White working-class pupils are lowest achievers

White working-class pupils are the lowest-achieving group in English schools because they have low aspirations and do not do their homework, an official study shows.

Boys and girls from that social group made the least progress at secondary school and achieved the worst GCSE results of any group. But black and Bangladeshi boys from well-off professional families were also not achieving their true potential, the survey found. They failed to progress at secondary school despite having parental support, high aspirations and being diligent about their homework, said Dr Steve Strand from Warwick University, who headed the study.

He said further research was needed to discover why this group failed but suggested low expectations by teachers could be holding them back. The report, for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, warned of a growing divide between the performance of white working-class youngsters and children from wealthier homes. Children whose parents could afford to provide them with a home computer or private tuition did well. Pupils who suffered "family discord" and whose parents did not monitor their whereabouts were likely to do badly.

White working-class pupils reported doing the least amount of homework, had the least academic self-confidence and the lowest aspirations and these factors are "key in interpreting their poor progress". Dr Strand said: "The social class gap, and the poor attainment of pupils from low socio-economic class homes whatever their ethnic group, ought to be seen as a cause for concern. White British pupils are consistently the lowest achieving ethnic group whatever the socio-economic dimension, social class of the home, mother's education, entitlement to free school meals, rented housing, single-parent households and neighbourhood deprivation."

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said parental engagement in schools made "a real difference", adding: "Unfortunately, often in some homes education is not seen as important and pupils are not given that support at home to say, 'You can achieve and education can open doors'."