Ulster University research project to explore why boys underperform in education

Ulster University is embarking on a significant research project which will investigate the factors that lead to boys underperforming in the education system.

The initiative called ‘Taking Boys Seriously’ aims to inform future policy, teacher training and youth work to tackle the long-standing under-attainment of young men in further and higher education.

The work will be funded through Ulster University’s Widening Access and Participation Plan.

An important aspect of the study will be to explore how boys progress through the stages of education into adulthood and how they cope with key transition milestones.

The research team of Ms Susan Morgan (School of Applied Social Sciences) and Professor Brian Murphy (Director for Access and Participation) believe the findings will unlock much needed answers.

Professor Murphy, who leads the team, said:

“The evidence to date shows us that a significant proportion of young males are both unqualified and uninspired to participate in post-compulsory education. Our concern is that this will lead to a social mobility gap.

“Our research follows a seminal study by the University in 2012 (Harland and McCready) which identified the implications for teaching, supporting and working with boys. Crucially, it highlighted Year 10 - boys aged 14 - as a pivotal intervention stage.
“Our initiative will seek to learn more about the interventions that make the most positive and sustained difference.”

He added:

“We plan to create new models and showcase existing best practice in engaging with some of the most challenging education environments in Europe. We are determined that we will open doors for those who are most able but least likely to participate.”

“However we cannot act in isolation and a strategic partnership is required across education and civil society. As Northern Ireland’s civic university, Ulster University is making its long-term contribution by investing its own access funds into this research.”