A generation of boys has been let down by the decline of single-sex classrooms, according to a leading headmaster.

Hundreds of thousands of young boys are left to struggle in lessons because of the “feminisation” of the curriculum, the rise of coursework, the lack of male primary school teachers and the loss of competition between pupils, it was claimed.

David Levin, the head of the City of London School, said boys had not got a “good deal” out of the education system because of the rapid shift towards mixed schooling.

According to figures, the number of single-sex state schools has plummeted from around 2,500 to just over 400 in 40 years.

The shift has been just as stark in the independent sector.

Less than five per cent of establishments listed in the latest edition of the Good Schools Guide are independent boys’ senior schools compared with almosta quarter in the mid-80s.

Mr Levin said boys had significantly different educational needs to girls, but this tended to be overlooked in mixed classrooms.

It has helped fuel a widening gap in results between boys and girls, who now perform much better at each key stage of education, including primary school, secondary school, sixth-form college and university.

The comments were made as the International Boys’ Schools Coalition started its annual meeting at City of London School on Sunday.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Levin said: “We believe that there’s a problem across the English speaking world with boys’ academic underachievement. The education system is not giving them a good deal. We need some serious research into the pedagogical differences between teaching boys and girls to raise awareness of the fact that boys respond differently.”

Mr Levin criticised the introduction of coursework modules into GCSEs and A-levels which can be more suited to the skills of girls.

“The prevalence of coursework is a major issue – boys don’t respond well to it,” he said. “Boys like immediate targets and tend to favour examinations over coursework, which was developed about 20 years ago specifically in response to the fact that girls underachieve.”

He said City of London had axed conventional GCSEs in favour of International GCSEs which do away with coursework altogether and base results on end-of-course exams.

It corresponded with a significant increase in the number of A* and A grades achieved by boys, he said.

Mr Levin added: “At City of London, we are conscious that boys learn differently so we have been looking very closely at the way in which lessons are conducted.

“For instance, we advise our teachers at City to vary what happens in class as much as possible and ensure boys are not just cocooned with a book.

“We want to enable them to get up and walk around because the concentration levels of adolescent boys are not long. They need variety; a mixture of reading from books, competitive teamwork and getting up and moving between exercises.”

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Levin also called for a drive to recruit more male primary school teachers amid fears many young boys currently lacked decent role models.

Addressing the conference, the headmaster of Eton College – the boys’ school attended by the Duke of Cambridge – warned that teenage boys were often more emotional than girls .

Tony Little suggested that many boys were let down because teachers branded their impulsive reactions as problematic.

He told the Sunday Times: “We are in danger of losing the plot with boys.”

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Source: The Telegraph – http://goo.gl/5I84e