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Education: Males

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL1682, tabled on 5 July 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to close the learning gap between boys and girls; and in particular, what steps they are taking to address boys’ early years underachievement in language and vocabulary development.

Answered on

19 July 2021

Girls continue to do better than boys in the early years, but boys are improving at a faster rate. In 2013, the gap between girls and boys achieving at least the expected level in all early learning goals at aged 5 was 17.1%; in 2019, (the most recent year for which data is available), the gap was 13.6%. Similarly, the gap between girls and boys achieving a Good Level of Development at aged 5 is persistent but narrowing: from 16% in 2013 to 12.9% by 2019.

Since 2018 we have committed more than £85 million on programmes to improve early language and literacy, with a further £153 million recently announced for training early years staff to support the very youngest children as part of the education recovery strategy. This is in addition to £27 million announced to support children’s early language development in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. £10 million will support language development for pre-reception children in the next academic year and £17 million is to deliver the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) in schools that would particularly benefit.

NELI is a robustly evidenced programme aimed at the reception aged children needing extra support with their speech and language development and is proven to help children make around three months of additional progress. 40% of primaries have signed up so far, helping 60,000 children this academic year. The NELI screening tool identifies those in most need of help.

Furthermore, over 3,000 early adopter schools are implementing the reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) from this September, ahead of statutory roll out in September. One of the main aims of the revised framework is to improve early years outcomes for all children, particularly disadvantaged children in the critical areas that build the foundation for later success, such as language development.

As part of the reforms, we have revised the educational programmes to strengthen teaching practice in communication and language, providing a deeper focus on building vocabulary to address the word gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. The new EYFS framework that will be statutory for all early years providers from September 2021 can be found here: