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Save the Children: Boys falling behind in the early years

Save the Children has published a report today which reveals that nearly 90,000 boys fell behind in early language and communication skills by at the age of 5 last year.

The Lost Boys: How Boys Are Falling Behind In Their Early Years, which was commissioned by the charity, focuses on the implications of the well-documented gender gap. It states that boys in England are nearly twice as likely as girls to fall behind in language and literacy and calls for more investment into the early years workforce to close the gender gap.

The impact of the lack of early language skills is apparent – according to Save the Children nearly a million boys are at risk over the next decade unless they have access to high quality early years education. A lack of core language skills could prevent them from expressing thoughts and feelings and stop them from being able to engage with others.

The gender gap is evident in every part of the country, but when disadvantage and gender both come into the equation, the numbers increase dramatically. It is well documented that the risk of falling behind at 5 is much higher for children (both boys and girls) growing up in poverty, and the report confirms that the gender gap is the highest in deprived areas. Nearly 40% of the poorest 5-year-old boys fell behind in early language and communication last year.

When boys fall behind, many struggle to get back on track. In fact they are four times more likely to fall below expected standards of reading by the end of primary school than those who started school on track. The report points to a direct correlation when boys struggle in the early years and the negative impact on their employment prospects and health outcomes. 

Victoria Flint, Director of Communications, PACEY, comments:

“While the gender gap in early years is not a new phenomenon, the expectation has always been that boys automatically ‘catch up’ once they are in school. But this report highlights that the gender gap at age 5 often has a longer-term negative impact on boys’ lives, limiting their future prospects. Unsurprisingly, boys from disadvantaged backgrounds fare the worst. High quality early education is absolutely key to narrowing the gap between boys and girls, as well as between the most and least disadvantaged children, with early years practitioners playing a vital role in developing early language skills.

"PACEY is calling on the Government to prioritise support for qualifications and training in its upcoming workforce strategy, as research from around the globe has shown that these are inextricably linked to quality. We shouldn’t simply accept existing gaps based on gender or socioeconomic status, nor are we powerless to eradicate them. World class early education would go a long way in helping future generations of children to achieve their full potential.”