Girls' superiority is a false assumption

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
In your report on gender bias in baseline assessment ("Tests may brand boys as failures", TES, June 19) most of the commentators you have quoted appear to accept unquestioningly the assumption that girls will inevitably score higher than boys.

They do not seem to have considered the alternative that the findings could be an artefact of the nature and inherent unreliability of the assessment process.

Conventional baseline schemes rely on simple check lists or observations and consequently are particularly vulnerable to subjectivity and unreliability.

When administering these schemes some teachers may attempt to make allowances for "expected" gender differences and others may not.

Accordingly, there is likely to be such wide variability in results from school to school and scheme to scheme that comparison will be meaningless and interpretation confounded.

Computer-based methods can help to provide a more objective approach to baseline assessment and permit proper comparisons. We have been evaluating the computerised scheme CoPS Baseline, which is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

As well as being standardised and objective, this is a speedy and efficient form of assessment that young children greatly enjoy. Most notably, in our research data we found no significant differences between boys and girls in either literacy or mathematics.

This runs counter to the presumption that girls are necessarily superior and suggests that the adoption of more objective baseline assessment methods can help to avoid boys being"written off " when they start school.

Dr Chris Singleton
Senior lecturer in educational psychology
Department of Psychology
University of Hull

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