White working class children are largest underachieving ethnic group across the country facing deep seated disadvantages

“It is important not to forget that while White British FSM boys are the worst performing ethnic group (out of boys); White British girls are the worst performing ethnic group (out of girls)” DES ‘Gender and Education’ 2007
“… White working class are not the only underachieving group, they are the largest in number and by many criteria the greatest underachievers” Mongon and Chapman 2008

“White British FSM pupils are the lowest attaining group … with only 17% achieving 5+A*-C (including English and maths), compared to the national average of 45%” DCSF ‘Deprivation and Education’ 2009

“At GCSE (using the 5+ A*-C measure), being eligible for FSM depresses scores by 32 percentage points for white British boys and 34 percentage points for girls. “The effect of FSM is huge for white British children” href=”http://www.education.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/DFES-00389-2007.pdf”>DES ‘Gender and Education’ 2007

“White British pupils are the lowest attaining ethnic group” whether we look at low socio-economic status , mothers having low educational qualifications, entitlement to FSM, living in single parent households, living in rented housing or neighbourhood deprivation. They are also the group who “made the least progress over the course of secondary school” Minority ethnic pupils in the longitudinal study of young people in England Strand 2008

All ethnic minority groups are found to be making greatest progress on average than white students between ages 11 and 16, leading to “poor white students as the lowest performing of all groups at age 16”. The improvement for ethnic minority pupils happens despite English being their second language and despite the fact that they are even more likely to go to poor quality schools (Wilson et al (2005)).

“The great majority of low achievers – more than three quarters- are white and British and boys outnumber girls. Eligibility for free school meals is strongly associated with low achievement but significantly more so for white British pupils than for other ethnic groups…We have one of the highest associations of social class with educational performance” (Cassen and Kingdon ‘Tackling low educational achievement’2007).

“After controlling for socio economic variables, the groups for whom low attainment is the greatest concern are: white British boys and girls and black Caribbean boys from low socio economic class homes. These are the three lowest attaining groups”. (Independent Commission on Social Mobility 2009)

Callanan et al 2009pointed out that “the characteristics most associated with underachievement are being male, being white British, entitlement to Free School Meals, having Special Educational Needs (particularly the category School Action Plus) and living in a deprived area”. She also pointed out that that “Asian pupils were the least likely to be underachievers”.

In relation to achievement in English in particular, according to Ofsted (2009), White FSM British boys were amongst the lowest performers in the country. The standards attained by them were “amongst the lowest.”

Local situation

The picture at the local in one large urban authority is no different. The data points out that “the largest underachievement is amongst pupils from poorer families, the largest cohort of which are white disadvantaged pupils”. The situation has not improved for many years. in the City, with some exceptions, white boys and girls on free school meals are generally the lowest achieving group in terms of 5 A*-C GCSE results. This has been the case for such a long time that everyone has come to see the situation as ‘normal’. Also, White FSM boys and girls, combined continue to make up a larger group than all other ethnic groups put together.

The picture for the past few years in terms of 5 A*-C GCSE results is as follows:

• 2006: White FSM boys were at the bottom and white FSM girls second from the bottom
• 2007: White FSM boys were at the bottom and white FSM girls third from the bottom but least achieving of all girls
• 2008: White FSM boys at the bottom and white FSM girls second from the bottom

It is likely that the above picture is also true for many other areas across the country.

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