Poor white boys 'falling further behind'

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The Independent Online

Poor white boys are falling further behind their classmates in English and maths, official figures showed today.

Less than half (48 per cent) of male, white British 11-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds reached Level 4, the standard expected of the age group, in these subjects, according to statistics for 2008/09 published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

This is compared with a national average 71.8 per cent of all boys and girls that are reaching the expected standard - an attainment gap of 23.8 percentage points.

The attainment gap has grown since last year when it stood at 23.1 percentage points.

There are 31,237 white British boys that are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) - a measure of poverty.

Among white British boys who are not eligible for FSM, 76.5 per cent reached Level 4.

The figures also show that only around one in five pupils who are travellers of Irish heritage (21.6 per cent) reached Level 4, although there are only a few hundred of these pupils.

Some 51.6 per cent of poor black boys reached Level 4 along with 54.7 per cent of poor boys from a Pakistani background and 54.2 per cent of poor boys of a mixed heritage.

Pupils (both boys and girls) from a Chinese background were the highest performers with 81.8 per cent reaching Level 4 in English and maths.

The statistics also show that an overall attainment gap remains between those on FSM and those that are not.

Some 53.3 per cent of those eligible reached Level 4, compared with 75.5 per cent of their classmates who were not eligible - an attainment gap of 22.2 percentage points.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: "Let's face facts - primary school standards have been transformed over the last 12 years with 98,000 more 11-year-olds now reaching expected levels in English and mathematics regardless of their backgrounds. No one would want to turn the clock back.

"No child should fall behind at school and we know there is still more to do - that's why we've set out a comprehensive programme to close historic attainment gaps further, wherever they exist."