Poor boys cannot write their own names

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A new DCSF report shows that nearly a third of five-year-old boys from poor families cannot read or write, despite efforts to help them catch up with their peers.

The figures are based on teacher observations, and on data taken from young primary school pupils at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage. The data includes early learning goals such as social development, language and literacy, and problem solving and numeracy.

The figures show that:

28.4% of boys on free school meals cannot write their names by the age of five, compared with one in six poor girls.

Just 14.8% of boys that are not on  free school meals fail to achieve this target.

19.3% of poor boys cannot say the letters of the alphabet, compared with 12.2% of poor girls.

18.1% of poor boys cannot do simple adding up by the age of five, while for poor girls, that figure is 13.4%.

Just 8.4% of boys not on FSM cannot do simple arithmetic.

Some 73.8% of poor boys are not developing well in all 13 of the areas assessed, compared with 56.9% of poor girls.

The data also shows that the gulf between the proportion of boys and girls achieving a good level of development is widening. This year, 42.8% of all boys have attained a good level of progress, against 60.9% of all girls – a gap of 18.1 percentage points. In 2007, the gap was 16.1 percentage points.

Key findings include:

  • Girls outperformed boys in 11 of the 13 scales of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile.
  • A higher proportion of pupils from Irish, Indian, Mixed White and Asian and White British ethnic backgrounds achieved a good level of development when compared to all pupils.
  • 53.5 percent of pupils whose first language is English achieve a good level of development, compared with 41.9 of pupils for whom English is an additional language.
  • 55.0 percent of pupils not eligible for free schools meals achieved a good level of development, compared to 34.5 percent for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals.
  • For pupils with SEN (both without a statement and those with a statement of SEN), 15.4 percent achieved a good level of development. This compares to 55.5 percent for those pupils with no identified SEN.
  • 39.3% of pupils in the most deprived 10% of areas achieved a good level of development compared with 66.5% in the least deprived 10% of areas.
  • The difference in achievement between the most and least deprived fell by two percentage points to 27.2 in 2009.
  • White British boys from the poorest homes in England had the same achievement level (24.8%) as Bangladeshi boys also eligible for free school meals.
  • Black Caribbean boys on free school meals out-performed Poor white boys.
  • 42.1% of white British girls on free school meals reached the required level, at only only 9.5 percentage points behind the national average of 51.8%.
  • Overall, girls outperform boys in 11 of the 14 assessment areas. Some 61.1% of girls were working comfortably in each area as opposed to 42.8% of boys.
  • 24.7% of boys are classified as being in the lowest 20% of pupils in all areas, compared to 15.1% of girls.

Commenting on the report, children's minister, Dawn Primarolo, said that children in the poorest postcodes were improving at a faster rate than all others. She said overall the results showed 23,000 more five-year-olds were achieving a good level of development than in 2008.

She went on to say: "We are not complacent. I know that more work needs to be done to make sure that all children, regardless of background, gender, ethnicity or where they live, receive a strong grounding in the basics.

""That's why we are continuing to target children who may be struggling with personalised support and early intervention to make sure they have the help they need early on."

"We will soon publish new guidance for child carers and teachers on helping children under five develop their writing skills – and this will look specifically at how we can better support boys."

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said: "These depressing figures reveal that the gap between poorer children and the better-off is clear when they are only five years old.

"Labour's shameful failure to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds extra support means that this gap grows wider as children grow older."

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