One in four boys is turned off school by the age of 7

15 October 2010

Almost one in four boys in the UK is already “anti-school” by the age of seven, a major survey has revealed.

Boys of this age are more than twice as likely as girls to say they do not like school, according to a study from the Institute of Education, University of London. Twenty-four per cent do not enjoy primary school, compared with only 10 per cent of girls.

The research, which involved more than 14,000 children, also found that 63 per cent of seven-year-old girls, but only 43 per cent of boys, like school “a lot”.

The findings have emerged from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking the development of children born in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland between 2000 and 2002. The study’s latest survey, carried out in 2008/9, has confirmed that seven-year-old boys are much less keen than girls on reading. Less than half of the boys (48%) said they enjoy reading, compared with nearly two-thirds of girls (65%).

Boys appear to like number work and science marginally more than girls do. However, girls of this age appear to be more focused on their schoolwork and are more likely than boys to say they always try their best at school.

Four in five girls also say they behave well in class – a claim made by only three in five boys. Half of the girls (51%) believe that their teachers think they are clever, compared with 44 per cent of the boys.

The researchers who analysed the children’s responses, Aleks Collingwood and Nadine Simmonds, of the National Centre for Social Research, also point out that girls seem to be happier, in general, than boys. Boys are more likely to say they are worried or admit they have short tempers.

The survey also found that boys enjoy:

  • watching television, videos and DVDs more than girls do (boys 79%:girls 68%)
  • playing console games such as Xbox and PlayStation (82%:52%)
  • taking part in sports and outdoor games (74%:66%).

However, girls are more likely than boys to say they like:

  • listening to, and playing, music (66%:46%)
  • drawing and making things (81%:62%).

The findings appear in a report published today by the Institute of Education’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies: Millennium Cohort Study, Fourth Survey: A User’s Guide to Initial Findings. Copies of the report can be downloaded from (from 10am on Friday, October 15).

Further information from:

David Budge

(off) 020 7911 5349

(mob) 07811 415362

Notes for editors:

  1. The Millennium Cohort Study has been tracking the Millennium children through their early childhood and plans to follow them into adulthood. It covers such diverse topics as parenting; childcare; school choice; child behaviour and cognitive development; child and parental health; parents’ employment and education; income; housing; and neighbourhood. It is the first of the nationwide cohort studies to over-sample areas with high densities of ethnic minorities and large numbers of disadvantaged families. Previous surveys of the cohort were carried out when the children were aged nine months, three years and five years. The study is housed at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education. It was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, whose funding has been supplemented by a consortium of government departments.
  2. Data from the fieldwork for the fourth survey of the Millennium cohort are now available from the UK Data Archive .The age 7 survey included interviews with co-resident parents and cognitive assessments and physical measurements of the children. For the first time the children were asked to fill in a self-completion questionnaire, which produced the findings reported in this press release. This questionnaire contained 38 questions in total on their hobbies, feelings, friends and schooling.
  3. The contract for data collection in MCS is awarded under competitive tender to specialist agencies. For three of the four surveys undertaken to date the data collection was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, who in turn sub-contracted the interviewing in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The agency responsible for the second round of data collection was Gfk-NOP, who sub-contracted in Northern Ireland to Millward Brown.
  4. The National Centre for Social Research is Britain’s leading social research institute. Information on the Centre’s work is available at
  5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  6. The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the publications that the IOE submitted were judged to be internationally significant and over a third were judged to be “world leading”. The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its “high quality” initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students “to want to be outstanding teachers”. The IOE is a member of the 1994 group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.


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