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On the map - Early years - Girls win in all ethnic groups

The Department for Education's study of pupils achieving "a good level of development" at the Early Years Foundation Stage raises some interesting questions when examined on a gender and ethnicity basis.

At the current stage of our cultural history it is possible to consider established ethnic groups for such a study but, as the group classified as "mixed" now almost equates to the "black" group in size, how we define identity in future may be an interesting question for policy-makers.

To achieve a good level of development in this study, each child needed to achieve an average score across a range of areas of assessed learning. Overall, girls scored more highly than boys in achieving the "good level of development" score. The largest differences were in the mixed and black categories, where boys averaged a difference of 18 percentage points less than girls. This compares with only a seven percentage point difference among the relatively small Chinese group. This was due to Chinese girls performing far less well than their peers in other ethnic groups rather than Chinese boys out-performing other boys.

While white boys, by far the largest group, scored higher than any other group of boys, they were still almost 17 percentage points adrift of the average 65 per cent score achieved by white girls.

Of course, it is worth asking whether such scores are good enough, and what might be required to bring up the overall levels further. It should also be noted that, compared with the 2007 results, almost all groups had higher outcomes in the 2010 profile, with only Pakistani, Bangladeshi, GypsyRoma and children of travellers of Irish heritage having 2010 outcomes below the 2007 average score, the last two groups markedly so.

With the birth rate on the increase, the number of trained teachers working in early years will need to increase. Their training should ensure that scores will improve further across all groups, however we choose to define them.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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