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Boys' poor English tackled

The Government is promising to tackle the poor performance of boys in English by funding projects to identify effective special measures.

Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, announced this week that Pounds 175,000 is to be provided to test out schemes designed to bridge the gap between boys' and girls' achievement in literacy, particularly at the late primary and early secondary level.

Schemes will be mainly targeted at boys who are up to two years behind their reading age at 14. The pilots to be run in secondary schools from September will include intensive short-term instruction in small groups and paired reading programmes.

The focus on poor readers is part of a set of measures to be spearheaded by the Basic Skills Agency to promote the Government as taking a firm approach to the basics.

The skills agency is also to pilot a family numeracy project to improve maths by ensuring parents have mastered basic skills. It will be on similar lines to the family literacy project.

Mrs Shephard defended the concentration on boys' literacy problems, rather than initiatives aimed at narrowing the lead boys have on girls in numeracy. She insisted that the gap in maths is not as marked and is not reflected in exam results.

"There will be different approaches. Schools may offer extra lessons or special programmes," she said.

The skills agency will carry out a feasibility study on a parent's helpline. There are to be 15 projects launched in September to identify disaffected 14 to 19-year-olds and bring them back into education. The number of places for pre-vocational training is to be trebled at a cost of Pounds 60 million.

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