Computers blamed as reading standards slump
Thursday 29 November 2007
British children have plummeted in an international league table of reading skills. Middle-class parents have been blamed for failing to encourage a love of books over computer games.
Primary-school children in England fell from third to 15th in the study of 45 countries, recording the third highest drop behind Romania and Morocco over the past five years. Scotland fell 12 places compared to 2001, slumping to 26th.
Russia topped the league table, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore while South Africa came bottom.
The findings are a severe embarrassment for the Government, which has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into reading and literacy after coming to power 10 years ago under the slogan "education, education, education".
But the Education Secretary, Ed Balls, said the problem lay beyond the classroom and called on parents to tip the balance back in favour of reading at home, blaming the decline on the growth in electronic entertainment. "It's outside school and in children's attitudes where we have seen more changes since 2001. Today's 10-year-olds have more choice than in 2001 about how they spend their free time.
"Most of them have their own TVs and mobiles, and 37 per cent are playing computer games for three hours or more a day more than in most countries in the study," he said.
Mr Balls was immediately criticised by the Tories for seeking to evade responsibility for falling standards. Only 27 per cent of pupils in England surveyed said they were given reading homework at least three times a week compared to the international average of 55 per cent.
His Tory shadow, Michael Gove, said: "It's time the Government stopped blaming parents and accepted the case we've been making for a new focus on teaching reading using tried and tested methods, with a test after two years in primary school to ensure our children are being taught properly."
A review published this month of the effectiveness of the Government's 500m literacy programme found reading skills had barely improved since the 1950s.
The latest results, produced by researchers in the United States for the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls), found that while girls' reading abilities continued to outstrip boys across the world, their performance was falling faster than with their male class-mates.
But it was clear that the decline in the score in England was driven by falling attainment among more able readers, typically associated with those living in more affluent homes, although weaker readers were also going backwards.
The study found: "Attitudes to reading of 10-year-old children in England are poor compared to those of children in many other countries, and have declined slightly since 2001. Children in England reported less frequent reading for pleasure outside school than children in many other countries: just a third of children reported reading for fun on a daily basis."
The rise in screen-based entertainment coincided with a decline in the proportion of English children being read novels or books outside school.
England and Scotland, however, were not alone in recording a dramatic slide in fortunes. Sweden and the Netherlands, first and second respectively in the 2001 findings, also fell sharply though not as far as the two home nations surveyed. Wales and Northern Ireland were not covered by the research.
Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
Jack the Ripper's final victim set to be exhumed following new theory on the killer's identity
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen mocked for wearing a burka to avoid being seen visiting plastic surgeon in Paris
Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
- 1 Windows 10: man updates PC, wakes up to find porn slideshow on repeat
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 4 Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
- 5 Doctors declare war on Jeremy Hunt over weekend working 'myths' amid plan for seven day NHS
£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent primary school based ...
£70 - £80 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This outstanding school s...
£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This central London prima...
£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: A good primary school in ...