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Education: Boys

Question for Department for Education

UIN 192067, tabled on 3 July 2023

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department plans to take steps to implement large-scale evaluation of the interventions aimed at increasing boys' learning in educational settings.

Answered on

11 July 2023

The Government is committed to improving outcomes for all pupils no matter their gender, and raising attainment for pupils is at the heart of this Government’s agenda.

The Department funds and supports large scale evaluation and research into improving education and attainment through the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF), which aims to build a high quality evidence base on what is proven to be successful in education practice, and to support schools, colleges and early years providers to access and effectively mobilise this evidence to raise attainment of disadvantaged 2 to 19 year olds. The Department recently re-endowed the EEF with £137 million in 2022 to continue to build the evidence base until at least 2032. This funding will cement the EEF’s role as a central, long-term feature of the education landscape for at least the next decade.

Evidence from formal assessments, and recent reports from the Education Policy Institute and Rising Stars showed that attainment for all pupils, including boys, fell during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between its introduction in 2012 and the last assessments before the pandemic in 2019, attainment in the phonics screening check has increased significantly for boys and girls. In 2019, 78% of boys and 85% of girls met the expected standard by Year 1, compared to 54% of boys and 62% of girls in 2012. In 2022, following the pandemic, attainment in the phonics screening check was down by 6% for both boys and girls. 72% of boys met the expected standard compared to 79% of girls.

At Key Stage 2, the proportion of pupils meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics increased between 2016 and the last assessments before the pandemic in 2019. 65% of pupils met the expected standard in all three subjects in 2019 (60% of boys, 70% of girls), compared to 53% in 2016 (50% of boys, 56% of girls). In 2022, following the pandemic, attainment fell among both girls and boys in all subjects except reading. However, the fall was slightly larger for girls. Girls continue to outperform boys in all subjects except mathematics.

At Key Stage 4 more girls enter the full English Baccalaureate than boys, and girls continue to do better than boys across all headline attainment measures. The gap for the percentage achieving grades 5 and above in English and mathematics has narrowed from 6.6% in 2018/19 and 7.6% in 2020/21, to 5.7% in 2021/22. The widening between 2019 and 2021 was driven by girls seeing a larger increase (9.2% vs 8.2%), but the narrowing to 2022 was caused by girls having a larger decrease than boys (3.1% vs 1.2%).

In response to this, the Department is continuing to take action to support schools, including increasing core schools funding at the Autumn Statement 2022. The additional funding announced in the Autumn Statement will mean that the core schools budget is a net £2 billion higher than published at Spending Review 2021 in each of 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The Department continues to deliver the proposals set out in the Schools White Paper, which aim to improve outcomes for all pupils, including boys. This includes providing an excellent teacher for every child, securing high standards in curriculum, behaviour and attendance, and providing targeted support for every pupil who needs it.

For teachers, the Department remains committed to delivering £30,000 starting salaries to attract and retain the very best teachers. In addition, the Department will deliver 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by the end of 2024 and have recently announced a £181 million incentive package for initial teacher training. This package of support will secure more high quality teaching, which is the single most important in school factor on attainment.

The Department continues to promote the use of phonics (supported by the English Hubs Programme) and support schools to offer a high quality, knowledge rich curriculum, both of which are critical to ensuring boys are able to achieve well in later life. The Government has also transformed the way mathematics is taught in schools based on the best available international evidence, including approaches from the highest performing countries in the world. Reform of the mathematics curriculum was accompanied by the introduction of a National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, which is now working with a network of 40 mathematics hubs to help local schools improve the quality of their teaching through the £100 million Teaching for Mastery programme. In addition, the Government has established the Oak National Academy, setting aside up to £43 million over the next three years to support it to provide high quality resources to schools.

The Department continues to support schools through the Pupil Premium, National Tutoring Programme and Recovery Premium. More than £1 billion is available to support tutoring up to 2023/24, with a further £1 billion of Recovery Premium funding in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 academic years.

The Department continues to assess the impact of these specific programmes where possible and to consider their combined impact on attainment outcomes for pupils overall, alongside the large scale research and evaluation of the EEF.