“Race” Section Two:   Ethnicity and Educational Achievement : Data  

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

  • Section Two:   Ethnicity and Educational Achievement : Data  
  • Please note that this data section has been revised  to focus more fully on the new GCSE  accountability measures introduced with effect from 2016

I have been collating information Ethnicity and Educational attainment for several years concentrating primarily on the proportions of different ethnic groups attaining 5 or more GCSE A*-C grades  originally in  in any GCE subjects but more recently using the proportions of students gaining 5 or more GCSE A*-C grades including English and Mathematics . However from  2016 onwards student attainment and progress has been assessed in terms of new measures [i.e Attainment 8 and Progress 8] and in terms of the proportions of students attaining grades A*-C and 9-4 as appropriate in so-called EBacc subjects. I have therefore changed the Presentation of the Data in this document quite considerably to concentrate mainly on the most recent data although I  have retained some sources of data on pre-2016 ethic patters of achievement. It may be best for students to concentrate on analysis of the most recent data although some familiarity with longer term trends is also useful

  1. Links to DFE data for 2016 and 2017 which use the new measurement criteria.
  2. YCS data giving an indication of long term trends from 1989-2004
  3. A link to data from Professor Steve Strand providing more detailed data from to
  4. A link to data from the Sutton trust
  5. A link to data from the DFE for 2015 which show patterns of attainment for the final year using the 5 GCSE A*-C grades criterion
  6. Links to DFE data for 2016 and 2017 which use the new measurement criteria.

Links to DFE Data on GCSE Results 2015/16- 2018/19 using the new Measurement criteria

A   new secondary school accountability system was introduced in 2016 and you may use the following link to find the latest ]2018/2019] information on Ethnicity , Free School Meal Eligibility and gender and attainment at GCSE level 

Click here for DFE data relating to 2018/19 GCSE results Some data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and  gender can be found on pp7-12  in the main text document  but for more detailed information click on the third link [ Characteristics National Tables]  and then to find Tables CH1 and CH2   which are especially useful  February 2020

If required [which it may not be!] information on the years 2015/2016 to 2017/18 may be found via the following links 

You and you may  click here    for DFE statistics relating to 2015/16 GCSE results which are  based on this new system. For data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and gender scroll down to pp16-25 of the statistical first release. Click here for further information in the accompanying Characteristics National Tables.

Also click here for DFE statistics relating to 2016/17 GCSE results  For data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and gender scroll down to pp22-34  of the statistical first release. Further information can be found in the accompanying Characteristics National Tables where Table 2a is especially useful. Also  for a brief exercise based upon the latest GCSE data ****** New links added January-February  2018

Also click here for DFE data relating to 2017/18 GCSE results Some data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and  gender can be found on pp22-31  in the main text document  but for more detailed information click on the third link [Key Stage 4 and Multi-academy trust performance Characteristics National Tables]  and then to find Table 2a  which is especially useful   January 24th 2019

[Click here BBC item on technicalities of Attainment 8 and progress 8 and here for  a very  technical article]

Click here for calculation of Attainment 8 and here for calculation of Progress 8

Exercise on Ethnicity and Educational Achievement at GCSE Level in the 2016/17 2017/16 and 2018 /2019 Examinations

Click here for DFE data relating to 2018/19 GCSE results Some data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and  gender can be found on pp7-12  in the main text document  but for more detailed information click on the third link [ Characteristics National Tables]  and then to find Tables CH1 and CH2   which are especially useful  February 2020 

 

The following table has been copied from Table CH2  using the Percentage achieving the English Baccalaureate as the basis of compariosn. However students  may prefer to use the above link to Table CH2 where you may find detailed data  on differences in educational attainment by Ethnicity, Free School Meal and Gender using EBacc performance, Attainment 8 and Progress 8 criteria and attainment in English and Methematics.

