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Girls get more from early intervention

THREE years of early intervention has done little to close the gap between the attainment levels of boys and girls, according to the experience of primary schools in Angus. Overall progress, however, remains impressive.

An evaluation of primary 3 pupils at the end of last session, the first group whose early years felt the full impact of the literacy and numeracy initiative, shows that reading scores for girls were on average five points ahead.

A report by Jim Anderson, Angus's director of education, stressed the need "to address gender differences and any evidence of underachievement among boys". The council's early intervention team found that girls have outperformed boys both in achieving higher scores and in getting better results than would have been predicted by their scores in P1.

Angus's experience, based on 192 children from eight schools, also echoes findings from elsewhere that early intervention appears to improve literacy and numeracy scores for all pupils, which means the gap between the highest and lowest achievers remains virtually unaffected.

The figures show that pupils scring 115 or above on the Edinburgh Reading Test (the average in the eight primaries last session was 106) rose from 16 per cent in 1998 to 31 per cent in June. Similarly, the numbers in the same high-achieving category as measured by the Maths 7 group test increased from nil to 32 per cent.

Despite these uneven effects Angus is pleased with the overall results so far. The number of children who are reaching the average scores for their chronological age has steadily improved, from 56 per cent to 72 per cent in reading and from 54 per cent to 67 per cent in maths. Results from two schools showed pupils "significantly overachieved", going above the 80 per cent mark in reading and maths.

Most P3 pupils made a nine-point gain in maths and a 13-point gain in reading above the predictions set for them in P1.

Teachers put the improvements down to more time being spent on literacy related activities and new methods such as more alphabet work, using big books and phonological awareness training. Heads and P1 teachers said that class assistants were the most valuable part of early intervention.

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