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Boys are falling behind girls in early years, survey reveals

Nearly one million boys are underachieving by the time they reach the age of five, according to a study from Save the Children.
The study, Gender Gaps at Five: Boys falling behind in the Early Years, claims that last year, 80,000 boys started reception struggling to speak a full sentence or follow basic instructions.
It also reveals that nowhere in England are boys even coming close to outperforming girls in early language skills.
“Even though differences in boys and girls are reported from as early as nine months of age, there is very little robust research that argues that biology on its own determines the differences in how the two genders behave,” the study said.
“It is likely that a combination of biology and social interaction is responsible, but the research we have cannot quantify this.”
The report states that what is needed is an increase in the number of early years teachers in the workforce, noting that the difference in the quality of provision between nurseries in the most and least deprived areas is almost completed wiped out if a graduate is present.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said that he shares Save the Children’s concerns that boys are continuing to fall behind girls and agrees that more research on what is causing the gap is needed.
“Research has shown that a well-qualified early years workforce does have a positive impact on early outcomes. That said, while we support the call for more early years graduates in principle, we believe that high-quality provision is about more than just academics - it's about a workforce that is experienced, passionate, and understands that the early years is about care as well as education,” Neil said.
“What's more, it's not clear that a move towards a graduate-led workforce in and of itself would address the particular reasons for the disparity between the attainment of boys and girls, and it is important that the impact of other factors, such as home learning environments and reductions in family outreach services, are also taken into consideration.”
He notes that ultimately, the continued attainment gap between poor children and their wealthier peers is a trend that has persisted for too long.
“We hope that the new education secretary will read the findings of this report, and other research in this area, closely, and take steps to tackle this issue as a priority,” Neil added.