltrating our schools and the messages boys are hearing from this: that they’re toxic,” she said. “The toxic masculinity narrative that’s going around, together with white privilege, they kind of are going hand in hand.”

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