Reasearch finds working class boys let down by the education system

10th June 2015

Research published by the Sutton Trust last week (3rd June 2015) identified white boys from deprived socio-economic backgrounds as having the worst academic attainment amongst their peers.  Their research found that children who grow up in low-income backgrounds have half as much chance of getting top GCSE grades as better off pupils (New Statesman, 3rd June 2015).  Boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are especially badly affected.  Worryingly, a third of boys on free school meals who were in the top 10% of academic achievers at the age of 11 have fallen outside of the top 25% by the age of 16.

Once again, white working class boys are identified as the demographic least likely to achieve success at GCSE.  Only 28.3% of white working class boys achieve five A* – C grades (including Maths and English), compared to nearly 40% of Asian and black boys (New Statesman, 3rd June 2015).

The Sutton Trust’s report, entitled Missing Talent, also identified geographical disparities in the underachievement of boys from low-income backgrounds.  It found that the areas with the highest levels of missing talent (that is pupils who achieve highly at the age of 11, but are no longer top achievers at the age of 16) are in northern England (especially Barnsley, Blackpool, Knowsley, and Tyneside) and the Midlands.  It also found that a highly able pupil who had been eligible for free school meals at some point over the last six years (FSM6) achieved an average of half a grade less at GCSE than an equally able, but more economically advantaged, student.  In other words, where an academically able pupil may achieve 8 A grades at GCSE, and equally able but less economically advantaged pupil will achieve 4As and 4Bs. 10% of poor but able pupils will barely achieve C grades.  This potentially has severe consequences for the futures of these pupils.

A summary of the Missing Talent report can be accessed here, and the New Statesman’s summary can be accessed here.

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