Please note that  the attainment levels of Gypsy Roma and Irish Heritage students are shown to be particularly low. The difficulties which these children face in pursuing their education have been discussed at a recent Select Committee meeting which is reported here by the BBC . Video coverage of the full Select Committee meeting   can be accessed here

 

 

1. Includes entries and achievements by these pupils in previous academic years.
2. State-funded schools include academies, free schools, city technology colleges, further education colleges with provision for 14- to 16-year-olds and state-funded special schools. They exclude independent schools, independent special schools, non-maintained special schools, hospital schools and alternative provision (including pupil referral units, AP free schools and AP academies as well as state-funded AP placements in other institutions).
3. Pupils at the end of key stage 4 who are included in the measure.
4. Attainment 8 and Progress 8 are part of the new secondary accountability system that was implemented for all schools from 2016. Users should be cautious when comparing Attainment 8 scores between 2017 and 2016. In 2017, Attainment 8 scores were calculated using slightly different point score scales in comparison to 2016, in order to minimise change following the introduction of 9-1 reformed GCSEs. This means that Attainment 8 scores are likely to look different in 2017, as a result of changes to the methodology. More information on the calculation of these measures is available in the Progress 8 guidance:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/progress-8-school-performance-measure

5. A Progress 8 score of 1.0 means pupils in the group make on average approximately a grade more progress than the national average; a score of -0.5 means they make on average approximately half a grade less progress than average. Progress 8 scores should be interpreted alongside the associated confidence intervals. If the lower bound of the confidence interval is greater than zero, it can be interpreted as meaning that the group achieves greater than average progress compared to pupils in mainstream schools nationally and that this is statistically significant. If the upper bound is negative, this means that the group achieves lower than average progress compared to pupils in mainstream schools nationally and that this is statistically significant.
6. As a percentage of all pupils at the end of key stage 4. In 2014/15 and earlier, where the English language and English literature option was chosen in English, exams in both had to be taken and a C grade or above achieved in English language. From 2015/16, to meet the English requirement of the A*-C in English and maths attainment measure, a C in either English language or English literature counted and there was no requirement to take both. From 2017, following the introduction of the reformed 9 to 1 GCSEs in English, a grade 5 or above in either English language or English literature counts and there remains no requirement to take both. The 9-4 measure shows pupils who achieved a grade 4 or above in either English language or English literature and maths and is shown alongside the headline measure for transparency and comparability.

To Download the above Chart in excel format - Click Here

You may use the 2018/19 data to answer  the following questions

  1.  Rank the broad ethnic categories in terms of the achievement of all pupils [Final Column]
  2. Which is the highest performing and the lowest performing broad ethnic group?
  3. Describe the ethnic differences in attainment within each ethnic category
  4. Notice especially the attainment levels of students in the Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy Roma categories.
  5. Which is the highest performing and and lowest performing "narrow ethnic category"?
  6. Use your calculator to calculate the proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals in each ethnic category
  7. For all pupils what is the percentage gap in attainment between pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals?
  8. In which broad ethic category is the gap in attainment between pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals greatest?
  9. What is significant about the gap in attainment between Chinese pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals?
  10. Can you give any reasons why the attainment gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals varies as between different ethnic groups.?
  11.  Discuss these statistics with your fellow students. Any other insights?
  12. You will also find that females out perform males in every ethnic category and that it is white boys eligible for free school meals who perform particularly badly.
  13. The overall attainment gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and pupils ineligible for free school meals is greater than the overall attainment gap between female and male students. Numerically this occurs because the FSM eligibility gap is very high [18.2%] for white British students who account for a very large proportion of the total student population. However in several ethnic categories [Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean , Chinese] the gender attainment gap is greater than the FSM eligibility attainment gap. [You would need to look at other Characteristics National tables to confirm this latter point.]
  14.  Write two paragraphs summarising the relationships between ethnicity, gender , free school meal eligibility and attainment at GCSE level

 

Sociologists have suggested three main types of explanation for the above relationships between ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and educational achievement.

