From the Guardian today:

Exam results show black pupils closing learning gap

· Ministers say policies to target black boys working
· GCSE figures show poorer pupils still lag behind

Polly Curtis, education editor

“Black pupils are closing the educational gap at GCSE, according to official results published yesterday which suggest that the tradition of children from white and Asian backgrounds routinely outperforming their black classmates, and girls getting better results than boys, is beginning to shift.

Ministers claim that the breakdown of this year’s GCSE results by ethnicity, gender and qualification for free school meals proves that policies to target black boys are beginning to work. But the results also reveal a stubborn gap in the achievement of pupils from poorer backgrounds. Just over 35% of children eligible for free school meals get five good GCSEs, compared with 63% of pupils not eligible. Working-class boys, regardless of ethnicity, are the lowest-achieving group. Less than a third of boys on free school meals got five good GCSEs this year.

The gender gap, the rate at which girls outperform boys, decreased to 9.1 percentage points last year from 9.7 the year before, continuing a five-year trend. This year, 49.1% of black Caribbean pupils got five good GCSEs, compared with 44.4% last year and up from 35.6% in 2004. The proportion of pupils overall getting five good GCSEs was 59.3% – but only 45.4% when English and maths are included.

Lord Adonis, the schools minister, said: “Since 2003, the percentage increase in the number of black Caribbean pupils achieving five good GCSEs has been almost double the national increase, meaning that the gap has narrowed by eight percentage points in four years.”

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “These results show starkly that social class has become the pre-eminent issue for government to tackle.”

The shadow children’s secretary, Michael Gove, said: “We should be closing the gap between the poorest and the rest in our schools, but it is widening, with those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds achieving less, and dropping out earlier.”

The government is preparing to publish a 10-year plan for children in the next month which will focus on raising the achievement gap for pupils from different backgrounds in a tacit acknowledgment that improvements in results across the board since Labour came to power in 1997 have left some pupils struggling.

The plan will include measures to provide more “personalised learning” for pupils, including one-to-one tutoring where children are lagging behind.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, this week called for schools to set quotas for the number of working-class children to ensure that schools are more socially mixed, arguing that social class was more divisive than ethnicity in terms of achievement.”

(From the BBC)

“In the major western economies, only Italy and the USA have more poverty than the UK.

Sweden, which pays more generous social security benefits than the UK,  has about 10% of its population in poverty, compared to close to 20% in the UK.”


Child Poverty Action Group

[This NGO has a long and proud record of fighting poverty in the UK, especially for bringing court actions against the government and for publishing the best books on issues affecting the poor including welfare benefits, debt, housing.  These books are found in every lawyers’ library and advice centre.]

Oxfam, Poverty in the UK

Low Income and Ethnicity

Rowntree Foundation: Recent Report on Child Poverty

Social and Spatial Ineqalities Research Group, University of Sheffield

The New Black Magazine : Link to image and recent article