AS "the problem with boys" hit the headlines again this week, an investigation in Renfrewshire primaries shows boys falling behind girls in the earliest years.
The study, by Jim Grimmond, depute head of St Andrew's Academy in Paisley, reveals that 5-14 test results show disparities from primary 3 and these open up substantially by primary 7 in reading, writing and maths. Girls' writing skills are up to 25 per cent better than boys in some schools.
Mr Grimmond, who is seconded to Renfrewshire's education department, said average results from 5-14 tests disguised the gaps. "For example, in primary 3 the school average could be 80 per cent achieving level A but girls could be at 90 per cent and boys at 70 per cent. A lot of primary headteachers were quite surprised at the differences."
An analysis of last year's test results across the authority found that, on average, boys' reading attainment levels were 7 per cent behind that of girls, by 13 per cent in riting and by 4 per cent in maths. A working group will now examine the implications and report by May.
The Inspectorate is particularly anxious that the problem is tackled as early as possible, particularly in improving boys' competence in English, to avoid them doing even worse by the time they come to sit national exams. The Scottish Executive has commissioned a study from Edinburgh University on these gender issues which expects to report by next year.
The latest figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority show the gap between the sexes is widening, with boys outperforming girls in only six of 34 Higher subjects. Pass rates show girls six points ahead in English, four points in maths, 11 points in physics and 14 points in craft and design
Standard grades tell the same story. The top two grades in English were achieved by 49 per cent of females but only 33 per cent of males. Gaps in achievement have widened considerably since 1990.