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One In Ten Children Leave Primary School Unable To Brush Their Teeth

By David Saunders  | UPDATED: 05:28, 22 January 2020

Children are leaving primary school without basic life skills such as being able to brush their own teeth, dress themselves and tell the time, and now research reveals that girls may be falling behind.

According to a new study, almost one in six (16%) primary school leavers are unable to swim, despite the national curriculum stating that all children should be able to swim 25 metres by this time. One in ten (9%) can’t use a watch to tell the time, whilst a tenth can’t dress themselves at this age.

And although previous studies suggest that girls outperform their male peers on all levels, the new research by watch and sunglasses specialist, Tic Watches, suggests that boys are more advanced when it comes to more practical life skills*.

A concerning one in seven (15%) girls leave primary school unable to brush their teeth without assistance, compared to just 4% of boys. Equally worrying, 10% of girls of the same age are unable to dress themselves, compared to 8% of boys.

The research also showed one in ten boys left primary school unable to ride a bike (10%), compared to one in six girls (16%). Meanwhile, one in ten girls are unable to tell the time using a watch (10%), in comparison to 8% of boys at this age.

The most common basic skills that children leave primary school without are:

  1. Swimming (16%)

  2. Knowing their times tables (13%)

  3. Riding a bike (13%)

  4. Reading full sentences (10%)

  5. Brushing their own teeth (10%)

Mya Medina, Chief Education Adviser at online tutoring service, Tutor House, commented: “The stereotype is that girls are better at language and verbal communication, including reading, while boys are better at technical subjects like science and maths. Equally, it’s been said that girls take better care of themselves and behave more maturely, thus taking on tasks, such as dressing themselves and brushing their teeth, with greater success.

“This research should be seen as proving the importance of nurture over nature in developing skills. While few scientists would try to claim that male and female brains are identical, it is increasingly being proven that the difference is so minor that you would not see a difference in their skills. Increasingly, science is showing that nurture has a far greater effect on a child’s skills, knowledge and ability than we had acknowledged.

She concluded: “Perhaps parents are becoming more aware of the stereotypes and are investing more time in teaching sons to dress themselves and brush their teeth. Alternatively, this could be a symptom of a crisis of confidence in young girls and an ongoing issue where girls can be overlooked or take a back seat in early-stage schooling, thus receiving less support.”

Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “It’s surprising to see that boys are outperforming their female peers on these basic life skills, however it’s concerning to see just how many are leaving primary school unable to do many of these things, in particular swimming, a skill which is taught as part of the curriculum.”

“This research shows how important it is that kids are given the opportunities to thrive both at home and at school, to ensure that they are fully prepared when they move on to high school.”

For more of this research, including more basic life skills, please visit

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