City Research Online

The Relationship Between Oral Language Ability, Non-Verbal Ability, Socio-Economic Status and Academic Attainment with Reading Comprehension: A Longitudinal Study in Mainstream Secondary School-Age Students

Boyes, M. (2022). The Relationship Between Oral Language Ability, Non-Verbal Ability, Socio-Economic Status and Academic Attainment with Reading Comprehension: A Longitudinal Study in Mainstream Secondary School-Age Students. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This study aimed to explore the relationships between oral language ability, non-verbal ability, socio-economic status and academic attainment with reading comprehension in adolescents in a mainstream secondary school, and to understand the influence of oral language on reading comprehension.

Four hundred and forty-three students, aged 11-14 years in three cohorts (C7, C8 and C9) participated in the two-year study. Thirty-eight percent of the students lived in significant deprivation. Data was collected in the first year of the study for each cohort and the following year for the C7 and C8 cohorts (C7+1 and C8+1). Retrospective data was collected on C8 and C9 cohorts (C8-1 and C9-1, C9-2).

Data was collected from three sources for all cohorts: Statutory Assessment Tasks at the end of primary education (Year Six); data routinely collected in the secondary school (including assessments of reading comprehension (New Group Reading Test) and non-verbal ability (Cognitive Abilities Test)) and academic outcomes for a single cohort in the General Certificate of Secondary Education for English, Mathematics and Science (C9 in Year Eleven); thirdly, standardised language (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Recalling Sentences and Understanding Spoken Paragraphs) and word reading tests (Test of Word Reading Efficiency) specifically collected for the study.

Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses were used. The mixed study design allowed the exploration of changes in the oral ability, non-verbal ability, academic attainment and reading comprehension for these students as they moved through key academic stages in their education.

Cross sectional analysis showed that students in each cohort performed at the lower end of the age range for Recalling Sentences and below average on Understanding Spoken Paragraphs suggesting that most students experienced difficulties with listening comprehension. Reading comprehension and academic data showed that students in each cohort performed within their ability range, although word reading indicated a declining performance.

Longitudinal analysis showed that verbal reasoning made an increasing contribution to reading comprehension as children got older, and improvements in reading comprehension were supported by improvements in listening comprehension. Deprivation negatively influenced verbal reasoning and was associated with poorer reading outcomes over time.

In support of reciprocal models of reading (Nation, 2019; Tunmer and Hoover, 2019), fewer opportunities to practise reading skills and fewer opportunities to read new, challenging texts may be further depriving students’ chances to develop word recognition and language skills.

The current findings that oral language ability is an important factor in students’ reading and literacy success suggest that oral language needs to be supported by a whole-school language approach. Teaching implications include the importance of collaborative working practice between Speech and Language professionals and teachers in order to share skills and knowledge.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
P Language and Literature
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
[thumbnail of Boyes Thesis 2022 PDF-A.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (5MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login