A study of around 8,400 five-year-olds showed that the top ten per cent of girls achieved higher scores than boys in a range of tests and in an analysis of EYFS Profile scores.
In general there were more girls than boys among the top ten per cent and more boys than girls in the bottom ten per cent.
Dr Kirstine Hansen and Dr Elizabeth Jones of the Institute of Education looked at how girls and boys that had been tracked by the Millennium Cohort Study had performed in a series of vocabulary, picture similarities and pattern completion tests.
Girls scores were higher than boys’ scores in every ethnic group.
However, the researchers found that the size of the gender gap differed by ethnicity.
Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black girls were furthest ahead of boys from their own ethnic background at the age of five, while the gap between white and Indian boys and girls was much narrower.
The researchers expected that the gender gaps in favour of girls would be even greater in the EYFS Profile than in the other tests.
The researchers also wanted to see how children’s scores were affected by their ethnicity.
They found that for most ethnic groups – except Pakistani and Bangladeshi children – the gender gap in favour of girls was indeed greater.
They also found that the gender gap in teacher-assessed scores was very similar across all ethnic groups.
Dr Hansen and Dr Jones said, ‘Our study indicates that girls do tend to do better on continuous assessment than boys or that teachers react to girls more favourably.
‘It was also interesting to find that the gender gaps are highly similar across ethnic groups for the Profile. This suggests that teachers’ views of boys and girls are not differentially affected by children's ethnicity.’
The boys that schools should probably be most concerned about are black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, the researchers add.
‘However, for black boys, especially, the story is not entirely one of under-performance. They were also over-represented at the top of the attainment range among all black children.’
Ethnicity and gender gaps in early childhood is published in the British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 37, No.6.