July 12 2014, updated 7:30pm

Boys missing out in 'feminised' schools - headmaster

Boys just want to play rough

Last updated 01:29 02/04/2008
LYNDA FORREST/Dominion Post
CRUCIAL: Boys are missing out on crucial rough and tumble in a "feminised" school system, Hereworth School principal Ross Scrymgeour said. Scott Maultsaid and Jordie Thomas have enjoyed the mud slide.

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Bubble-wrapped boys are missing out on crucial rough and tumble in a "feminised" school system that doesn't allow them to let off steam, a headmaster says.

Ross Scrymgeour, head of private Hereworth School, Havelock North, says the banning of physical games like bullrush and murder-ball illustrates a "softly softly" approach to education that does not suit boys.

His boys-only school's "play rough" philosophy made pupils more attentive in class and taught them about physical boundaries.

"Boys need to be exposed to this sort of thing," Mr Scrymgeour said.

"I'm not talking about brawls, or fights, but physicality. Even the meekest and mildest, when put in a group of their own ability, will get something out of that.

"It's a natural part of their behaviour, going back to hunter-gatherer times."

Girls consistently outperform boys at secondary school. Some commentators blame the National Certificate of Educational Achievement's heavy reliance on internal assessment, which they say suits girls better.

Mr Scrymgeour said the feminising of New Zealand schools was breeding boys who could not express themselves or cope when things did not go their way.

"More and more of the curriculum has been integrated to suit girls. There were things I just couldn't do in the co-ed situation. As soon as we started encouraging boys to be a bit physical, some parents would cause all sorts of hassles."

Hereworth is one of seven private boys' schools in New Zealand. Sport is compulsory and supervised rough play encouraged.

Mr Scrymgeour said the "designed for boys" philosophy had brought academic improvement. A Hereworth team won last year's Hawke's Bay literary quiz.

"Some kids we get have been held back from having any physical contact because they might get hurt. Boys need to find out how they react to these things.

"It equips them for life's knocks. It's not fair to boys to let them avoid taking knocks."

Joseph Driessen, who runs an international consultancy on boys' education, agreed.

"There's a lot of research on this. Brain scan research shows boys actually need physical movement for their brains to operate properly."

Risk-taking raised adrenaline and testosterone to natural levels, he said.

Educational researcher Sarah Farquhar said she hoped Mr Scrymgeour was not criticised for his approach.

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"I've been arguing against the feminising of the education system for over 10 years. There's this bubble-wrapping of children ... and this removal of all risk-taking."

- The Dominion Post

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