Closing the reading gender gap with NGRT


We have been using The Complete Digital Solution (CDS) package – a collection of core assessments from GL Assessment - at Penkridge Middle School for a number of years. 

Over the last few years, our Key Stage 2 SATs and GL Assessment tests have identified a gender gap in reading where boys are not achieving as highly as girls. Using the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) twice a year with each year group really helps us to keep an eye on this trend. When we had our last Ofsted inspection, we were able to use NGRT reports to show some gaps were closing. 

A complete reading scheme

When our current Year 5 students completed NGRT in October 2018, the whole year group was classed as significantly below national average. Although the boys were not classed as significantly different from the girls, we could see there was a gap in terms of their mean Standard Age Score (SAS). While the national average SAS is 100, our mean SAS for boys was 95.2 and the mean SAS for girls was 99.7, with a gap of 4.5 points between the two. 

We knew that by regularly testing students with NGRT alone this would not help us to improve our boys’ reading, so we started to unpick the issues. We found that many of the girls were bringing in suitable reading books to read, however several of the boys weren’t. Although we have always had a reading scheme for our lower ability students, we did not have a complete reading scheme for Years 5 and 6 (since many students were coming up from First Schools classed as ‘Free readers’). 

As a result, we decided that we would invest in a reading scheme for all of Years 5 and 6. The Head of English chose carefully to ensure that what we bought was boy friendly, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and would also challenge our most-able. After much research, she decided on the package for us and we introduced this just after Christmas. The books are attractive, linked to other aspects of the curriculum, but not too long (that can sometimes put off boys). 

The children took home their books but also read them in registration times, answering questions to help with their comprehension skills. There has been a real buzz about reading in the mornings and always a queue of children ready to change their books. We have also signed up reading volunteers to support our teachers in the mornings, listening to students read (which again many primary schools do but this wasn’t something we had done as a middle school). 

At the end of March, we wanted to measure the impact that the new reading scheme had on Year 5, therefore the students sat NGRT again. Results showed that, as a whole cohort, they were no longer significantly different from the national average. The Year 5 boys’ mean SAS was 98.0 (an increase from 95.2), and the girls’ mean SAS was now 102.6 (an increase from 99.7). The overall SAS had gone from 97.3 to 100.1 and the gap was now 4.6. Although it hadn’t closed, we are still pleased as the boys and girls have all moved forward with their reading.

At the end of the year, we will also test our students with the Progress Test in English (PTE) to measure other English skills, as well as the Progress Test in Maths (PTM) and the Progress Test in Science (PTS) (which we also use as entry tests). We are looking forward to completing NGRT with Year 6, however we are waiting until post SATs to avoid any extra pressure for our children. 

Penkridge Middle School is one of our Advocate Partners 


Natalie Frost

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