Conference Report: International Boys' School Coalition

Sunday 30th July 2023

During the recent school holidays, I attended the IBSC conference. Westlake Boys' High School of the North Shore hosted the event, which saw the participation of 650 delegates from around the world. The conference aimed to address the global challenges facing boys' education, emphasizing the importance of boys' schools and their positive impact on boys' learning and development.

The list of guest speakers at the conference was impressive and diverse, featuring influential personalities from various fields and included:

Sir Ian Taylor - Managing Director of Animation Research.

Graham Henry - Renowned All Black and Black Ferns Coach, ex-Headmaster at Kelston Boys.

William Pike - Survivor of the 2007 Ruapehu Eruption, Author of “Everyday’s a Good Day,” and CEO of The William Pike Challenge Group.

Susan Hassall - Headmaster of Hamilton Boys’, New Zealand’s first woman to be appointed as a Headmaster of a Boys’ School, recipient of NZ Order of Merit for services to education.

At the opening of the conference, a significant study was unveiled in a press release, supporting the notion that "boys do best in boys' schools." During an interview on Breakfast News, David Ferguson (Principal of Westlake Boys') reinforced the positive impact of boys' school settings on boys' learning. This research paper (attached below), which investigated the "secret sauce" of boys' schools, explored the complex factors that contribute to their effectiveness in education.

The Chair of the International Boys' School Coalition, Tom Batty, shed light on the cultural elements that are essential for boys' education during his presentation. According to him, several key factors contribute to the success of boys' schools:

Common Values: Boys' schools require a set of shared values that act as a foundation for the students' experiences.

Educational Framework: These values must be manifested in each boy's lived experience through an effective educational framework.

Guiding Stars: To ensure a unified journey, boys' schools need guiding stars that keep everyone focused on the school's mission and values.

The conference emphasized the importance of boys' education, highlighting the unique needs and characteristics of boys. Some key points included:

Respecting and Valuing Boys: Boys need to feel respected and valued, finding a sense of belonging and worth in their educational environment.

Relational Learning: Boys are relational learners, relying on strong connections with teachers and peers to engage in their studies effectively.

Encouraging Success and Involvement: Boys need to feel that they can access and succeed in the subjects they are learning, fostering a sense of accomplishment and preventing disengagement.

Supporting Boys through Developmental Stages: Boys go through various stages of development, and boys' schools are equipped to provide the necessary support and understanding during these times.

Fostering Autonomy and Purpose: Boys thrive when they have the autonomy to pursue their passions and contribute to causes bigger than themselves, leading to personal growth and societal benefits.

Boys' schools of the broad liberal tradition were highlighted for their approach to education, addressing the unique characteristics of boys and providing a nurturing environment for their growth:

Recognizing Gender Differences: Boys' schools acknowledge that boys and girls develop at different times and rates, and they cater their educational approaches accordingly.

Choice and Intentional Education: These schools offer families a choice for a broad education that focuses intentionally on boys' needs and development.

Cultivating Passions and Mastery: Boys' schools take the time to uncover students' passions and help them hone their skills, fostering lifelong habits of interest and involvement.

Nurturing Relationships: Relationships are at the core of boys' schools, fostering mutual respect, trust, and belonging that enable boys to thrive.

The International Boys' School Conference provided a platform for experts and educators to share insights and experiences on the significance of boys' education. Through the exploration of cultural elements, the importance of boys' unique learning styles, and the benefits of boys' schools of the broad liberal tradition, the conference demonstrated the invaluable role these institutions play in shaping successful, engaged, and purposeful young men for the benefit of society as a whole.

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