From Today Tonight
BOYS-ONLY CLASSES TO BRING OUT THE BEST
Reporter: Nicholas Boot
Broadcast Date: February 19, 2007
There's no other class like it - an all boys kindergarten in a co-educational public school.
And the five- and six-year-olds are not being taught to be sensitive new age guys, but to be little blokes.
"At the beginning of the year I said to the boys that we were like a football team," explained teacher Steve Jackson.
"We were there to help each other, to support each other, to play by the rules, to follow the schools rules, and to show good sportsmanship."
Steve thinks that for the boys, being a bloke - in a girl-free classroom
- is helping their education.
"With girls you can have a lot of sort of tale telling and setting boys up, you know playing one against the other and bitching and all that sort of thing.
"You don't get that with boys - you know what boys are like."
And parents of boys at Bowen Park Public in Orange, regional New South Wales, say the transformation has been remarkable.
"Keegan has become a student that I thought he'd never be," said delighted mum Joanne Jones.
"He was diagnosed with mild Asberger's Syndrome and I was really worried. I used to cry some days thinking, 'Is this child ever going to learn?'
"Now he can read, he can just pick up a pen and put it to paper he sounds the word out it is just amazing - Mr Jackson is wonderful."
Nick Gardiner's son Jesse is no longer scared of setting foot in the school yard.
"He loves it now, really does, which is the best part of it.
"Before we used to have to convince him to go to school he didn't want to go to school you know, 'I don't want to go today, I'd rather stay home'.
"He now wants to go to school more than anything which makes it easier on us."
Statistically girls are 18 months ahead of boys when they start school.
Girls are more developed and adapt more easily to the traditional methods of teaching - and that gap will grow unless educators can turn the tide.
The school's Principal, Penny Small, argues that boys need a different approach to teaching.
"The boys were falling behind, and we had to do something and we knew we had a recipe for success," she said.
"Boys like to do rough and tumble, and they do like to touch things and they like to get out there and kick a ball around, then they might like to sit at the computer and play computer games.
"It's capitalising on that to get the most out of learning, it's looking at what you are good at."
Bowen Park Public has hit upon a strategy of getting the kids to work together, giving the thumbs up and a sense of bonding.
It is this mateship which is grabbing the kids' attention and finally involving them in learning.
And the classroom itself has been specially designed with boys in mind.
"Each part of that room is part of their territory - it's like a bloke's shed - you get in there and shut the door and those guys are getting on with their business," said Penny. "They're just a bit too young to have the stuff that goes in most sheds."
Headmaster of the King's School, Dr Tim Hawkes is one of Australia's leading experts on boys' education.
"Generally boys prefer a method of teaching which is very visual - good use of diagrams, pictures and so on," he said.
"They like action-based learning, they like to be able to move, to experiment, and they like teachers who use a lot of verbs - run, measure, pace, count."
Dr Hawkes believes teachers need to focus on what excites and enthralls their pupils, to grab their attention and make them enthusiastic about subjects.
"What we need to do is create the sense of wonder in our classes so our students are excited about a particular topic, and then you use that as the intro into learning.
"We need to look at ways of developing this sense of wonder."
Bowen Public certainly seems to have found a way of making the youngsters in its boys-only class want to learn - by the end of the year, they are eight months ahead of boys from a mixed class.