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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK


Boys close the gap over reading

Boys have gained 5% on girls in English test results

Boys are closing the gap on girls in primary school tests, an analysis of this year's results reveals.

The BBC's Sue Littlemore: "The challenge is to persuade the lads that its not girlie to read"
The government has published a breakdown of results from the tests taken by 11-year-olds this summer in England, which show that in English boys have made improvements - with an increase of 8% in those reaching the level expected for their age (Level 4).

But girls are still ahead of boys - with the statistics showing that 76% of girls reached Level 4 in English, compared with 65% for boys. This 11% gap compares with 16% in last year's results.

[ image: Girls are still ahead of boys at reading]
Girls are still ahead of boys at reading
Breakdowns of the results achieved by seven and 14-year-olds have also been published.

But most attention is paid to the government's national performance targets for 11-year-olds.

The results for 11-year-olds show that boys have particularly improved in reading, with the government's figures showing their results have improved by an average of 14% from last year.

The gap between boys and girls in this age group in reading has narrowed from 15% to 6%.

Schools Minister Jacqui Smith: "We're pleased that boys are catching up with girls"
But some commentators have said this has happened at the expense of improving standards in writing, in which boys are still lagging 15% behind girls.

In maths, 11-year-old boys and girls have made similar progress, with the test results showing that boys' performance has risen from 59% to 69%, while girls' has risen from 58% to 69%.

The overall improvements in this year's results, announced last month, were claimed by the government as proof that its literacy and numeracy initiatives were working.

The new figures differ very slightly because they do not include independent schools, which the September figures did.

'Still a long way to go'

School Standards Minister Estelle Morris extended her thanks to the teachers and pupils who "worked hard to bring in the literacy hour and helped narrow the gap in achievement between boys and girls".

[ image: Boys and girls have made similar progress in maths]
Boys and girls have made similar progress in maths
She said: "We are pleased by this improvement but recognise there is still a long way to go in writing.

"That's why we are training every teacher of pupils aged 10 and 11 in the teaching of writing later this term and next term as part of a new focus on writing."

The percentage of 11-year-olds reaching Level 5 or above had risen by 5% in English and 7% in maths.

Ms Morris said: "Increases in the number of pupils achieving Level 5 or above in Key Stage 2 tests across the curriculum are testament to the fact that both the literacy strategy, with its focus on phonics, spelling and grammar, and the numeracy strategy, with its focus on whole class teaching and mental arithmetic, are working for all pupils, including the most able.

"These results show how important it is for us to press ahead with this approach in the face of opposition from those who would argue that schools, regardless of how successful they are, should be able to decide whether or not to use tried and tested teaching methods for the 3Rs."

Inner-city authorities struggle

The breakdown of test results also shows large local variations in performance, with boroughs such as Richmond-upon-Thames achieving almost double the results of the lowest achieving local authorities in some subjects.

In some inner-London authorities, such as Hackney, results show that fewer than half of 11-year-old boys are achieving the expected level in English - compared with more than 85% of girls in the highest-performing authorities.

But there are local authorities which have shown great improvement since last year, including Wakefield, Rotherham and Sutton.

Ms Morris acknowledged good performances by some LEAs, including some in inner-city areas, but said others needed to do more to raise standards.

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