  • It is suggested that eligibility for free school meals is an imperfect measure of the relative economic  deprivation suffered by pupils of different ethnic groups and that more accurate measures of economic deprivation would show that economic deprivation is a more important explanatory factor than the free school meals data suggest.[ As mentioned, several methods may be used to measure levels of economic deprivation but the comparison of these methods is technically complex and I shall not consider this point any further here. ]
  • It is suggested that the differential educational achievements of different ethnic groups may be explained partly by a range of cultural factors operative for some ethnic groups  so that some ethnic groups are more successful than others in overcoming the effects of material deprivation. It is widely believed  Indian and Chinese families are especially likely to value education highly and that these cultural attitudes enable poor Indian and Chinese students to offset more effectively the effects of poverty.
  • Note that on the basis of the above data the NFSM-FSM discrepancy is smaller in all ethnic minority groups than it is among white students.
  • Others have is suggested that the cultural differences between ethnic groups have been much overstated and that  instead a range of processes internal to the schools themselves may operate to the relative disadvantage of some ethnic groups rather than others. Thus for example poor Afro-Caribbean students and also poor white students may be more likely than poor Chinese and Indian students to experience negative labelling in schools.

The gaps in attainment for white pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals are greater than for any other ethnic group and this has generated considerable concern as to the prospects of white working class students although free school meal eligibility is a less than perfect measure of social class membership. This topic will be considered in more detail presently.

 

Ethnicity and A Level Achievement

Click here and scroll to page 11 for data illustrating ethnic differences in GCE Advanced Level achievement for broad ethnic groups

Click here for data indicating that Chinese and Indian students are especially likely to achieve very good GCE Advanced Level Results

 

Ethnicity and  Higher Education

 

Click here for Widening Participation in Higher Education 2019   and then on Main Tables: and then on Table 8 . Data are available on Access To HE and Access to High Tariff Universities. Notice these data at the above  link refer to Access To HE from State Schools. It is important to note that large proportions of students gain access to High Tariff Universities via private schools which may well mean that the overall percentages of white students at these universities are greater that the data based only on  [state funded and special schools] suggest.

Also  if you use the above click here link there are particularly nice graphics on pages 12  and 13  which illustrate the points shown in the following table.

 

Also in the Ethnicity and Access to Higher Education  section .change the last 2 sentences to the following

Relationships between ethnicity, gender, free school meal eligibility and access to Higher Education are illustrated in the following table. You may discuss these data with your teachers

 

 

Some indication of the longer run trends can be found using the following sources.

The patterns of achievement illustrated in the 2017 examination data are similar to those which have been observed for many years although students should discuss with their teachers some of the pattern changes which have occurred in the last 30-40 years.

  1. YCS data giving an indication of long term trends from 1989-2004.

The following information is extracted   from the Youth Cohort Study of 16 Year olds published in Feb 2005 and amended in June 2006. It illustrates trends in educational achievement at GCSE level [as measured by attainment of 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C in Year 11] between 1989 and 2004 according to the  ethnicity of the students estimated on the basis of   samples which range between  24922 and 13,698.

Attainment of 5 or more GCSE grades in Year11 by ethnicity 1989-2004

The above   data indicate that the attainments of all ethnic groups listed have improved since between 1989 and 2004 but that significant ethnic inequalities in educational achievement remain.

2 and 3 Data from the Sutton Trust and Professor Steve Strand

students may  click here for a detailed paper by Professor Steve Strand {Ethnicity, deprivation and educational achievement at age 16 in England ;trends over time .}. In this paper Professor Strand provides a clear comprehensive graphical description of relevant trends as well as detailed analysis. The charts and tables on pp40-50 provide the best description that I have seen of trends relating ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, gender and educational attainment at GCSE Level.

4 You may click here for the House of Commons Education Committee Report: Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children [June 2014]. Chapter Two of this report contains detailed data on trends in the attainment levels of disadvantaged pupils in different ethnic groups between 2006/7 and 2012/13 although the main focus of the report is , of course on White working class pupils.

