Boys in South Gloucestershire are less likely to pass year one reading tests than girls, new figures show.

Department for Education data shows the results of phonics tests, which children take aged five and six.

Children sound out a series of specially created words to show they can read the letters rather than just recognise words. If they fail they repeat the test in year two.

In South Gloucestershire 88 per cent of girls passed this years' tests, compared with 82 per cent of boys.

The National Education Union (NEU) believes this could be due to how boys interact.

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the NEU, said: "The answer might be in the quality of boys’ social interaction in early childhood, contrasted with girls’.

"Social interaction develops language skills, which in turn contribute to learning.

"This suggests that the answer to improving standards lies not in more formal teaching at an early age, but on improving children’s social skills."

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, added: “In prioritising phonics above other approaches to the teaching of reading, the Government is doing children no service.

Overall phonics test scores have been steadily rising.

In South Gloucestershire, 85 per cent of pupils passed this year, compared with 57 per cent in 2012. Across England the pass rate has risen from 58 per cent to 82 per cent.