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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Practice makes perfect says winning head
By Gary Eason
BBC News Online education editor

When it comes to convincing boys that they can do well in school, having a head boy who can juggle is clearly an asset.

Ann Holland, head teacher of The Cotswold School in Gloucestershire, had her head boy, Duncan Bull, juggling for the younger children in assembly.

They can see that I'm young and a lot of the staff are young, and that working hard and achieving something is fine
Maths teacher Kevin Jobson
It showed them what they could achieve if they put their minds to something, she said.

"We sent him on a master class in maths and he learned it there," she said. "There's something mathematical about it."

Her wider point is that the sixth formers are good role models - one of the things she thinks makes a difference in raising standards.

Mrs Holland is a Liverpool football fan - her heroes are Gerard Houllier and the late Bill Shankly.

What she takes from them is that "you have to practice, practice, practice" and have "this vision that you will do very well".

Mrs Holland's school, a language specialist for children aged 11 to 18, is one of those visited by Ofsted inspectors in their quest for the secret of how to raise boys' achievement.

"I think the secret is that we try to raise everyone's achievement without necessarily focusing on the boys," she said.

Rise in results

As a result, top GCSE passes at the school have doubled over the past eight or nine years, she says.

I think that's the secret - good teaching in a very stable environment
Head teacher Ann Holland
Ann Holland has that disconcerting "it's simple really" approach that makes good head teachers stand out, as she runs through her checklist of what works.

"We have a simple discipline code which I think everybody can follow so they know where they are, plus praise and sanctions in a five-to-one balance - more praise than punishment."

"Staff who are good teachers, who are strong personalities and who the pupils respect and relate very well to.

"I think that's the secret - good teaching in a very stable environment."

Ofsted's reports say this quality of respect for the person at the front of the class - which they call "the fourth R" - is critical to boys' learning, whereas girls seem better able to get by on mediocre teaching.

"I think girls are much less sensitive about negative messages," said Mrs Holland.

"I believe girls can cope with perfectly ordinary teaching, whereas boys are much more sensitive to the non-verbal messages that come from their teachers, they pick up on the negative."

Works anywhere

For this reason, people seeking teaching jobs at the school are seen in action as well as interviewed, to assess their classroom presence.

But it is also important to make sure they get the opportunity to develop after being appointed.

Of course success breeds success, and when The Cotswold School does have a vacancy it has no shortage of applicants, unlike schools in much more challenging circumstances.

In schools with poor exam performance, raising children's expectations of themselves is hard because they think that most of them and not going to succeed, Mrs Holland said.

"I taught in London myself for many years and I know it's harder - but the principles remain the same."

Boys can do better, Ofsted says
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09 Jul 02  |  Education


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