White boys lead school low achievers

Reuters, Fri Jun 22, 2007

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - A quarter of teenagers leave school with no exam passes above grade D, with working-class white boys most likely to do badly, according to a report on Friday.

A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a social policy research group, found one in 20 pupils ends state education without a single GCSE.

Boys generally outnumber girls as low achievers by three to two and they are worse at reading and writing while at primary school.

Nearly half of all children leaving school with poor GCSE results are white boys, the study found.

They do worse than pupils from other ethnic groups once allowance is made for their different backgrounds.

However, the unadjusted figures show that black pupils are most likely to get poor exam results. A third leave school without any GCSE passes above a D grade.

The report's authors blamed an "anti-education culture" among many disadvantaged pupils.

"The literature abounds with accounts of such young people saying they will 'get trouble from their mates' if they do well in school," the report said. "For many pupils school is not cool."

Bad exam results are strongly linked to disadvantage, including poverty, bad diet, poor health and inadequate housing.

Children who read with their parents and have books at home do better at school, regardless of their class, the report said.

"Disadvantaged children are behind educationally before they enter school and need more pre-school help," said Professor Robert Cassen, the study's lead author.

"Improvements could be made to identify and support children who are late in learning to read and write at primary school and to address their problems before they become entrenched."

In 2006, nearly five percent of all pupils in state schools (28,000) received no GCSE passes and almost 25 percent (146,000) scored no passes above the D grade.

The Department for Education and Skills said it had invested more than one billion pounds to support personalised learning.

The full report is at http://www.jrf.org.uk/.