Ethnic minority children are top of the class
by LAURA CLARK - More by this author » Daily Mail Sat 9th Feb 2007
Last updated at 22:00pm on 9th February 2007
Ethnic minority children are making better progress at school than white pupils in almost every part of the country, research revealed yesterday.
Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi and black African pupils are improving more quickly between the ages of 11 and 16.
• 80,000 pupils 'go to underperforming schools'
Researchers believe the trend - apparent in virtually every local authority area in England - can be explained by contrasting attitudes to education between ethnic minority and white communities.
The study found that Asian families in particular emphasise to their children the importance of a good education for getting on in life.
Some white parents may not have the same high aspirations for their children's success at school.
For the study, Bristol University researchers compared pupils' results in national tests for 11-year-olds and their GCSE results five years later.
They then analysed whether white pupils were improving faster or slower than their ethnic minority counterparts.
The research found that the progress of Chinese and Pakistani pupils was higher than white pupils in all of England's local authorities.
For Indian pupils, it was higher in 99 per cent of authorities.
The figures for black African and Bangladeshi pupils were 98 per cent and 97 per cent respectively.
The only group for whom progress was less marked than whites were black Caribbean children.
They did better than white youngsters in only 49 per cent of authorities, while the figure for the "black other" group was 55 per cent.
A further analysis, examining how many individual schools were registering slower progress for white children, showed similar patterns.
The researchers, led by Dr Deborah Wilson, did not believe the figures could be explained entirely by minority groups "catching up" with their white counterparts.
In fact, Indian and Chinese pupils began with better results at age seven, and pulled even further ahead as they grew older.
Other groups, including Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black African youngsters, started their school careers behind whites but had significantly narrowed the gap by the time they took their GCSEs.
Latest official figures show how 57.2 per cent of white pupils achieve five good GCSEs - a yardstick of secondary school achievement - compared with 79.3 per cent of Chinese children and 71.4 per cent of Indian.
Bangladeshi pupils are on 56.2 per cent, Pakistani pupils 50.9 per cent, black African 50.3 per cent and black Caribbean 44.4 per cent.
Opposition politicians have suggested a lack of funding for raising the attainment of white pupils, especially working-class boys, as a possible reason for their slower progress.
However the Bristol University study, recently cited by the Blairite think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research, argues that aspirations and values instilled in pupils by their families and wider communities may be the cause.
Since the differences in progress are virtually uniform across the country, the researchers believe the reasons are likely to be unconnected with schools.
They suggest that "differential aspirations and the importance ascribed to education" could be one factor.
Dr Wilson's research cites previous studies pointing to high aspirations among immigrant communities, who "almost by definition" are "keen to get on in life".
"If qualifications are seen as highly functional to social progress, then it makes sense to focus particular effort at that point" her study said.