In 2008 the
Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) launched a national
project called Every Child a Talker (ECaT) in which funding was given to
Local Authorities to enable them to implement a programme designed to improve
the skills of the early years workforce so that they were better able to
support speech, language and communication development and thus raise
children’s achievement in early language as measured against the Early Years
Foundation Stage Profile. Many authorities including Leicester, Leicestershire
and Rutland took part in this project and the findings were that practitioners
became more confident in supporting children to develop their language skills
and more importantly children were less at risk of having a language delay.

As early language development is so crucial to the
development of literacy skills interventions which target early language and attention
have potential for improving outcomes for all children in particular boys as
they are more likely to have these problems to begin with (Moss et al, 2016).

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A strong predictor of attainment in literacy at age 11 is a
child’s early language development and so in
the medium-term falling behind at five has a huge impact on how well children
do at primary school (Moss et al, 2016). Whilst many children in England fall
behind in the essential early language and communication skills they need to
flourish and succeed statistics indicate that boys are affected most and significantly
higher numbers of boys experience language and communication difficulties
(Leslie, 2012). Statistics from the Save the Children report (2016) states that
more than 80,000 boys had fallen behind by
the age of five in 2015; and boys in England are nearly twice as likely as
girls to fall behind in early language and communication. (Or quote) ‘Two thirds of
the gender gap in achieving Key Stage Level 4 in Reading at 11 is attributable
to the fact that boys have lower levels of language and attention at age 5’
(Moss et al, 2016).

In ICAN’s report The Cost to the Nation of Children’s Poor
Communication we can see that this can continue to impact on a child into the longer term affecting their chances in life p6 states
that the ‘correlation between children with a communication disability and low
attainment, behavioural and emotional difficulties, mental health issues, poor
employment or training prospects and youth crime is high’

In the short term early language
and communication skills are vital for a child’s social and emotional
development in the EYFS and so a delay in this area can affect a child’s
ability to make and sustain friendships, to develop a sense of themselves and
be able to verbally explain their feelings rather than relying on physical or
less acceptable means and may mean they are unable to access the opportunities
for learning presented to them as much learning in the early years relies on
language and practical experiences (Read, 2016). As the Bercow report 2008 p16 says communication ‘is at the core of
all social interaction. With effective communication skills, children can engage and thrive. Without them, children will struggle to learn,
achieve, make friends and interact with the world around them.’

Evidence shows us that the
result of falling behind in language development will impact on both boys and
girls in the short, medium and long term but as boys are more likely to
experience difficulties the negative consequences will be greater for them than
for girls (Read, 2016).




Growing up in poverty is a risk
factor for both boys and girls, the fact however remains that the gender gap is
highest in deprived areas and so it is poor boys who need our attention the
most because of just how many are struggling. In 2015, 38% of boys eligible for
free school meals (an indicator of poverty) fell behind in early language and
communication, this is nearly twice the national average rate of 20% (Read, 2016).

However, the gender gap is an
issue for boys regardless of their circumstances right across England,
affecting all ethnicities and all social groups. The gender gap does vary from
place to place, but boys are behind their female peers in every single local
authority in England and in many other countries too (Read, 2016). In terms of attainment through
performance (from PISA 2003), of the countries selected, Sweden, Japan and
Finland have a relatively high level of overall attainment and a relatively
small gap between boys and girls. The UK is behind these countries, being more
similar to Australia and France, both in terms of overall performance and the
size of the attainment gap between the sexes. Girls do better than boys in all
subject areas except in mathematics, where boys are ahead, and in problem-solving,
where performance is similar (QCA, 2008).

It is important
to remember that gender is just one factor which leads to differences in
attainment. As Younger et al (1999) identified there are numerous and
complex reasons for such differences. Inequality also arises from socioeconomic, ethnic and
cultural factors and so it is difficult to study gender differences in
isolation as there will be interaction between these sources of inequality. In
order to understand this issue and respond to it successfully this wider
context must be considered (QCA, 2008).

These early gender differences in achievement can continue
to be seen throughout the primary school attainment of boys’. A study by the University of Bristol study showed that
this gap initially seen in the Early Years Foundation Stage had impacted on the
attainment of boys’ reading at KS 2 and that a significant factor was that boys
begin school with poorer language and attention skills than girls (Read, 2016). This pattern
can continue into Key Stage 4 and is supported by information in the Rowntree
Report 2007. An analysis of GCSE results indicated that white British boys made
up nearly half of all low achievers and that low achieving boys generally
outnumbered girls by 20% (DfCh, 2007). International studies have also shown
that in early literacy boys’ attainment is lower than girls and as children
move through education this gap widens (Leslie, 2012).

The Foundation Stage Profile provides a holistic,
broad-based assessment of children’s progress across six areas of learning and
development; personal social and emotional, communication and language, physical,
mathematics, literacy, understanding the world and expressive arts and design. National
data from the Foundation Stage profile results collected and analysed between 2004–2006,
indicated that more girls are working securely within the early learning goals
than boys and that boys are achieving less well than girls across all areas of
learning (DfCh, 2007).

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