Figures show education gender gap

Boys are lagging behind girls in reading, writing and arithmetic before they start school, with over one in seven struggling to write their own name, figures show.

New Government statistics show that while boys have made some progress, a gender gap remains, with girls performing better in many areas, including writing and counting.

The figures show that 15% of five-year-old boys in England cannot write their own name, or short words like "cat" or "dog", compared to 8% of girls.

In 2011, 19% of boys and 10% of girls could not achieve this task.

The latest statistics also show that more than a third (38%) of boys and almost a fifth (19%) of girls cannot write a simple shopping list, or a letter to Santa.

Some 8% of boys cannot count up to 10, compared to 5% of girls. This is also a slight improvement on last year, when 9% of boys and 6% of girls could not do this.

The Department for Education figures for 2012, show how many five-year-olds are achieving specific early learning "goals" covering areas such as social skills, literacy and numeracy and emotional development.

Ministers have revamped the early education, often dubbed the "nappy curriculum", and cut the number of goals a child is expected to reach by age five from 69 to 17.

The slimmed down curriculum, which focuses on communication and language, physical skills, and personal, social and emotional development, was introduced last month. There is also a "progress check" for two-year-olds.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss, said: "We have improved the Early Years Foundation Stage to focus on outcomes. Parents now have a clearer sense of how their child is progressing. I want to further improve quality so that parents can have confidence in the early education their children are receiving."