CHILDREN in Hampshire with English as a mother tongue are lagging behind their classmates in Year 1 reading tests, figures show.

Education charity the Education Endowment Foundation says that tackling schools with similar groups of pupils achieving very different results is one of the "biggest challenges" the education system faces.

Each year, pupils are given a phonics screening check – an assessment of whether they can understand the relationship between the sounds of spoken language and how words are spelled.

Of the 14,046 Year 1 children in Hampshire with English as their mother tongue, 83% passed their test 2019.

Meanwhile, the 1,270 whose first language is not English had a pass rate of 83.3%.

The test consists of a list of 40 words, half real words and half non-words, which Year 1 children read to a teacher. It helps identify children who need extra help, so they are given support by their school to improve their reading skills.

Overall, Hampshire had an 82.8% pass rate in the exam.

Across England, the average pass rate was 82.2%, but varied significantly.

In Richmond, which had the highest pass rate, 87.1% of children passed the test. At the other end of the scale, Peterborough performed worst with just 77.1% of children passing the exam.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation said: "At all stages of the education system, we see schools with similar groups of pupils achieve very different results.

"We know that children whose first language is not English perform, on average, at a similar level to native speakers.

The reasons for children with English as their second language performing better in reading tests are complex, he said, but one possible reason is the high concentration of these pupils in urban schools, which tend to perform better than schools in rural and coastal areas."

There is some evidence that speaking two or more languages can help cognitive function," he added.

The figures also showed that in Hampshire, BAME children had an average pass rate of 85.7%, above the 82.8% for their classmates.

Across England, more girls passed the test than boys – this was also true in Hampshire, where 86.7% of girls passed, compared to 79% of boys.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want every child to reach their potential, and this means ensuring all children can read fluently upon leaving primary school, irrespective of background.

“Reading and writing are the foundations of any broad and balanced curriculum. Our increased focus on phonics means more children are being equipped with these basic building blocks at the earliest stage.

“We’ve invested £26.3 million in a national network of English hubs to spread best practice in the teaching of reading”