Hard-working ethnic minority pupils lifting schools’ results as 'London effect' takes hold

Areas with high proportions of recent immigrant children outperforming white British districts

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The Independent Online

The key to successful schools is having lots of pupils from ethnic minorities, according to a new study which suggests the work ethic of immigrant families leads to better exam results.

Research into the “London effect”, which sees the capital’s schools outperforming the rest of the country in their GCSEs, puts the achievement down to the diverse ethnic make-up of its schools.

Analysis published today by the University of Bristol points out that only 34 per cent of Year 11 pupils (studying for GCSEs) are white British, the lowest performing ethnic group, compared to 84 per cent for the rest of the country.

London’s spectacular performance had previously been put down to policy initiatives such as the TeachFirst scheme under which the brightest graduates were recruited to work in the city’s schools or the introduction of the literacy and numeracy hours in primary schools.

However, the report says that London’s schools have benefited from having more migrants coming to the city as “it is argued that ethnic minority pupils have greater ambition, aspiration and work harder in school”.

It adds: “This is the main argument here – London has more of these pupils and so has a higher average GCSE score than the rest of the country.”

Figures show that pupils in the capital, on average, score eight grades higher in their GCSEs than the rest of the country, which means eight Cs rather than eight Ds or eight As rather than eight Bs.

A similar picture emerges in Birmingham, where schools outperform the rest of England “to a greater extent than London pupils do”. Again, the city has a diverse ethnic community.

Comparing Newcastle, where 11.8 per cent of the population was born abroad, with London, where the figure is 34.7 per cent, the report’s main conclusion appears to be borne out again. The difference in attainment is 15 GCSE grade points per pupil in London’s favour.

Analysis of the London results shows no significant difference between the progress of white British pupils in London and in the rest of the country. “The London progress premium has existed for the last decade and is entirely accounted for by ethnic composition in each year,” it adds.

“There is nothing inherently different in the educational performance of pupils from different ethnic backgrounds (when compared to the rest of England) but the children of relatively recent immigrants typically have greater hopes and expectations of education and are, on average, consequently likely to be more engaged with their school work,” the study says.

In addition, the research shows that the performance of ethnic minority pupils varies little whether they live in the wealthier suburbs or the more disadvantaged areas.

The report concedes policy initiatives may have played a part in creating the “London effect”.

“My argument is that the London effect is a very positive thing but much of the praise for this should be allocated to the pupils and parents of London for creating a successful multi-ethnic school system,” said Professor Simon Burgess, of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol, which carried out the research.

He added: “We know that ethnic minority pupils score more highly in GCSEs relative to their prior attainment (on arrival at secondary school) than white British pupils. London simply has a lot more of these high-achieving pupils and so has a higher average GCSE score than the rest of the country.”