Poor white pupils are leaving school with worse results than those from any other ethnic group according to a new report which warns that these children’s problems have been left “unseen” for too long.
Figures show that just under a third of white British children from a deprived background got at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths last year, compared with 62 per cent of poor children from an Indian background and 76.8 per cent from a Chinese background.
The Education Select Committee has published a report which warns poor white children do less homework and are more likely to miss school than other groups.
It calls for swift action - suggesting longer school days to give these pupils somewhere to do their homework and also calls for Ministers to examine how they could get more good teachers to work in schools in the poorest areas of the country.
Committee chairman and Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart said: “We don’t know how much of the under-performance is due to poor attitudes to school, a lack of work ethic or weak parenting.”
The report has been published following Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw claiming head teachers should be given powers to fine mothers and fathers who fail to support their children’s education.
He said heads should be able to impose financial penalties on parents who allow homework to be left undone, miss parents’ evenings or fail to read with their children.
And he also claimed that poverty was too often used as an excuse for educational failure among white working-class families, whose children were often out-performed by those from immigrant communities.
The select committee report warns that the gap in results between poor white children and their richer classmates has hardly changed in the last seven years, the report says, and the attainment of poor children from other ethnic backgrounds is improving faster than that of poor white children. The committee found that white British students from disadvantaged families spend fewer evenings per week doing their homework, and have a higher absence rate from school than many other ethnic groups.
In the past children who left school without decent exam results would have spent their working life doing routine manual work in factories, now they are more likely to end up as “Neet” (not in education, employment or training), it added.
“This problem must be tackled by ensuring that the best teachers and leaders are incentivised to work in the schools and areas that need them most, and by providing better advice and guidance to young people,” the report says.
“Schools face a battle for resources and talent, and those serving poor white communities need a better chance of winning.
“Poor white children in rural and coastal areas have been “unseen” for too long; unless such steps are taken, the potential of white working-class children will be left unlocked, and the effects of the current trend will continue to be felt beyond the school gates.”
The report calls for Ofsted to publish a best practice report on longer school days to give schools advice on how extended hours can help poorer children.
“The current trend towards longer school days presents and opportunity for schools to provide space and time for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to complete homework, which may particularly benefit white working-class children,” the committee said.
It also says good schools can make a “dramatic difference” to disadvantaged children.
Mr Stuart added: “The problem of poor, white British under-attainment is real and the gap between those children and their better-off class mates starts in their earliest school years and then widens as they get older.
“However, we also know that the effect of attending an outstanding school is transformational for poor children because it doubles their chance of success at GCSE.
“Poor white British children now come out of our schools with worse qualifications than equally poor children in any other major ethnic group.”