Posted on October 12, 2009

One in Ten White Boys Fails to Get Five GCSEs As Fears Grow Their Futures Will Be ‘Blighted’

Laura Clark, Daily Mail (London), October 12, 2009

One in ten white boys is leaving school with no real qualifications, figures reveal.

In many towns and cities the figure is close to one in five failing to get at least five GCSEs–the Government’s benchmark of basic secondary school achievement.

The figures show that nationwide, 10 per cent of white boys–23,860 pupils–ended compulsory education without getting five GCSEs, or equivalents, of any grade.

But the failure rate was much higher in Manchester, at 22.3 per cent, Southwark, South London, at 22.2 per cent, Hull, at 20.5 per cent, Knowsley, Merseyside at 20.4 per cent, Leicester, at 20 per cent, Nottingham, at 19.9 per cent and Southampton, at 19.3 per cent.

Prospects were also poor in Sandwell, West Midlands, where the odds of failing were 18.1 per cent, and Islington, North London with 17.1 per cent.

By contrast, just 1.7 per cent failed to reach the benchmark in Rutland, 2.7 per cent in Kensington and Chelsea and none in the Isles of Scilly.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, will trigger fresh concern over the prospects of white boys from poor homes, amid claims many will be shut out of university and top jobs.

Research has shown that white boys eligible for free school meals do worse in their GCSEs than all pupil groups apart from gypsy and traveller children and those in care, whose schooling has been disrupted.

Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, has warned their futures are ‘blighted’ by low attainment. Poor GCSE performance has been linked to poverty at home, living in a deprived area and changing schools during GCSE year–often the result of parental divorce.

Professor Alan Smithers, an education expert at Buckingham University, said: ‘The really interesting result is just how many white boys are not getting five GCSEs.

‘It’s not hard to achieve that after 11 years of schooling. If they can’t it says something very important about how our education system is failing their needs.’

He called for better links between school and work to prevent boys drifting into truancy and to show them that recognised qualifications would help them do well in later life.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which released the figures, said the Government was trying to stop white boys falling behind in the first place through high quality preschool education.

It also expects councils to set improvement targets for under-performing groups.

‘We are focusing on underperforming groups and raising the aspirations of children in deprived communities,’ the spokesman said.

‘Teachers are identifying those in the most need, including white boys, giving them personalised learning, one-to-one tuition, catch-up classes and targeted support to make sure they reach their full potential.’

The new figures are available only for white boys but previous figures have suggested they are failing to keep pace with other groups, particularly if they come from poor homes.

Just 16 per cent of white boys entitled to free school meals achieved C grades in at least five GCSEs last summer, including in the crucial subjects of English and maths–a slight increase on 2007’s 15 per cent.

Black Caribbean boys from similar backgrounds moved from 17 per cent in 2007 to 23 per cent last year while Asian males went up from 29 per cent to 32 per cent.