5  Although members of ethnic minorities are found throughout the UK class structure, Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin students are especially likely to be found in the lower sections of the working class and to experience poverty. Social theorists analysing poverty distinguish between absolute and relative concepts of  of poverty and on the basis of the most widely used official definition  relative poverty is said to occur when individuals receive incomes lower than 60% of the median income . However  it is noted also that there are significant differences in the extent of relative poverty depending upon whether it is measured before or after housing costs

Recent on ethnicity and income distribution can be found in the annual DWP publications entitled Households Below Average Income and the following data has been taken from the most recent version published in March 2019 . The columns in the following tables refer to proportions of different ethnic groups in quintiles of the UK income distribution from the lowest to the highest quintile before and after housing costs.

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You may click here for data illustrating ethnic differences in the distribution of income in the UK and here for ethnic differences in the persistence of low income and here for a useful JRF reportXXXXXX

6 DFE Data for the 2015 GCSE Examinations

You may  Click here for DfE publication; Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England 2014-15 [DFE]    . It is very important to note that in this SFR publication rather less data are provided on attainments of pupils eligible for free school meals because a wider measure of social disadvantage is introduced in this publication. although full Free school meals data are provided in the supplementary tables and I have used these data later in this document [Again once you reach the DFE  page you may find it best to click on the SFR [Statistical First Release]  PDF link  which provides  information educational attainments at GCSE level relating to Gender, Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility and whether or not English is the pupils' first language. More detailed information may be found by clicking on National and Local Authority Data and finding Tables 1 and 2]  .

 

Update March 2016: Education and the White Working Class  However notice that it may be more accurate to refer to white working class pupils within the working class than to THE white working class. Click here for a recent Guardian article by Zoe Williams   discussing this point. New link added August 2018.

 

In the late C20th the educational attainment levels of Black and Minority Ethnic pupils [ other than those of Chinese and Indian origin] were considerably lower than those of  White British pupils and sociologists advanced a variety of theories [to be discussed later in the document] as to why this might be the case. However more recent statistics on GCSE attainment indicate that patterns of ethnic educational attainment at GCSE Level have changed significantly.

  • Chinese and Indian pupils' attainment levels have continued to  improve at a faster rate than those of  White British pupils.
  • Bangladeshi pupils have in recent years overtaken White British Pupils.
  • Pakistani pupils have almost reached the same level of attainment as White British Pupils.
  • Although White British pupils  still attain higher attainment levels than Black students [including Black Caribbean pupils] these  gap has narrowed significantly.
  • Unfortunately, however the attainment levels of Romany and Traveller pupils are far lower than pupils in all other ethnic groups.
  • Furthermore among pupils eligible for Free School Meals  White British pupils are especially likely to underachieve and  the attainment gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for Free School Meals is greater for White British pupils than for any other ethnic group.
  • Among White British pupils eligible for free school meals boys' educational attainments were quite significantly lower than girls' educational attainments.

These data on Free School Meals and educational attainment have generated increasing concerns about the relative underperformance of "white working class" exemplified most recently in  the House of Commons Education Select Committee Report: Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children [June 2014 Click here]. However it is recognised that in the Report that reliance on Free School meal eligibility as an indication of social class membership does present some problems.

