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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Girls prove good company
Boy and girl in classroom
The school encourages boys and girls to work together
A school in Essex has achieved its best ever boys' GCSE results after making boys sit next to girls in the classroom.

Notley High School in Braintree introduced the idea as one of a number of initiatives in an effort to close the gender gap.

The boys' results are up 13% on last year.

Headteacher John Hartley has put this down in part to the male and female "desk partnerships" within the classroom.


It seems common sense to seat the children in a way to maximise learning

John Hartley, headteacher

Mr Hartley said the school had introduced the new seating practice around five years ago to try to stop boys falling behind in grade performance.

"It still amazes me that in some schools children are allowed to sit in friendship groups.

"The classroom is a formal situation for learning. The time to socialise is in the playground.

"It seems common sense to seat the children in a way to maximise learning," he said.

Skills transfer

Pupils are placed with a "learning or desk partner" chosen by the teacher.

Some terms stronger achievers are placed with weaker performers, and at other times, the cleverer pupils sit together and the weaker pupils sit together.

"In the hands of skilled teachers, this system can encourage a transfer of learning styles and skills," Mr Hartley said.

This year's GCSE pupils have had the greatest exposure to the new system which also includes a mentoring system and a greater focus on literacy work.

No magic formula

Mr Hartley said he is pleased with the results but said he was not claiming to have found a magic formula.

"I'm not saying we've found the perfect solution and that this is the answer to boys' poorer performance, but this system seems to help both the boys and the girls."

The boy with the highest grades was Matthew Wellington, who achieved 11 A-grade passes, with five starred.

The top girl was Sophie Byham, with eight subjects at A grade, of which four were starred.

Exam results in the UK

GCSEs/GNVQs

A/AS-levels

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Row over new exams

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See also:

23 Aug 01 | UK Education
21 Aug 01 | UK Education
21 Aug 01 | N Ireland
17 May 01 | UK Education
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