Growing boys are ahead, and in problem-solving,

Growing up in poverty is a riskfactor for both boys and girls, the fact however remains that the gender gap ishighest in deprived areas and so it is poor boys who need our attention themost because of just how many are struggling. Last year ( which year ? ), 38% of boys eligible forfree school meals (an indicator of poverty) fell behind in early language andcommunication, this is nearly twice the national average rate of 20%. However the gender gap is anissue for boys regardless of their circumstances right across England,affecting all ethnicities and all social groups.

The gender gap does vary fromplace to place, but boys are behind their female peers in every single localauthority in England and in many other countries too. In terms of attainment throughperformance (from PISA 2003), of the countries selected, Sweden, Japan andFinland have a relatively high level of overall attainment and a relativelysmall gap between boys and girls. The UK is behind these countries, being moresimilar to Australia and France, both in terms of overall performance and thesize of the attainment gap between the sexes. Girls do better than boys in allsubject areas except in mathematics, where boys are ahead, and in problem-solving,where performance is similar.It is importantto remember that gender is just one factor which leads to differences inattainment. As Younger et al (1999) identified there are numerous andcomplex reasons for such differences. Inequality also arises from socioeconomic, ethnic andcultural factors and so it is difficult to study gender differences inisolation as there will be interaction between these sources of inequality.

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Inorder to understand this issue and respond to it successfully this widercontext must be consideredThese early gender differences in achievement can continueto be seen throughout the primary school attainment of boys’. A study by the University of Bristol study showed thatthis gap initially seen in the Early Years Foundation Stage had impacted on theattainment of boys’ reading at KS 2 and that a significant factor was that boysbegin school with poorer language and attention skills than girls. This patterncan continue into Key Stage 4 and is corroborated by information in theRowntree Report 2007. An analysis of GCSE results indicated that white Britishboys made up nearly half of all low achievers and that low achieving boysgenerally outnumbered girls by 20%. International studies have also shownthat in early literacy boys’ attainment is lower than girls and as childrenmove through education this gap widens.

The Foundation Stage Profile provides a holistic,broad-based assessment of children’s progress across six areas of learning anddevelopment (name them). National data from the Foundation Stage profileresults collected and analysed between 2004–2006, indicated that more girls areworking securely within the early learning goals than boys and that boys areachieving less well than girls across all areas of learning.


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