Issues - gender Bias - Girls ahead of boys in all spheres
By the age of five, girls are already ahead of boys in all
13 of the "foundation stage" activities on which
they are assessed in their first year at school, statistics
published yesterday showed.
The gap between the sexes was widest in "creative development",
a measure of the "skills and understanding that are necessary
for children to express their ideas, feelings and preferences".
Here, 58 per cent of the girls reached the top two levels
of the nine-point scale, but only 42 per cent of the boys.
Many of the boys fell at the fence that required them to show
they used their imagination in art and design, music, dance,
role play and stories.
Published for the first time, the figures confirmed a pattern
of achievement that persists throughout primary and secondary
school and on to higher education.
They are based on the 117 judgments that teachers are required
to make about the progress of every child between the ages
of three and five. Parents will be told the results, but they
will not be published school by schools.
The figures showed that the gap between boys and girls was
narrowest when they were asked to demonstrate their "knowledge
and understanding of the world".
Fifty per cent of the boys and 52 per cent of the girls could
"construct with a wide range of objects" - making
collages and stick puppets, for example - and "begin
to explore what it means to belong to a variety of groups
An example of the latter was "understanding that harvest
is linked to the work of farmers and is a time of sharing
and saying thank you".
Physical development was the area in which both sexes scored
highest, with 68 per cent of girls and 56 per cent of the
boys able to show that they recognised the importance of keeping
healthy and could demonstrate "co-ordination and control
in large and small movements, and in using a range of equipment".
All 500,000 of the children who were assessed scored lowest
on the literacy and numeracy scales. Nearly one in five could
not "link sounds to letters, naming and sounding letters
of the alphabet".
One in seven could not write their own name from memory, or
the words "mum", "dad" and "cat".
One in eight could not "relate addition to combining
Overall, only a third of the children could "begin to
form simple sentences, sometimes using punctuation" or
read more than three-letter words using phonic knowledge.
More than half could count up to 10 but could not "solve
practical problems" such as separating 10 objects into
The results showed that, on average, five-year-olds were motivated
and excited to learn; formed good relationships with adults
and peers; were sensitive to the needs, views and feelings
of others; took turns in conversation; knew that, in English,
print is read from left to right and top to bottom; could
hold a pencil and use it to form recognisable letters; used
"greater", "smaller", "heavier"
or "lighter" to compare quantities; and asked questions
about why things happen and how things work.
The Department for Education said the figures should be treated
with caution because the teachers who made the assessments
had received "limited and variable" training.
The National Association of Head Teachers condemned the process
as bureaucratic, time-consuming and "in dire need of
The National Union of Teachers said it was considering a boycott.