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To date, only one study has investigated educational attainment in poor (reading) comprehenders, providing evidence of poor performance on national UK school tests at age 11 years relative to peers (Cain and Oakhill, 2006). In the present study, we adopted a longitudinal approach, tracking attainment on such tests from 11 years to the end of compulsory schooling in the UK (age 16 years). We aimed to investigate the proposal that educational weaknesses (defined as poor performance on national assessments) might become more pronounced over time, as the curriculum places increasing demands on reading comprehension. Participants comprised 15 poor comprehenders and 15 controls; groups were matched for chronological age, nonverbal reasoning ability and decoding skill. Children were identified at age 9 years using standardized measures of nonverbal reasoning, decoding and reading comprehension. These measures, along with a measure of oral vocabulary knowledge, were repeated at age 11 years. Data on educational attainment were collected from all participants (n = 30) at age 11 and from a subgroup (n = 21) at 16 years. Compared to controls, educational attainment in poor comprehenders was lower at ages 11 and 16 years, an effect that was significant at 11 years. When poor comprehenders were compared to national performance levels, they showed significantly lower performance at both time points. Low educational attainment was not evident for all poor comprehenders. Nonetheless, our findings point to a link between reading comprehension difficulties in mid to late childhood and poor educational outcomes at ages 11 and 16 years. At these ages, pupils in the UK are making key transitions: they move from primary to secondary schools at 11, and out of compulsory schooling at 16.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Psychol

Publication Date





educational attainment, oral vocabulary, poor comprehenders, reading comprehension, specific reading comprehension impairment