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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 10:56 GMT
Black pupils 'achieving more'
Black secondary school students
Ministers say the results of under-achieving groups are improving
Black pupils gained the most improved results of any ethnic group in last year's GCSEs, according to figures released by the government.

The proportion of black Caribbean and African pupils achieving good GCSE results rose to 45% from 39%.

Achievement has risen in most ethnic groups, with the results of Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi pupils also up.

The highest achievers at GCSE level are Chinese pupils - 81% of whom achieved five good GCSE grades last year.

Below average

The government has published an analysis of pupils' achievements in the key stage tests, at GCSE level and equivalent, and post-16 attainment in England.

It breaks down results by gender, ethnicity and income background.

The proportion of black Caribbean pupils achieving five good GCSE results at grades A* - C or the equivalent qualifications was up by six percentage points to 41.7%, with 48.3% of black African pupils achieving the same.

The statistics show that Chinese pupils, Indian pupils, pupils of mixed white and Asian heritage and Irish pupils consistently achieve above the national average for all pupils in the state sector at every stage of the school system.

But Roma Gypsy and traveller children of Irish heritage still perform below the national average at all key stages and GCSE level.

Despite recording a sharp increase in results at Key Stage 2 (11 years old), their GCSE results declined this year.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils also achieve below-average results at each key assessment level, including GCSE.

For example, 77% of Pakistani pupils and 78% of Bangladeshi pupils achieved the expected level at Key Stage 1 reading compared with 85% of all pupils.

Gender gap

The results also show that girls consistently outperform boys in all ethnic groups, mirroring the national picture.

Just under half of black Caribbean girls gain five or more good GCSE results, compared with 33.3% of boys.

The difference in achievement between girls and boys in England is 10.1%.

And the analysis shows that pupils who are entitled to free school meals do not perform as well as their peers.

Just under 30% of pupils entitled to free school meals achieved five or more good GCSE grades, compared with 58.9% of those who are not and 54.9% nationally.

However, that gap has narrowed over recent years - from 23% in 2002.

Schools minister Jacqui Smith said the government was making continuing progress towards closing the gap between the attainment of black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils and other ethnic groups.

"The improvement in results shown by disadvantaged minority ethnic groups is a tribute to the hard work of pupils and teachers," she said.

"But there is still much more to do and we need to continue to build on this progress and close the gap even further so all pupils, regardless of ethnic or cultural background, achieve their full potential."

Shadow schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: "The progress that these figures demonstrate is enormously welcome and highlights the importance of ending the culture of low expectations that dominate too many many schools, particularly in our inner cities."

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