Successful boys-only class may go

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Daniel Tobin

Branston intermediate school has a class that offers a boy-friendly environment to encourage learning for boys.

Grant Ross
Daniel Tobin
INSPIRED: Teacher Grant Ross introduced a boys-only class after hearing a talk on how boys learn.
Branston boys
Daniel Tobin
AT WORK: Boys who work hard for 40 minutes are given 10 minutes to run off any pent-up energy.

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Schools Shake-up

Name Branston Intermediate School
Suburb Hornby
Decile 3
Type Intermediate
Roll 180
Cost $7.9 million
Principal Jennifer O'Leary
Proposal Close

A boys only class with low absentee rates and impressive school results is under threat.

The innovative class at Branston Intermediate School could be lost if the Education Ministry pushes ahead with plans to close the school under its shake-up of Canterbury education.

The all boys classroom was the brainchild of teacher Grant Ross who was inspired by a Celia Lashlie talk on how boys learnt differently to girls.

"I went away with a lot of questions about why we don't cater to boys' learning more."

Principal Jennifer O'Leary said he went to her in 2008 with a five-page proposal to set up the classroom.

"We said we'd try it for a year and see what the results were like for engagement and academic success. If it was good, we'd keep it going."

The results proved themselves and the programme had been running for the last three years, O'Leary said.

"After the first year we looked and it had been hugely successful. School level achievements shot up but also the class had the lowest absences in the school. Parents couldn't believe how much their children actually wanted to go to school."

Ross agreed the classroom, which had both year 7 and 8 students, had been a great success.

"Generally the boys improve in at least one subject area if not two or three. The main thing is they come out positive about their learning, not necessarily academic achievement but just as a better person on the whole as well," he said.

"It's great to just see them take pride in what they're learning in."

He said the atmosphere in the class was "a lot more laidback" than a normal class, but was not a class for naughty children.

"It's not a class for bad boys. It's a class for boys that don't necessarily like to sit down and work out of a book. It's for boys that learn differently and who might be high energy."

O'Leary said this had been a common misconception when the class was first invented.

"It is not a dumping ground for naughty children. We don't put people with severe learning difficulties in there."

Ross said the main thing was helping the boys avoid being bored in class. If they worked for 40 minutes they might get 10 minutes of physical activity, he said.

"Boys do store up a lot of energy and I think they do need to release it."

O'Leary said at this stage there were no plans to create an all-girls classroom.

"The girls have asked me that but there's no empirical evidence that girls need that kind of learning. Girls achieve well across New Zealand in our education system.

"It's the boys who are underachieving."

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Unfortunately, the ministry has said a nearly $8 million bill to repair and strengthen the school buildings is too high a price to pay.

- The Press

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