Boys trail girls in literacy and numeracy when starting school (but record numbers overall reach expected levels)

The Guardian is reporting new figures suggesting that boys starting school are being outperformed by their female classmates, with more than a third failing to reach the expected level in writing and a quarter struggling with numbers.

The gender gap among the youngest schoolchildren has narrowed marginally, but girls continue to lead the way in all early learning goals, with 74.3% achieving the expected level of development compared with 58.6% of boys.

For those achieving a good level of development, the gender gap has reduced from 16.3 percentage points in 2014 to 15.6 percentage points this year, but early years experts warned that it remained “substantial” and have called for action to alter the trend.

Publishing the data on Tuesday, the Department for Education said results showed that more five-year-olds than ever before were achieving the expected standards in maths and literacy, with more than two-thirds making good progress.

It said an extra 38,600 five-year-olds were reaching the expected level of development in maths and literacy, as well as in communication and language, personal, social, physical and emotional development.

However, critics pointed out that one in five children still starts school without vital skills. Gareth Jenkins, director of UK poverty at the charity Save the Children, said: “Today’s figures show that despite progress, one in five children still arrive at school lacking the skills they need to learn and thrive…

More at: Boys trail girls in literacy and numeracy when starting school


See more on this directly from the DfE at: More children than ever starting school ready to learn


Should we be celebrating the record numbers reaching the expected levels or concerned at the continuing gender gap (or both)?

Please give us your reactions to the figures in the comments below or via Twitter.


Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link

"Risky" outdoor play must be encouraged to tackle obesity
SEND support system is becoming fragmented despite reforms, new report warns
Categories: Pre-school and Primary.


  1. Nairb1

    Even a basic scrutiny of research into brain development shows that early development of boys’ and girls’ brains is different, with girls having more capacity for language processing and fine motor tasks. Schools are being required to work against, not with, natural development in this government’s ludicrous notion that earlier is better.

  2. Busy Mum

    I think any parent from any century could have told the government this. Stop paying reserachers ridiculous amounts of taxpayers money to tell you what we already know.

  3. Someone tell schools minister Sam Gyimah that correlation isn’t causation.  He claims the extra 38,600  5 year olds reaching expected standards in maths, literacy, social skills etc is down to the Government’s ‘commitment to higher standards’.  But at least 12,000 of that figure is down to increased number of EYFS pupils from 2013/14 to 2014/15.
    That’s why the statistics give percentages rather than numbers so fluctuations in cohort numbers are accounted for.  
    That said, the proportion achieving the EYFS has risen by 6.1% between 2014 and 2015.  But this is less than the rise from 2013 to 2014 (8.7%).  Is the Government’s ‘commitment to higher standards’ actually causing improvement rates to stall?  Or is making such a comment as misleading as Gyimah’s comment that it’s solely thanks to the Gov’t that EYFS results have risen?

  4. wasateacher

    Nairb1 But boys are treated differently from girls from birth, so the brain development could be down to that treatment – or are you saying that it is brain development in the womb?

  5. wasateacher

    In the ’50s when I took the 11+ the pass mark was skewed in the favour of boys, giving the impression that boys were ‘brighter’ than girls because more were eligible for grammar school places when, in fact, they may have had a lower mark than a girl who ‘failed’ the 11+.  I don’t know if this was national but was certainly the case in Dorset.

  6. Nairb1

    I am. There is significant evidence that boys’ and girls’ brains are ‘wired’ differently from birth.
    I’m not arguing that this difference doesn’t diminish or can’t be closed over time, I’m arguing that this government’s obsession with early achievement flies in the face of child development … not just in this but in many other areas. Note the number of high achieving education systems where children start formal education years after those in England. Our government’s response, as always, is to ignore evidence and plough on regardless, usually behind the shield of being able to blame schools anyway.

Let us know what you think...