Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Poor white boys struggle in GCSEs

Exam hall
Girls continue to perform much better than boys at GCSE

Poor, white, teenage boys in England have slipped further behind other youngsters in their GCSE exams, reveals a breakdown of this year's results.

The official figures show that fewer than one in five who qualified for free meals achieved the benchmark of five good GCSEs including English and maths.

Twice as many white boys from better-off homes, not eligible for free meals, achieved this level of results.

But the attainment gaps between girls and boys and black and white narrowed.

The government's figures showing the detail of the GCSE results for 2009 show an overall picture of previously struggling groups beginning to catch up.


Girls are still outperforming boys in achieving the GCSE benchmark - 54.5% to 47.3% - but the gap has narrowed this year by 0.9 of a percentage point.

Black pupils have also improved their GCSE results at a rate that is faster than average - rising to 41.5%.

There has also been a narrowing of the difference between poorer pupils and those who are better off - as defined by eligibility for free school meals.

But this still remains a substantial divide - with 54.4% of pupils not eligible reaching the level of five good GCSEs including maths and English, while only 26.9% of free school meal pupils achieved this.

The results show the intersection of different factors - gender, race, English as a second language and poverty.

But the group of white boys who qualify for free meals is unusual for falling further behind.

The gap between these pupils and their classmates who do not receive free meals has widened from 29.8% to 31.6%.

These results echo findings last month from an analysis of primary school results which found that poor white boys had fallen below almost every other category of pupil.

It will once again raise concerns about the marginalisation of young men in such communities and the difficulty in raising aspirations.

Extra funding

Head teachers' leader John Dunford said that schools and pupils should be congratulated on the overall improvements.

"Not only are the results improving year-on-year, but all the critical gaps - gender, ethnicity, disadvantage - are narrowing in response to the action taken by government, schools and colleges in recent years," said the ASCL general secretary.

He said that the improvements were also a "testament to the additional funding that has been put into city challenge and other programmes, enabling schools in these areas to employ more staff and support students with one-to-one and small group tuition, holiday revision sessions and other targeted support."

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker highlighted the closing of the attainment gaps - particularly for disadvantaged areas.

"This is proof that being born in a less affluent area does not condemn children to poor results."

"But there are no single, easy solutions to making sure individual children in individual classrooms get the most out of school.

"All schools have the desire and the tools to close this gap by providing each child with the education they particularly need - but it takes time and energy from both parents and teachers to make changes and the evidence focused long term support to get sustained improvement over time."

Shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "It is a tragedy that the gap between our poorest white boys and our wealthiest white boys continues... It is outrageous that the government continues to let down our most deprived children."

The Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman David Laws, said: "It is shameful that the most disadvantaged children are only half as likely to get five good GCSEs than those who are better off."

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