'Laddish' boys fail to make the grade

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The Independent Online

Boys are entirely to blame for the Government's failure to meet its targets for national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds, the man in charge of raising standards at the Department for Education and Skills said yesterday.

Boys are entirely to blame for the Government's failure to meet its targets for national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds, the man in charge of raising standards at the Department for Education and Skills said yesterday.

Professor David Hopkins, director of the department's Standards and Effectiveness Unit, said: "If boys had done as well as girls then our target would literally have been met." He was speaking as ministers confirmed they had failed to reach both the English target of 80 per cent of students reaching the required standard in the test and the maths target of 75 per cent. Figures published yesterday showed the English rate was 75 per cent – the same as last year – and maths was 73 per cent – two per cent up on last year. Thismirrors the picture given by The Independent earlier this month based on a survey of local education authority results.

However, a breakdown of the figures showed the pupils' worst performance was in the writing test – with an alarming gap between the achievements of boys and girls. Only 52 per cent of boys reached the target compared with 68 per cent of girls. Ministers have ordered schools to take special measures to improve the performance of boys – including more "boy-friendly" textbooks and increasing the number of after-school homework clubs at Premiership football clubs.

David Miliband, the Minister for School Standards, said yesterday: "We have to change the laddish culture if it means that reading, writing and counting and doing right by yourself ... is somehow a bad thing. There is nothing particularly laddish about not being able to read, write and count, and not being able to express yourself with conviction and clarity."

When the targets were introduced in 1999, David Blunkett, the former secretary of state for education, said his "head would be on the block" if they were not met.

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