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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 13:28 GMT
Black pupils still lagging behind
Black boys in classroom
Educationalists give many reasons for black underachievement
Black pupils in England are still being outperformed by their classmates but some continue to narrow the gap, latest official figures show.

Just over 44% of black Caribbean pupils gained five good GCSEs in 2006 compared with an average 56.9% of pupils.

Just over half of black African pupils and 46.9% of mixed white and Caribbean pupils reached the GCSE benchmark.

Girls outperformed boys - with the biggest gap being among black Caribbean pupils: 16.5 percentage points.

The new Department for Education and Skills figures on attainment in school tests at each of the key stages characterises pupils by ethnic group, gender and poverty as indicated by their eligibility for free school meals.

Against a 0.5 percentage point narrowing of the gender gap nationally, the gap between black Caribbean boys and girls' attainments widened, from 16.1 percentage points in 2005 (up 0.4).

There was also a marked widening of the gap between black African boys and girls, from 10.4 points to 11.8 (up 1.4).

The girls from black African backgrounds did better than white boys: 56.1% getting five good GCSEs compared with 52.6%.

The proportion of white girls doing that well was 62%.

We must remove the barriers to their learning, engage with these children and give them an extra push they need
Lord Adonis
The outright worst performance was again shown by travellers of Irish heritage and Gypsy/Roma children, with 14 and 9.2% getting good GCSEs - though the statisticians sound a warning because there were so few of them (438 in total).

Although black Caribbeans performed worse than any other major ethnic group, the figures show the numbers achieving the GCSE benchmark was up 2.7 percentage points on 2005 from 41.7% to 44.4%.

This followed a much larger narrowing of the gap - some six percentage points - last year.

And although two per cent more black African pupils achieved five good GCSEs in 2006 than in 2005 - this was the same as the average improvement in GCSE results in England.

Bangladeshi improvement

The biggest improvement at GCSE level was among Bangladeshi children, 56.2% of whom got five good GCSEs, 3.5 percentage points higher than last year.

As usual Chinese youngsters, though relatively few in number (2,226), had the highest attainment - 79.3% getting five good GCSEs.

The figure for Indian pupils was 71.4%.


Education minister Lord Adonis said the results were encouraging and a "real testament to the hard work of pupils and teachers".

He said: "Targeted programmes like Aiming High and London Challenge are working and taking us in the right direction.

"Last year, black pupils demonstrated nationally the greatest progress in GCSE results of any ethnic group, improving more than twice as fast as the average, and this year's results build further on that foundation.

"I am also encouraged by the increases for Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black pupils at Key Stage 2 which show that more children are making the grade in the basics at primary school."

However, he said he recognised the need to do more.

"There are some stubborn disparities between ethnic groups and problems around underachieving boys that need to be addressed.

"We must remove the barriers to their learning, engage with these children and give them an extra push they need."


A project to tackle underachievement amongst black pupils is being rolled out to over 100 secondary schools across 25 local authorities.

And a programme to aid the achievements of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Somali and Turkish pupils is also being expanded, he added.

But the shadow education secretary, David Willetts, said there was a shocking gap in achievement between pupils because of their race and their income.

"It explains why social mobility is declining under Labour and it shows why we are right to focus on these deep inequalities in British society which Labour have not been able to tackle," he said.

"The basics of a good education - learning to read, academic rigour, setting and streaming and demanding exams - are an entitlement of all school students. They must not be the preserve of the affluent."

Ethnic minorities improve at GCSE
24 Feb 05 |  Education
Black girls overtake white boys
24 Feb 04 |  Education

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