Poorest boys lag behind on language skills

The BBC is reporting new research that suggests four out of 10 of England’s poorest boys start school without the language skills needed to learn…

Researchers for the “Read On. Get On.” campaign warned that these children, who lag 15 months behind their peers at the age of five, might never catch up.

It found the poorest girls did not fare as badly as boys, but 27% were below the basic language level at that stage…

Research body Education Datalab analysed the National Pupil Database and data from a longitudinal study of 19,000 children to see how many children in England were reaching the expected level in language at age five.

They also looked at last year’s national results of the Early Years Foundation Stage – an assessment of children’s ability carried out in schools at the end of Reception year.

Researchers used eligibility as a definition for the poorer children as it compared their language skills on starting school, and their subsequent attainment, with that of their classmates.

The report said toddlers’ early language skills were a vital stepping stone in learning to read.

It added that those falling as much as 15 months behind before they reach school are unlikely ever to catch up.

The Read On, Get On campaign is calling for urgent government investment to boost skills of nursery staff to improve language development before school starts.

Dame Julia Cleverdon, chairwoman of Read On, Get On, said: “Poor children, and poor boys in particular, are being set up to fail because too many haven’t developed the building blocks of learning before they arrive at the school gate for the first time…”

More at: Poorest boys lag behind on language skills


I don’t have a link to the research, but you can find out more about Read On, Get On at their website.


Worrying findings from Read On, Get On but what do you think can actually be done about it?

The suggestion is to focus more resources at nursery level but where does this end – will schools have to take over parenting completely?

Please share your insights and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Pre-school and Primary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This rather highlights the fact that without support at home it is largely irrelevant what schools do

  2. andylutwyche

    Bedtonman SchoolsImprove Possibly – I am no expert on that subject however (doesn’t usually stop me, I know)

  3. Lang_and_Learn

    But will have some effect? Not an excuse for not trying. Also, schools need to work on parental involvement.

  4. Nor_edu

    SchoolsImprove andylutwyche Bedtonman also perhaps we should look at improving parents lit skills/understanding of importance?

  5. Lang_and_Learn

    Falling behind basic language level for all children, or for all boys? I need to read actual report, I think.

  6. The greatest rate of learning occurs
    from birth to around three or four as children learn to talk – along with much
    else – without being formally taught how to do it! Adult input (a parent,
    grandparent, older sibling or child-minder) is what stimulates it through
    one-to-one interaction – but being plonked in front of TV with a dummy in the
    mouth inhibits it!

    Some parents talk to their children from birth, play with them, cuddle them, sing to them,
    and early on begin to share picture books with them, read stories and repeat
    nursery rhymes. According to their economic circumstances the parents, usually
    the mothers, spend a lot of time in a one-to-one relationship with their child
    and share the child’s exploration of the home and garden environment,
    constantly talking about it. This is how children learn to communicate and to
    use their eyes, ears and hands to make sense of their world. These are the
    children who stand a good chance, by age eleven, of achieving the high
    standards that their parents (and government ministers) want for them.

    But other parents, often struggling with a low income and sometimes other domestic problems,
    may be able to give but little time to developing a one-to-one relationship
    with their child and find it easier to put the child in front of a television
    set with a dummy in the mouth as a comforter, hoping that a few cuddles will be
    sufficient to tell the child that he or she is loved. This is particularly the
    case for mothers who are working anti-social hours in order to provide for
    their families.

    It is both an economic and a cultural
    problem that results in these children struggling with reading, writing and
    maths as they move through school. The economic aspect cannot be tackled by the
    education system, but the cultural aspect can by access to Sure Start centres
    across the country.

    It is not only children who learn
    from each other: parents, especially mothers, do. If the other mothers that one
    meets are of the watch-TV-with-a-mouth- stopper ilk then conformity is likely.
    Where there is a friendly Sure Start centre with perceptive staff who carefully
    encourage the idea of regular-interaction-with-your-child-whenever-you-find-the-time
    the culture of the attending parents will slowly change.

    In my view the way to eliminate the
    ‘tail’ of underperforming children in school is to tackle the issue from birth
    by major investment in Sure Start centres across the country. I believe this
    could be most effective if it became a shared responsibility of primary
    schools, Sure Start centre staff, and the trained nurses of the Health Visitor

Let us know what you think...