Academic gap widens between sexes

THE gap between the performance of boys and girls in writing is increasing, according to new figures released ahead of a council meeting.The statistics show that last year there was a 9% gap between the writing standards of boys and girls at the age of seven.

THE gap between the performance of boys and girls in writing is increasing, according to new figures released ahead of a council meeting.

The statistics show that last year there was a 9% gap between the writing standards of boys and girls at the age of seven. The difference between their key stage one performance at level two and above was a rise of 2% from 2002.

At the end of key stage two, age 11, the gap between boys and girls at level four and above last year was 1% more than 2002 at 17%.

In 2003 at key stage three, age 14, the gap between boys and girls' achievement at level five and above fell by 3% to 16% but was still 1% above the national average.


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Suffolk County Council's Learning for Life Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be meeting today to decide if the action the council is taking to combat the problem is helping.

Tony Lewis, the leading councillor on the issue, said: "We have adopted various strategies to improve boys' writing but what we find is that they also improve the performance of girls.

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"We are in a situation where the things we try have been successful in improving performance but the gap remains.

"It features in our plans for education and we are trying new approaches and new techniques. It will remain the focus. No one claims to have the magic answer to it but we have to keep at it."

The agenda for the meeting cites girls' ability to rise above lacklustre teaching as one reason for the widening gap, whereas boys tend to be more affected by unenthusiastic teachers. It also states that boys' propensity to withdraw from class learning if they are underachieving is another factor.

Cllr Lewis said: "Reading definitely contributes to writing English. Language underpins everything else you do. If you can't write you can't express yourself.

"The advent of computers is fantastic but they also provide entertainment without having to string sentences together or put thought together."

The council is now monitoring the differences from five-year-old pupils to sixth form. It is using literacy consultants and advisors, who work with 25 schools where girls consistently outperform boys in writing and help teachers develop new strategies in the classroom.

Some schools are encouraging boys to keep a writing journal while at school and one Beacon school, St Helen's Primary in Ipswich, where male writers do as well as female, has been offering guidance on the issue.

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