White Working Class Children Are Falling Behind On GCSEs, Sutton Trust Report Reveals

Three-quarters of white working class boys do not achieve five good GCSEs.

Three-quarters of white working class boys fail to achieve five good GCSE grades, new research has revealed.

Only 24% of white British schoolboys gain five A*-Cs including English and Maths - making them the worst performing of the main ethnic groups in the country.

It is the tenth time they have been ranked the lowest or second lowest performing ethnic group in the past decade, the Press Association reported.

A third of white working class girls achieve five good GCSEs, meaning they are the worst performing main female ethnic group.

However, Chinese pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are almost three times more likely to achieve five good GCSEs than their white working class peers.

The research, published by the Sutton Trust, found that over the past decade disadvantaged Bangladeshi, black African and Chinese pupils had improved their grades by more than 20 percentage points - far above the national average improvement of 13.5 percentage points.

What’s more, the difference in GCSE performance between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils was greatest for white British (32 percentage points) and Irish (46 percentage points) teenagers, while the gap for Chinese and Bangladeshi students was far smaller at three percentage points and nine percentage points respectively.

<strong>Schools must help disadvantaged white students do better in exams, the Sutton Trust says </strong>
Schools must help disadvantaged white students do better in exams, the Sutton Trust says
Tim Macpherson via Getty Images

Researchers also found that disadvantaged girls tended to perform better than disadvantaged boys, with an average attainment gap of eight percentage points. Black Caribbean boys had the greatest attainment gap - falling 17 percentage points behind in GCSE performance.

They said the difference in attainment between the ethnic groups was likely to be because of improvement in urban schools, cultural attitudes and targeted funds for education in certain communities.

The Sutton Trust is now calling on the Government to consider incentivising well-qualified teachers and to support highly able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They also urged schools to implement targeted improvement programmes for students particularly at risk of falling behind - such as white working class children - and to create more opportunities for disadvantaged ethnic groups to supplement core lessons.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said it was “particularly concerning” that white working class pupils still perform badly.

“The fact that Indian, Bangladeshi and Chinese pupils from poor homes are performing better than the national average is in itself a great achievement.

“This may reflect a strong cultural appreciation of education from which we can all learn. But it is worrying that there is such a disparity in the achievement of different ethnic groups at GCSE and particularly concerning that white working class boys and girls continue to perform so poorly.

“Harnessing that same will to learn that we see in many ethnic minority groups in white working class communities should be a part of the solution to the low attainment of many boys and girls. We need a more concerted effort with white working class boys, in particular.

“This should ensure that every pupil, regardless of family income, gender or ethnicity has the chance to succeed.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that education was “at the heart” of their ambition to make the country one that “works for everyone”.

“Thanks to the Government’s reforms over the last six years, more than 1.4 million more children are in schools that are rated good or outstanding than in 2010.

“We want all children, whatever their background, to be able to go as far as their talents will take them.”