White British children are falling behind students from ethnic minority groups at GCSE level, despite being in the top 3 highest attaining groups at age 5.
They fall to 13th in an attainment table by age 16; behind pupils of Chinese, Indian, Asian, and black African descent.
The research by the CentreForum thinktank suggests that this substantial fall in performance is due to a lack of parental support in white families.
Jo Hutchinson, CentreForum’s associate director for education, has said: “We are talking about things such as parents attending parents’ evenings at school, talking to their children about subject options, supervising homework, ensuring that the family eats together and has regular bedtimes.”
The report also suggests that a parent’s aspirations are becoming less important than the support they provide. Hutchinson says that “most parents actually want their children to continue in education and be successful in education.”
“What sometimes differs is the extent to which they have the knowledge and the tools and resources to help them to make that aspiration real.”
“It’s not just aspirations but behaviours that support the aspirations.”
CentreForum’s executive chairman and former Liberal Democrat schools minister in the coalition government, David Laws, has said that the suggestions in this report aren’t definitive.
He said: “I don’t think we know all the answers to this. We know that we’ve got this very bad performance of white pupils versus other ethnic groups.
“We know from this analysis that it’s not embedded in the beginning of education because actually they appear to be doing relatively well at the beginning of their journey.
“So something is clearly happening about their ability to take advantage of the opportunities that other ethnic groups do manage.”
But it seems that these findings are not being accepted too readily. A University of Manchester student told The Mancunion that she is concerned over the report, claiming that accusations about the lack of support in white families is “offensive”.
“To say that white children are failing at GCSE because our parents do not show enough support is… wrong.
“I come from a family where the children have a pretty wide range of academic abilities and it isn’t because some parents are or were more involved than others.
“There are other factors: the school, natural ability, the interests of the child”. These suggestions are “completely unfair”.
Expressing her disapproval further, she says: “In parts of the report they may have well as written ‘white parents can’t discipline’, because that’s what it sounds like.”