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January 4, 2015 / C H Thompson

Ethnicity and Educational Attainment – part 1

Ethnicity in schools

  • In state-funded primary schools 27.6 per cent of pupils (of compulsory school age and above) were classified as being of minority ethnic origin, an increase from 26.5 per cent in 2011
  • In state-funded secondary schools 23.2 per cent of pupils (of compulsory school age and above) were classified as being of minority ethnic origin, an increase from 22.2 per cent in 2011

Taken from

 School Attainment statistics

Attainment – GCSES (5 A*-C grades including Maths and English)

  1. Attainment by ethnicity has improved since 2006/7, and achievement gaps between some ethnic groups and race_exam_results (1)the national level have disappeared
  2. Other ethnic groups, such as Chinese students, have far higher levels of attainment compared to the national level. It is worth highlighting however that Pakistani and Black Caribbean young people still have lower attainment levels than the national level.
  3. The data for 2010/11 is as follows:
  • The national level, and the percentage of White British pupils achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English, is 58%. This compares to around 45% in 2006/07
  • Chinese students are the highest attaining group, with 78.5% achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This compares to 70% in 2006/07
  • Indian students are the second highest attaining group, with 74.4% achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This compares to around 62% in 2006/07.
  • Bangladeshi pupils now have a slightly higher attainment rate than White pupils, with 59.7% 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This is a massive improvement given that only around 40% achieved this 2006/07, which was 5% less than White pupils and the National Level.
  • There has also been an improvement for Black African pupils, with 57.9% achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English, compared to just over 40% achieving this in 2006/07. A similar level of improvement can be seen for mixed White and Black African pupils
  • However, Pakistani and Black Caribbean young people still have lower attainment levels compared to the national level, with 52.6% and 48.6% respectively achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This has, however, improved from around 35% for Pakistani and 34% for Black Caribbean pupils in 2006/07.
  • Travellers, Gypsies and Roma are still the lowest achieving groups, with 17.5% of Irish Travellers and 10.8% of those from Gypsy or Roma backgrounds achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This has improved from 2006/07 when only 5% of these groups combined achieved the required grades.

Taken from:

 English Baccalaureate attainment

  1. Inequalities are more pronounced when looking at those who achieved the English Baccalaureate measure of attainment. This requires 5 A* – C grades in GCSE maths; English; two science subjects; a foreign language; and either history or geography.

The 2010/11 data is as follows:

  •  34.6% of Chinese students and 25.8% of Indian students achieve the English Baccalaureate
  • 15.4% of White students achieve the measurement
  • 11.2% of Black African and 11.1% of Pakistani pupils achieve the English Baccalaureate
  • The rate is 9.9% for Bangladeshi pupils and 7.6% for Black Caribbean pupils
  • Traveller and Roma/Gypsy pupils have the lowest attainment, with 2.2% and 0.5% respectively achieving the measurement

Taken from:

 Specific issues:

Success of previous policies

  • It could be argued that some of the improvement in the educational attainment of ethnic minorities was due to overall investment in education by the last government, and also due to the previous government introducing specific policies to boost attainment off specific groups, such as: The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (details below)
  • The Aiming High programme for Black pupils: In participating schools this resulted in high increases in attainment at aged 14 Education Action Zones: Set up in 1998 to improve attainment in inner city areas The Training and Development Agency (TDA) had targets for recruiting ethnic minority teachers, and also developed the excellent Multiverse website providing culturally diverse resources for teachers and trainees. Multiverse and the TDA have now been scrapped by the current government. Citizenship Education, made compulsory in 2002, has played an important role in encouraging pupils to participate positively and effectively in an ethnically diverse society

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant

  • The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) was set up to narrow achievement gaps for pupils from the minority ethnic groups who are at risk of underachieving, and to meet the needs of bilingual pupils. In April 2011, EMAG was abolished in its current form. It has been mainstreamed into the ‘dedicated schools grant’, removing its ring-fenced status. This means that schools will now have the power to reduce the level of specialist provision to minority ethnic children at their discretion. The risk is that schools with use the already limited funds targeted at raising the achievement of minority ethnic pupils and spend them on other areas.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils

  • Overall, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils have traditionally had lower attainment than Indian students, which can largely be explained by poverty, social background, and the fact that English is a second language for many.
  • However, the overall attainment of Bangladeshi pupils has been improving at a faster rate than Pakistani pupils and now a higher percentage of Bangladeshi pupils achieve 5 A*- C grades, including Maths and English, at GCSE than White pupils.
  • Despite this, when looking at English Baccalaureate attainment a smaller proportion of Bangladeshis achieve this than Pakistani pupils. It is difficult to determine exactly the reasons behind these variations. However, the different between Bangladeshi and Pakistani attainment could be partly explained by the high concentration of Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets, where educational attainment of this group has risen particularly rapidly in the area. Given the size of the Bangladeshi population in the borough, this could skew the overall averages. A Harvard study into educational differences between Bangladeshis and Pakistanis in London also recognised the impact success in Tower Hamlets has had on overall averages, particularly citing the borough’s success in recruiting teachers from Bangladeshi backgrounds, arguing that this improves understanding of language and other needs.

The Issues

The complete text above was taken from


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