White children least likely to make good progress in secondary school

White children are least likely to make good progress in secondary school and Chinese pupils are way ahead according to new figures

  • Data from this summer’s GCSE results shows white pupils made on average less headway between the ages of 11 and 16 than any other group
  • Chinese pupils were way ahead of their peers on this measure, followed by Asian, then black, then mixed-race youngsters
  • Some experts believe many ethnic minority families are more aspirational and have a better attitude to work than those in poor, white communities

White children are the least likely of all ethnic groups to make good progress during secondary school, new official statistics suggest.

Data from this summer’s GCSE results shows white pupils made on average less headway between the ages of 11 and 16 than any other group.

Chinese pupils were way ahead of their peers on this measure, followed by Asian, then black, then mixed-race youngsters.

The data, published yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE), adds weight to arguments that people with migrant heritage are more likely to drive themselves forward.

Data from this summer’s GCSE results shows white pupils made on average less headway between the ages of 11 and 16 than any other group

Some experts believe many ethnic minority families are more aspirational and have a better attitude to work than those in poor, white communities.

Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, said: ‘Some people from migrant backgrounds work very hard in education, because they know how important it is to their future.

‘They make full use of the excellent state education provided in this country because it may be substantially better than that provided in the country they or their ancestors came from.

‘In contrast, their peers may have become complacent and do not necessarily see education as being the key to the future in the same way.

‘Another factor contributing to the good progress of ethnic minority groups is that first-generation migrants may not have the best grasp of English when they begin school.

‘As they become more fluent, their grades rapidly improve.’


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The data shows scores in the ‘Progress 8’ accountability measure, which aims to capture the progress a state school pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.

The country-wide average progress score is zero, so a positive score means pupils are making above average progress and a negative score means below average.

This year, the average Progress 8 score for white children was the lowest at -0.10, compared to -0.02 for mixed race, 0.12 for black, 0.45 for Asian and 1.03 for Chinese pupils.

When it came to attainment scores, black children had the lowest, with white children having the second lowest.

Chinese pupils had the highest, followed by Asian children and mixed race.

Some experts believe many ethnic minority families are more aspirational and have a better attitude to work than those in poor, white communities

Both this year and last, children with English as a second language had a higher score for attainment and made better progress on average than native speakers.

Yesterday’s data also revealed more than a quarter-of-a-million children are still being taught at under-performing secondary schools.

It showed that 11.6 per cent of state-funded mainstream schools, 346 in total, fell below the government’s minimum standards in 2018.

It means 282,603 schoolchildren are now being taught at under-performing secondaries – about 9.3 per cent.

Schools fall below the government’s performance threshold if pupils fail to make enough progress across eight subjects, with particular weight given to English and maths.

The government said the data showed positive progress because the proportion of pupils achieving at least a grade 5 – the new pass – at GCSE in both English and maths has increased year on year, from 42.6 per cent to 43.3 per cent.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: ‘Making sure that all pupils, regardless of their background, are able to fulfil their potential is one of this government’s key priorities and these results show that more pupils across the country are doing just that.

‘It’s been clear for some time that standards are rising in our schools and today’s data underlines the role academies and free schools are playing in that improvement, with progress above the national average and impressive outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.’

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