The publication of a major international comparison of reading among ten-year-olds which showed that England had fallen from third to fifteenth position in the past five years. Scotland fell from fourteenth to twenty-first place in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, run by Boston College in Massachusetts. Russian children came top in the study.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
As the study measures comparative performance of reading among 4,000 10-year-olds in 40 countries, there is no evidence that reading standards have fallen in England, only that other countries have caught up and overtaken English children.
The study did show, however, that English ten-year-olds were now reading less at home than they did five years ago. The fall was particularly high among the highest-achieving children. The literacy report for England, produced for the Government by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), found that 22 % of English children spent five hours or more playing computer or video games on a normal school day, with 37 % spending more than three hours. This was exceeded only by the US and seven other countries. Although the report concluded that time playing computer games was linked to poor results in the tests, it did not say how. There are no direct comparisons between 2001 and 2006 for computer-game playing.
The report did find, however, that the proportion of teachers in England failing to set reading homework had risen from 4 to 11 % in the past 5 years. The proportion of teachers devoting more than 3 hours a week to teaching reading fell from 88 to 80 per cent.
The report also found a clear association between the number of books at home and reading attainment. The 23 % of children with 200 or more books at home had significantly higher reading scores than the ten % with ten or fewer books. The proportion of children who never read outside school had increased significantly since 2001.