Half of boys ‘struggle with basic writing at the age of five’

Oct 25, 2013 by

Almost half of boys are struggling to write simple sentences at the age of five amid evidence of a significant gender gap before children even start full-time school.

Official figures show that 54 per cent of boys can construct a basic story, shopping list or pen a letter to Father Christmas at the end of the reception year compared with seven-in-10 girls.

Data from the Department for Education also shows that just two-thirds of boys can read simple stories even though three-quarters of five-year-old girls reach this level.

In all, boys are less likely to speak, listen and pay attention, use the toilet by themselves, make friends and manage their own behaviour by the time they start the first full year of school.

The disclosure is made in a Government analysis of English children at the end of the foundation stage – or reception year – before infants move into Year One.

It suggests that large numbers of boys may be unprepared for the demands of full-time school and raise fresh concerns over the structure of early education in many nurseries.


The figures were published after a lobby of almost 130 childcare experts wrote to the Telegraph calling for formal schooling to be delayed until the age of six or seven to give children more time to develop naturally.

But the Government insisted it was taking action by boosting skill levels among the nursery workforce – requiring them to have higher qualifications – and giving the poorest children access to 15 hours a week of free early education from the age of two.

It has also simplified Labour’s Early Years Foundation Stage framework – a compulsory “nappy curriculum” for under-fives – by slashing the number targets children are supposed to meet by the start of full-time education.

Today’s figures show the proportion of children who achieve each of the 17 early learning goals set out by the new EYFS, which was introduced for the first time in September 2012.

This summer, some 52 per cent of children achieved a “good level of development” across all the major areas, such as early literacy, numeracy, social skills, speaking and listening.

But the proportion increased to 60 per cent among girls and dropped to just 44 per cent among boys. The data also showed:

• 54 per cent of boys could write to the appropriate level and 65 per cent could read, compared with 70 per cent and 76 per cent of girls, respectively;

• 86 per cent of girls could listen and pay attention, against 75 per cent of boys, while 83 per cent of girls could speak properly, with numbers falling to 73 per cent among boys;

• More than nine-in-10 girls – 92 per cent – were good at “health and self-care”, meaning they could wash, dress and go to the toilet independently, but the proportion fell to 85 per cent for boys;

• 90 per cent of girls could play properly, take turns and make friends, compared with 80 per cent of boys, while 89 per cent of girls were well behaved, against 77 per cent of boys;

• The narrowest gap was in the use of technology, where 88 per cent of girls had a good level of understanding, compared with 87 per cent of boys.

The figures came as a senior lecturer in psychology at Kingston University called on the government to effectively drop formal literacy and numeracy requirements from the EYFS and allow children to play.

Dr Jo Van Herwegen developed new number games for pre-school children that teach children to differentiate between quantities without using specific counting mechanisms, claiming they had proved popular in trial groups.

“Pre-schoolers need the basic building blocks, as their working memory and language isn’t complete until they reach five or six, so developmentally they’re simply not ready for formal learning before that,” she said.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We are reforming childcare and increasing high-quality provision so that all children, regardless of their background, get a good start in life.

“Good quality early years education has been shown to have a lasting positive impact on children’s attainment and behaviour, especially those from low-income backgrounds.”

She said Ofsted is introducing tougher inspections for early years, and the Government is bringing in reforms to boost the quality of professionals working with pre-schoolers.

“We are also doubling the number of disadvantaged two-year-olds eligible for funded early education so they receive as strong a start in life as those children from better-off families,” she added.

via Half of boys ‘struggle with basic writing at the age of five’ – Telegraph.

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