The Lost Boys

Imagine you had newly arrived from a neighbouring planet, trying to guess out how things worked here on earth. You watch the news….and you would see a male world. Men, with just a few women, at the European Treaty discussions, men leading business, men having opinions.

In such a context can it really be true that men are the ones who might struggle in the future?

When we look at those images on the news we are looking at an older generation – in a sense we are looking back in time. Back then, we did have a male world, barely emerging from the image of the 1950’s housewife, with huge societal changes yet to come.

But more closely at what is happening now and imagine how that will look in a few decades time.

In 2015 UCAS, the University Admissions process, reported the biggest gender gap ever in University admissions, with far more women than men studying for degrees. In 2014 the largest gender gap since 1989 in GCSE results was recorded, with far better performances from girls than boys. In the Early Years assessments in our infant schools, there is a 16% gap between how many girls are recorded as making ‘good’ progress compared to boys. In the here and now, it is unequivocally true that young men on average are not doing very well at all.

Huge strides have been made in gender equality and women move ever more towards a fair place in the world. However, in a world of soft skills, of team work, of emotional intelligence, a world where the issues around obsessive video gaming will draw in far more boys than girls, there are real challenges for our lost boys.

When Lord Leverhulme built identical Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions at Bolton School 100 years ago, his focus was on equality for the girls. In the next decades we may come to value his vision for exactly the opposite reason, as we focus on preparing young men for a world with real challenges for them.


This blog first appeared in ‘The Post’, a weekly free paper in the Bolton area, operated by the Bolton Evening News

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is Headmaster of Bolton School Boys’ Division. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists.