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Boys lag behind girls after two school years

Boys are lagging behind girls in the basics after just two years at school, official figures showed today.

Fewer seven-year-old boys reached the standard expected of them in reading, writing, maths and science than girls of the same age.

The gap was widest in writing, with one in four boys (24.5%) failing to achieve Level 2 compared to around one in seven (13.4%) of girls - a gap of 11.1 percentage points.

In reading, 88.7% of girls achieved Level 2 - the standard expected of seven-year-olds - compared to 80.9% of boys - a gap of 7.8 percentage points.

There was a 3.3 percentage point gap in favour of girls in science, with 90.4% achieving the required level compared to 87.1% of boys.

The gap was smallest in maths, with girls ahead by three percentage points (90.8% of girls reaching Level 2 compared to 87.8% of boys).

Each of the gaps has closed marginally since last year, the Department for Education (DfE) figures show.

Today's statistics, which are for England only, are based on teachers' assessments of pupils at the end of Key Stage 1.

They are broken down by gender, ethnicity and background.

They reveal a wide gulf remains between the attainment of the poorest pupils and their richer classmates.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said it was a "real concern" that poorer children are failing to meet the expected standard in reading and writing.

In writing, a third of pupils (33.6%) eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) - a key measure of poverty - failed to reach Level 2, compared to one in six (15.5%) of other students - a gap of 18.1 percentage points.

In reading, 71.7% of FSM children achieved Level 2, compared to 87.9% of non-FSM students - a gap of 16.2 percentage points.

The figures for maths show that 79.7% of FSM pupils reached Level 2 this summer, compared to 91.7% of other pupils, while in science the figures were 78.7% and 91.3% respectively.

Mr Gibb said: "Though there is a slight increase in the proportion of seven-year-olds reaching the expected level in reading, it is a real concern that almost a third of all Key Stage 1 children receiving free school meals are failing to achieve the standard in reading and writing. Additionally, over a third of boys receiving free school meals fail to make the grade in reading and writing.

"Getting the fundamentals right is crucial to a child's success in secondary education and throughout their adult life, and the Government is committed to getting all children reading and writing to a high standard."

Ministers are promoting the use of systematic synthetic phonics in primary schools and introducing a reading test for six-year-olds to identify those who need help, Mr Gibb said.