Education & Family

Boys 'held back by reluctance to write at home'

Boy struggling Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption A fifth of boys do not reach the accepted level in writing at the end of primary school

Boys' reluctance to write outside school could be hampering their chances of fulfilling their potential, a National Literacy Trust study says.

Research among 30,000 eight- to 16-year-old pupils finds a third of boys never or rarely write for fun outside class, compared with 18% of girls.

A third of girls write daily, it says, compared with 21% of boys.

The Department for Education says the gap in boys' and girls' writing ability at age 11 has been narrowing.

'Writing uncool'

But the Trust warns that some boys' reluctance to pick up a pencil could be hampering their chances of reaching their potential.

It cites evidence that those who write for fun outside school are four times more likely to be writing above the expected level at the end of primary school than those who do not.

At the other end, nine times as many children and young people who do not enjoy writing at all, write below the expected level compared with those who enjoy writing very much.

And this is reflected in the achievement gap between boys and girls.

Last year, the gap was widest between boys and girls in writing assessment where 81% of boys achieved Level 4 (the expected standard at age 11) or above compared with 90% of girls.

However, as the DfE points out, the gap has narrowed since 2012 on this achievement, from 76% of boys reaching the expected standard and 87% of girls.

'Shopping lists'

Perhaps most worryingly, a significant number of boys appear to think writing is not "cool".

A fifth of boys said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them write. This compares with 12% of girls, the research said.

But the study also suggests boys' attitudes to writing becomes more negative as they enter secondary school.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, says we must focus on increasing boys' frequency and enjoyment of writing if we are to support them to succeed at school and throughout their lives.

"There are lots of ways in which teachers and parents can make writing fun for children. Setting challenges or giving children a purpose for writing such as writing a shopping list or Christmas card can hook them into doing it more regularly.

"Whether it's writing about a football match or their favourite X Factor contestant - giving children a topic which they feel passionate about can really inspire them to get into writing more.

"Supporting children to write daily for fun can have a lasting impact on their attitudes, motivation and enjoyment, which in turn helps to boost attainment - as our research shows."

The DfE said as a result of its plan for education, and the dedication of teachers, "thousands more children are leaving primary school able to read and write at the expected level for their age, helping young people go on to get jobs and build a better future".

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