Poor white boys sliding down GCSE pass rates

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Tuesday 15 December 2009 16:30

Boys from white working class homes are falling further behind their classmates when it comes to GCSE passes, according to a breakdown of this summer’s results.

A breakdown of the pass rate shows that fewer than one in five white British boys on free school meals obtained five A* to C grade passes including maths and English – the yardstick by which success is traditionally measured.

That put them 31.5 percentage points behind the national average – a rise of 1.3 percentage points in the gap in the past three years.

Separate research also published by the Government today underlined their poor performance.

The research, by Andy Ross from the National Centre for Social Research , showed youngsters who were “disengaged” with education by the time they were 13 were “more likely to be white males”.

“They were especially unlikely to be Indian, Pakistani or Black African,” it added.

One of the main reasons they had switched off from school was lack of support at home from their parents - mainly as a result of them having poor experiences of education or finding jobs.

Studies have shown that ethnic minority parents traditionally have given a higher value to education.

One in three of those disengaged also said they liked "hardly any or none” of their teachers.

Today’s breakdown of the GCSE results also showed there was still a glaring gap between the performance of all pupils on free school meals and those from more affluent backgrounds.

Just over a quarter of youngsters from poor homes (26.9 per cent) got five top grade passes including maths and English compared with 54.4 per cent from more affluent homes. The gap, though, had fallen from 28.1 percentage points to 27.5 in the past three years.

There was good news for boys overall, though. They had narrowed the gap in performance with girls by 0.9 per cent in the past year – the largest ever reduction. It was now at 7.2 percentage points with 54.5 per cent of girls getting the benchmark and 47.3 per cent of boys.

The performance of all ethnic minority groups rose in the past year – up 4.4percentage points in the case of black youngsters compared with 3.1 percentage points overall.

Chinese pupils still achieved the best results with 72 per cent and Indian youngsters were in second place with 67.2 per cent.

The gap was criticised by David Laws, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, who said: “It is shameful that the most disadvantaged children are only half as likely to get five good GCSEs than those who are better off.”

However, John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, argued that the fall in the overall gap between poor and better off youngsters showed ministers had been right top put more money into schools in disadvantaged urban areas.

However, disadvantaged youngsters living in a more affluent area had not shown such an improvement.

“At present, disadvantaged pupils in rural areas, which tend to be less well funded, receive less support as the schools cannot afford to employ the extra staff required,” Dr Dunford added.

Overall, the percentage of youngsters gaining the benchmark had risen from 47.8 per cent last year to 50.9 per cent of pupils this summer.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said the figures showed “huge sustained rises in GCSE results”.

However, he added: “While today’s figures show that the attainment gap between free school meal pupils and their peers continues to close, we are not complacent and are determined that ever that every single pupil gets the support they need.

“But there are no single, easy solutions to making sure individual children in individual classrooms get the most out of school.”

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