These are the boys who have fallen behind girls in the communication skills they need to cope in class.
The research by the charity Save the Children and researchers from Bristol University says that this gap exists regardless of social class.
A professor of education at Bristol University said ” We found gender affects literacy attainment and language development irrespective of social class and includes boys from middle-class homes.”
The worst affected area was Merseyside, where 5-year old boys were 17% behind girls in reaching expected standards in language and communication skills. But even in Rutland, which has low poverty levels, the gap was still 14%.
Girls are ahead of boys in all 152 local council areas in England.
This is worrying because children who fall behind before they reach school tend to stay behind. Boys who are behind at age 5 are four times more likely to fall below expected reading standards by the age of 11.
They struggle to pay attention in class and find it hard to follow lessons or develop friendships. They are also less likely to get good GCSE results and A levels, complete degrees (already there are fewer boys than girls going to universities), get a good job and are more at risk of poor mental health.
A spokesman for Save the Children said “this research gets to the nub of why boys fall behind. It shows that even before they walk through the school gates they are at a disadvantage that trails them through life.”
The researchers say that parents can help bridge the gap by bringing up boys more like girls.
The research shows that parents spend less time on activities that develop language skills with their sons rather than their daughters.
They sing more nursery rhymes and songs and do more drawings and paintings with girls than they do with boys. So parents can do more with their sons in this regard and also get them to talk more about their activities. They can also read story books as well as non-fiction books to get them interested in reading for pleasure (Dads take note especially).
The other problem boys have is their ability to concentrate and focus. So playing word games and completing drawing tasks can help them build up their concentration and attention span.
Save the Children is recommending having a graduate teacher in each nursery to boost boys’ levels of literacy before they get to school.
The report makes sense but the idea of bringing up boys more like girls is a misleading headline.
It’s been argued for years that there are too few male role models in nurseries and primary schools and the way young pupils are taught is more girl-friendly. Something I posted on several years ago.