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Literacy news

Class divide for boys' reading

12 Jul 2013

The brightest boys from poor homes in England and Scotland are at least two-and-a-half years behind in reading compared with those from the richest homes, a study suggests.

Research for the Sutton Trust educational charity says Scotland's gap is the highest in the developed world, while England's is the second highest. In Finland, Denmark, Germany and Canada, the gap is equal to 15 months.

The study was carried out by John Jerrim at the Institute of Education, University of London, who analysed scores for 15-year-olds in Pisa tests carried out for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He says the reading skills of England's youngsters as a whole are heavily linked to their socio-economic background, but that this gap is average for countries in the OECD. However, he suggests when you look just at high achievers - the brightest in each socio-economic group - England and Scotland perform worse than other countries for boys and are "close to the bottom" for girls, out of the 32 nations included in the tests. However, he warns there is some "uncertainty" around the rankings, because of variations in numbers of pupils taking part in the various countries and in sampling methods. In England, he says, the gap is equivalent to 30 months (two years and six months) of schooling for boys, while in Scotland the gap amounts to nearly three years (two years, 11 months). Among the brightest girls, the gap in England is two years and four months.

Our commission on boys' reading with the All-Party Parliamentary Literacy Group last year looked at why more boys than girls struggle with reading. Find out more and read the report.

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
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