Achievement in Boys’ Schools

Higher Achievement of Boys in New Zealand Boys’ Schools than in Co-education Schools

A newly released independent report, carried out by the New Zealand Council for Educational
Research (NZCER), shows that over the period from 2010 to 2012, school leavers from state boys’ schools had significantly higher qualifications than their male counterparts who attended state co-educational schools.

The report was completed for the Association of Boys’ Schools of New Zealand and the data shows there is a clear nationwide trend for boys who are in boys’ schools to achieve better academic results in all deciles and also significantly, across ethnicities including NZ European, Asian, Maori and Pasifika.

Taking data from state and state-integrated schools (including three Wellington metropolitan boys’ schools – Rongotai College, St Patrick’s College and Wellington College), the study looked at boys’ qualifications in terms of numbers attaining University Entrance and NCEA Level 2 equivalent, as well as those who left school without a qualification.

Taking the median proportion of boys, the data clearly highlights the differing achievement rates as follows:

Median Proportion of Boys in Single Sec and Co-Ed Schools

 Boys’ SchoolsCo-Ed Schools
University Entrance42%23%
NCEA Level 2 or equivalent83%69%
Leaving without a qualification8%17%

The report shows not only an appreciable higher percentage of boys who attended boys’ schools leaving with higher qualification achievements than those from co-educational schools, but also a considerably reduced percentage of boys from boys’ schools leaving school without any qualification.

Of particular significance in this report is the finding that Maori and Pasifika school leavers in boys’ schools are more likely than their counterparts in co-educational schools to gain qualifications.

Kevin Carter, Principal of Rongotai College comments that whilst he is not surprised by the findings of the report, he is delighted that the data confirms that boys can and will do well in New Zealand in the right learning environment. He believes strongly in giving boys the opportunity and courage to take academic risks in the classroom in an all male environment, and to succeed.

“I have always believed the quality of the teachers, the ethos of a school and its ability to cater to differing learning styles are the most significant factors in ensuring success for our young people. The results in this report reinforce this message that it is not necessarily the decile of the school that is important. The notion that we understand boys and how they learn is of particular importance today. A number of boys in co-educational schools tell me the girls are very good at answering the questions, often by calling out the answer. Boys in this environment will understandably let the girls answer as it’s easier and there is less risk involved. We must ensure that we teach boys in a way that inspires them to reach their full potential.”

Mr Carter also commented that “Given these results, the young men of Wellington are well served by our state and integrated boys’ schools”.

The research included interviews with leaders of boys’ schools identified as highly performing in each decile band. Rongotai College was identified by the researchers as one of these high-performing schools, where students were achieving at higher than expected levels. NZCER chief researcher Cathy Wylie said the schools such as Rongotai had thought hard about how to work with their students.

“What was really interesting was how these high-performing schools stressed the importance of a student-centred approach, offering co-curricular activities alongside academic programmes for holistic development, and developing self-managing students who set high goals for themselves.”

The importance of the first year at school and cross-year groupings where senior students could demonstrate leadership skills were common themes in all four high achieving schools.  Rongotai College adopted vertical form classes in 2010.

Cathy Wylie said all the schools had halls big enough to have whole-school assemblies as well as year-level groupings and the assemblies were used to recognise and celebrate school achievement, with an emphasis on showing younger students what was possible.

She mentiond that Rongotai College uses the first whole-school assembly to name prefects and recognise NCEA achievement, noting that “in a traditionally sport-focussed school there are now more academic honours awarded than sporting ones”.

Another feature of the high achieving boys schools noted by NZCER was goal setting.  Rongotai College has adopted a goal setting process for every student in relation to academic achievement but had extended it to also include outside of the classroom activities.  Mr Carter adds that “Goals are set in Term 1 for the rest of the year, and progress is reviewed during the year”.