Boys 'read better using old methods'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A return to traditional methods of teaching primary school children to read has surprised academics by reversing the national trend of girls outperforming boys in the classroom.

A return to traditional methods of teaching primary school children to read has surprised academics by reversing the national trend of girls outperforming boys in the classroom.

Education authorities have long been alarmed by the widening gulf between the sexes as boys lagged further and further behind. Now a pilot project in eight Scottish primary schools, which involved children as young as four being taught how to read using the old "phonics" reading method, appears to have solved the problem.

Since the late 1960s, the fashion was for children to be taught using word recognition, either by committing to memory familiar phrases or guessing at them from pictures. But by using a modern style of the phonics method – in which children learn the sounds letters make so they can make and decode unknown words by sounding them out – researchers working for the Scottish Executive have discovered that boys perform better.

The five-year study, which has followed 13 classes of primary schoolchildren from the first day at school through to the end of their fifth year, found that while both sexes learn faster and develop better reading and writing skills, boys have benefited the most.

Phonics teaching was reintroduced inEnglish schools as part of the literacy hour in 1998, but pupils are taught the letter sounds more gradually south of the border than in the Clackmannanshire scheme.

Lesley Robertson, an adviser at Clackmannanshire Council, said: "The findings that the boys are performing better than the girls came about as a secondary discovery. We set out to raise attainment across the board and this has been a bonus.

"The number of children who in the past would have been marked down as low achievers has been greatly reduced," she said.

Comments