By Gary Eason
BBC News, at the ATL Conference in Torquay
Schools need to be able to vary the curriculum locally to give working class white boys a sense of identity and raise achievement, teachers say.
Action to tackle white working class boys' underachievement was urged
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference said lessons should reflect the history, experiences and needs of all pupils.
This was needed so schools in England could meet their new legal duty to promote community cohesion.
Delegates said underachievement had a cost to the whole of society.
One delegate said liberal-minded people had stopped highlighting white boys' problems for fear of lending weight to the arguments of right wing politicians.
Inner London teacher John Puckrin said most of the jobs lost in communities destroyed by Britain's de-industrialisation had involved male workers.
"Investment capital may have moved on to hedge funds but the people remain," he said.
"Underachievement has a cost to all of us, both in terms of economic support, crime and dysfunction, but also the loss of productive potential," he added.
Citizenship education provided a way to address the issue, but it was not only national aspects that needed addressing.
"Space needs to be found for local histories, issues and needs," he said.
"Cohesion is either achieved or fails at a local community level."
Another London teacher, Bob Skelley from Southwark, said that in his area the highest achieving pupils were now Chinese girls - and the lowest were white working class boys.