IN THE middle of the examination season parents may not want to be reminded that when it comes to GCSEs boys don't do as well as girls.

In fact the `gender gap' starts much earlier than that, with girls moving ahead, particularly in tasks relating to reading and writing, from the early days of primary school.

Some suggest the gap begins at birth, whilst others suggest it is `programmed in' at conception.

Whilst there is not much parents and children can do about genetic and biological influences there is a lot that can be done to help where school is concerned.

Fortunately, in Kirklees, a great deal of work continues to take place to ensure that both boys and girls get a learning experience which enables them to maximise their progress at all levels of schooling.

The influence of parents is central in this.

Try this five-part test below.

If you can answer `yes' to all these items you are definitely helping your child to make progress in learning.

If there are a few `no' responses then have a go at turning `no' into `yes'.

Primary school:

Do you:

1 Sometimes buy a book rather than a toy?

2 Read to your child each week, even though they can read for themselves?

3 Encourage your child to talk to you?

4 Ask your child what's the best thing s/he has learned today?

5 Go into your child's school at least once a year to find out five things which your child does well and three things on which you can help them to improve?

Secondary school:

Do you?

1 Find a time to talk every day?

2 Make sure your child carries a bag to and from school?

3 Find ways of challenging your child though "Bet you can't . . ." or "Can you think of three ways . . ." ?

4 Help them to make revision lively through getting them to tell you what they have learned?

5 Go into your child's school at least once a year and find out five things which your child does well and three things on which you can help them to improve?


The head answers questions

1. Are you pleased with the new truancy call?

Yes, it's a good link between school and home and helps show students just how important attendance is.

2. What is the new timetable going to be like?

We are going to have six 50-minute lessons a day, to spread the time more fairly between neglected subjects as opposed to the five one-hour lessons we have at present.

3. Are you pleased with progress of the science college bid?

Delighted. The fact we are almost at our target is a fantastic achievement for our comm- unity.

4. What challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis?

My main challenge is making sure students have high enough expectations of what they can achieve.

When good teachers and good students get together, they can achieve more than they ever thought was possible.


School's own history lesson - By Holly Gardner, pupil

ROYDS Hall High School's many buildings hold many secrets in their classrooms and corridors.

The story began in 1866 when one man, Joseph Crosland, saw an old barn from across the Colne Valley. He bought the barn and a new building was built here.

Royds Wood mansion had a lot to boast about - stables, beautiful ceilings and wood panelling to say the least.

After Joseph Crosland died in 1904 Thomas Pearson Crosland and his family lived there before selling it to the Huddersfield Corporation for £17,000 in 1915.

When World War One began, Royds Hall was became the Huddersfield Military Hospital.

About 22,000 people were treated before its closure in 1919.

On September 20 1921 Royds Hall Grammar School opened.

It welcomed 69 boys and girls.

Between 1924 and 1926 an extension was built to house the school's growing number of pupils.

One of the most recognised faces in Britain was Harold Wilson who attended the school from 1927-32.

Today Royds Hall is under refurbishment so let's wait and see the outcome in the near future.


A week in the life of a teacher - By Sarah Anderson

Monday: Aargh! What a start to the week! The exam board has written to me to explain our moderator for GCSE media has withdrawn.

This means the course work marks that were painstakingly collated are floating somewhere in space and I have a few days to sort out the huge pile of course work.

Tuesday: School is very quiet today. Year 10 are on work experience and Year 11 have left. I miss them already . . . it's strange, you never expect extra time to leave you with a slightly sad feeling. Oh well, more time to sort out the mountains of work and start my reports.

Wednesday: Exam invigilation this afternoon (must remember not to wear "loud" shoes). The students seem focused and are taking their GCSEs very seriously, which is good news! I saw some ex-students today, they want to come back to school and not be grown up and at college any more. Aww!

Thursday: Busy, busy, busy. More experienced colleagues try to explain about the balance of work to life ratio - but what about all the work?!

Cancel tea with friends so I can complete my application form for Advanced Skills Teaching. It's about a million pages long and as an English teacher it is VITAL there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Pressure!

Friday: The students are lively and look much older out of their uniforms; it's a special non-uniform day because of the sponsored walk this afternoon.

The whole school is inv- olved in raising funds for the specialist college status. Our deputy head has been giving increasingly panicked weather reports. We're all hoping for a sunny afternoon. It's a success! The students seemed to enjoy the walk, as opp- osed to being in class, writing. Can't think why!


Getting along - By Aicha Badri, pupil

ROYDS Hall has a range of cultures and religions.

Not only do we have a range of students with different cultures, we also have several teachers from different parts of the world.

Students feel that sometimes it is not very easy to get along with others from a different culture at first because they don't know what to say.

This shows the importance of RE lessons, where we learn about the aspects of different religions and culture and how they affect people's lives.

To celebrate our diversity of cultures, we held a cultural evening last night at Royds Hall.

Work for this was done in different lessons, especially in Art and English, where a variety of ethnic texts was studied and images were created.