  • Firstly the Report accepts that Free School Meal Eligibility is  a far from adequate measure of social class but suggests that, given the complexities involved in defining and measuring social class  membership, Free School Meal Eligibility might be accepted on pragmatic grounds as an indication of social class position. However it should be noted in relation to  Free School Meal Eligibility in 2014/15  that  76, 466 pupils out of a total of 553,469 pupils were eligible for free school meals: thus 13.9% of pupils were eligible for Free School Meals  whereas the size of the working class might be estimated at around 30% of the population which indicates that Free School Meal eligibility is an imperfect measure of social class membership although it is nevertheless widely used in these discussions.
  • Eligibility for Free School Meals varies considerably as between different ethnic groups . In the case of white British GCSE pupils 11.9% were eligible for Free School meals in 2014/5 and of these 72.1% failed to attain 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades including English and Mathematics. It is surely unwise to generalise about the characteristics of White working class pupils as a whole on the basis of such a small sample of pupils. Once is perhaps reminded of Paul Willis' 1970s study of disaffected working class lads who , notwithstanding the usefulness of the study, could not be regarded as representative of working class boys in general.
  • We should also note that 476,753 pupils were not eligible for Free School Meals and that among these pupils 61% of White British pupils  achieved5 or more A*-C grades including English and M compared with 56% of Pakistanis and 55.7% of Black Students [49.9% of Black Caribbean Students, 59.1% of Black Africans and 51% of Any Other Black students.
  • It can be argued that in focussing attention, important as it is, on the low attainment of small numbers White British pupils eligible for Free School Meals relative to even smaller numbers of ethnic minority pupils eligible for free school meals the continuing relatively low overall attainments of the larger numbers of Pakistani and Black pupils not eligible for free school meals may be overlooked

Nevertheless it is true that at GCSE level Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi pupils now out perform White British pupils; that Pakistani pupils have almost caught up White British pupils ; and that the attainment gap between Black [including Black Caribbean ] pupils and White British Pupils has narrowed significantly and furthermore that  among pupils eligible for Free School Meals  White British pupils are especially likely to underachieve and  the attainment gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for Free School Meals is greater for White British pupils than for any other ethnic group.

Sociologists have long recognised the existence of significant social class inequalities in educational attainment and have sought to explain these inequalities  in terms of some combination of partly genetically inherited social class differences in intelligence, working class material and cultural disadvantages and organisational factors in the schools themselves involving streaming , banding and setting which might result in positive and negative labelling processes. It should be noted that many sociologists are critical of theories based upon social class differences in inherited intelligence and on theories focussing on the alleged cultural deprivation of working class parents and their children while often preferring to emphasise that working class parents and children may not be lacking in aspiration but that they may lack the cultural, social and economic capital necessary  to translate their positive aspirations into successful strategies to improve educational attainment.

All of these arguments are discussed in the Select Committee Report  in attempts to explain the relative underachievement of white working class pupils relative to working class ethnic minority students. The Report suggests , however that more research will be necessary to resolve these difficult issues and this has led the DFE to sponsor further research leading to the publication of two significant reports in 2015 the publication

 

You may click here for a detailed paper by Professor Steve Strand {Ethnicity, deprivation and educational achievement at age 16 in England ;trends over time .}. In this paper Professor Strand provides a clear comprehensive graphical description of relevant trends as well as detailed analysis. The charts and tables on pp40-50 provide the best description that I have seen of trends relating ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, gender and educational attainment at GCSE level.

You may click here for a detailed DFE Report: A Compendium of Evidence on Ethnic  Minority Resilience to the Effects of Deprivation on Attainment . Pages 17-25 of this Report contain useful information on possible reasons for ethnic differences in attainment among pupils eligible for free school meals.

You may  Click here for a recent report on access of white working class students to HE

 

 

In the latter Report the authors summarise  some of the available research studies which aim to assess the relative importance of school factors, and parental and student attitudes as determinants  of the trends in ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and student attainments.

  • They note that Professor Steven Strand has found that parental attitudes and behaviours were significantly related to pupils' educational attainments at age 16. Thus "on average Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian and Mixed Heritage parents were more likely than White British Parents to have higher educational aspirations, to have paid for private tuition, to know where their children were when out, to have greater involvement  with their children's school, were less likely to quarrel with their child and were less likely to be single." According to Professor Strand  these factors helped to explain the attainment gap between White working class pupils and ethnic minority pupils of similar socio-economic status.
  • However Professor Strand  notes that although Black parents shared many of these characteristics  with other Ethnic Minority parents their children were less likely to do well in school  and Professor Strand attributes this tentatively to some combination of low teacher expectations, racism within schools and peer group effects.
  • Professor Strand's conclusions are supported by research from Demie and Lewis based[ 2011] on interviews  and focus groups with school leaders , class teachers, teaching assistants , governors, parents  and pupils in 14 schools in one London LEA. Thus they note that head teachers and class teachers perceived white working class parents as having low educational aspirations  for their children perhaps because they were more likely to be young, because they had little belief in the value of school and because they lived in areas of high unemployment which generated a culture where "pupils felt it not necessary to worry about doing well in school." Consequently this led to a range of problems including pupil absence, lateness, willingness of parents to tolerate poor behaviour and parental failure  to take up opportunities  for parental involvement in family improvement and parenting skills and after school clubs. By contrast working class ethnic minority parents were perceived as more interested and involved in their children's education. However notice that this conclusion is about teachers' perceptions of white working class parents which may or may not be accurate
  • Professor Strand also investigated pupils 'attitudes and risk factors. Here he found that ethnic minority/free school meal pupils scored higher than White British/ free school meals pupils on aspiration, future planning, attitudes to school, academic self-concept and time spent completing homework and that White British/free school meal pupils had higher risk factors in terms of SEN eligibility, truancy, absence and problems leading to the involvement of the police and social services agencies.
  • The Report's authors conclude that available evidence suggests that differences in attainment related to ethnicity and free school meal eligibility are more dependent upon parents' and pupils' attitudes and values than on school-based factors. In any case the Report quotes conflicting research conclusions in that Kingdom and Cassen [2010] found that ethnic minority pupils were more likely to attend low quality schools whereas Burgess and Briggs [2006] and Dustman et al. found that ethnic minority pupils were more likely to attend high performing schools . In any case there was little evidence on  the impact of schools on the attainments of pupils based on their ethnicity and free school meals status combined.
  • The Report therefore concludes that differences in parents' and pupils' aspirations are more important than the schools themselves in explaining differences in pupils' attainment levels.
  • However the Report states also that further research on the effects of aspirations is necessary as is indicated in the following long quotation. "It is frequently asserted that ethnic minority parents have high aspirations for their children while white working class parents do not. However research evidence on the place of educational aspirations as a factor explaining differences in attainment is inconclusive. Educational aspiration is difficult to measure and to disentangle from lack of awareness of opportunities  to which pupils  and their parents can aspire. Further research is need  on whether it is low aspiration which leads  to underachievement of white working class pupils or other barriers such as knowledge of opportunities or lack of resources to promote literacy."

My own conclusions  , such as they are, are as follows.

  1. It is important to note the relative underachievement of White British pupils eligible for free school meals in comparison with ethnic minority pupils eligible for free school meals.
  2. However it is dangerous to assume that the attainments of pupils eligible for free school meals provide an accurate estimate  of the attainments of all working class pupils many of whom are not eligible for free school meals.
  3. It is very difficult to explain the reasons for the relative underachievement of white pupils eligible for free school meals compared with ethnic minority pupils eligible for free school meals.
  4. Several studies point to differences in aspirations as between different ethnic groups but the most recent DfE Report on this issue emphasises that this conclusion should not be accepted without question and that further research into this question remains a priority.
  5. It should be remembered that theories based around the alleged cultural deprivation of working class students and their families have a long history in Sociology and that they have been subjected to several significant criticisms. Further information on these theories can be found here and more detailed information can be found here.
  6. Click here for a thought provoking article by Garth Stahl on the nature of white working class aspiration and click here for an article by Prof. Tony Sewell and click here for further comments from Garth Stahl and click here for  a recent Guardian article by Tim Lott and click here for  a recent  Guardian article by Gaby Hinchcliffe . The differing emphases of these articles may generate useful discussion. Further additions January 2018:
  7. click here for article by Kenan Malik on ethnicity and class and here for a detailed article by Garth Stahl.
  8. You may  Click here for a recent report on access of white working class students to HE
  9. This is clearly a topic which you might like to discuss in more detail with your teachers.
  10. I have now revised my essay [see below] on ethnicity and educational achievement to include a short discussion of the educational attainments of white working class pupils. I hope that that summary information will be useful for examination purposes.

 

 

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