Children in England are better readers at the age of seven than their counterparts in Wales and also make faster progress from the age of three than those in Scotland, according to new research published today.
A paper being presented to the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference suggests the improvement could be down to the more targeted approach to children’s performance which has been adopted by successive governments.
However, the paper by researchers from Cardiff University also finds that the English children may be less happy than those living elsewhere in the UK. It adds that a major improvement in reading standards by ethnic minority pupils between the ages of three and seven, particularly in London, may also be behind the difference.
It concludes: “The more ‘comprehensive’ and less target-driven systems of Wales and Scotland appear to be associated with greater inequalities in child development.”
The researchers found that ethnic minority pupils, who were behind at the age of three, had forged ahead of white pupils by the age of seven.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Many children struggle with the basics of the English language at primary school, then don’t catch up at secondary school.
“That is why we introduced a phonics check, which is based on an internationally proven method to ensure young children struggling with reading get the help they desperately need.”