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Report highlights impact of 'poor neighbourhoods' on white boys' academic paths

Published 12/11/2015

The Sutton Trust also found that boys were significantly less likely to carry on with academic study than girls
The Sutton Trust also found that boys were significantly less likely to carry on with academic study than girls

White working-class boys from poor neighbourhoods face a "double disadvantage" of low family income and poverty linked to their wider community, which makes them far less likely to continue academic study after GCSE, a report has suggested.

The Sutton Trust said fewer than a third (29%) of boys from this group would continue to take AS, A-levels or other qualifications after GCSE compared with just under half (46%) of white working-class boys living in more affluent areas and two-thirds (68%) of boys from more advantaged families.

Its also found that boys were significantly less likely to carry on with academic study than girls.

While two-thirds (66%) of girls took AS, A-levels or another qualification, only just over half (55%) of all boys did the same.

The education charity said that ahead of the spending review later this month, it was urging the Government to consider the "double disadvantage" that poor pupils who lived in deprived neighbourhoods faced.

The Trust would like to see higher levels of resources maintained in these areas as the Government reforms school funding, and link those resources to a similar accountability framework as the pupil premium, which is received by state schools for each child eligible for free school meals.

Its report also recommended there was continued support for the pupil premium for all disadvantaged pupils, including high achieving disadvantaged pupils.

In regions where performance was particularly poor, it also wanted to see targeted programmes to drive up standards.

Other findings of the report, Background To Success, which looks at how gender, place and ethnicity shape academic outcomes after GCSE, included that Bangladeshi, Indian, Black Caribbean and mixed race students were much more likely to take three or more A-levels than white UK students.

Almost half of Indian students entered four or more AS-level exams while slightly more did three or more A-levels - almost double the equivalent percentage for white UK students.

The Trust, which has carried out much previous research on an attainment gap throughout secondary school, said the report was based on a sample of 3,000 students who were studied from age three to 18.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "It is shocking that so few white working class boys go on to take AS or A-levels.

"We must redouble our efforts to address these attainment gaps, and ensure that every pupil, regardless of family income, gender or ethnicity has the chance to succeed.

"That's why in the spending review the Government must recognise the 'double disadvantage' that those in the poorest neighbourhoods face and ensure that extra resources are applied to these children."

Professor Pam Sammons, the report's lead author, said: "Our research shows how different combinations of factors affect young people's educational life chances.

"Disadvantaged students, especially white UK boys, have poorer outcomes and living in a poor neighbourhood compounds this.

"Unfortunately, although the pupil premium helps schools by providing extra resources for poor students, local authorities serving the poorest communities have been hardest hit by budget cuts during the last five years."

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "The report is right to point out that there is no 'level playing field' for children of different economic and social backgrounds.

"Education policy needs to take account of the differing experiences that children have in their communities and at home, and not assume that schools alone can overcome the multiple and significant challenges posed by poverty and social disadvantage.

"Impartial and independent careers advice, school trips and study opportunities alongside reading for pleasure schemes, which the NUT has long campaigned for, will certainly boost attainment for disadvantaged students.

"However, with many schools on the brink of a financial crisis unless Government seriously boosts school funding, we need accurate assessment of what is realistic.

"If the call by many MPs for fairer funding isn't accompanied by extra resources, and thereby leads to resources being diverted from poorer communities, then the problems that the report addresses will only intensify."

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