Attainment gaps between ethnic groups narrow – but poverty gaps remain

Written by: Emma Lee Potter | Published:
Photo: MA Education

Pupils from most ethnic minority groups are now achieving GCSE results that are as good as or better than their White British peers.

Research commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) has found that gaps in educational achievement at the age of 16 have narrowed substantially over the last 25 years, particularly when it comes to the attainment of different ethnic groups.

The study, carried out by Professor Steve Strand of Oxford University and based on data for attainment and ethnicity between 1991 and 2013, showed that Indian and Chinese pupils are pulling well ahead of their White British peers.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi and Black African students are significantly improving their GCSE grades and starting to do better on average than their White British classmates, even though they are often from very socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

According to the research, the two lowest achieving groups are Black Caribbean students and mixed White and Black Caribbean students, although the long-standing gaps in the academic attainment of these groups have closed substantially.

In 2004, 24 per cent of Black Caribbean pupils achieved five or more A* to C grades including English and maths at GCSE or their equivalent, compared to more than 41.6 per cent of White British students.

By 2013 this gap had narrowed, with 53.3 per cent of Black Caribbean pupils achieving five or more A* to C grades including English and maths at GCSE, compared to 60.5 per cent of White British students.

But there is still a considerable socio-economic gap in pupils’ attainment. The study reported that 37.9 per cent of the most economically disadvantaged students (those entitled to free school meals) achieved five or more GCSE A* to C grades including English and maths, compared to 64.6 per cent of those not entitled to free school meals.

Prof Strand said: “Huge strides have been made in schools in England in closing the gap in educational attainment.

“These results show what can be achieved with targeted funding, particularly the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant that ran until 2012/13, and the strong focus through policies, including Excellence in Cities, and programmes through the National Strategies. Children disadvantaged for social and economic reasons now do better at school than in the past.”


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin