A report by Iain Duncan Smith’s Social Justice Policy Group has revealed that white working class boys are performing least well at school:

"They do markedly worse than other groups from similarly poor backgrounds, scoring only a quarter of the exam passes of teenagers of Chinese origin and fewer than half the exam passes of those of Indian extraction.  Even black Caribbean boys from poverty-stricken backgrounds – long associated with high levels of classroom underachievement – score a little better than their white counterparts.  Only 17 per cent of white working class boys gain five or more A-C grades at GCSE, slightly fewer than the19 per cent of black Caribbean boys of similar backgrounds attaining this benchmark. But among boys from low income Chinese families, the success rate is 69 per cent."

IDS lists the main factors that appear to explain the underperformance of working class white boys:

  • A lack of parental interest in education exacerbated by family breakdown;
  • Peer pressures that make it “uncool to study”;
  • Parental drug and alcohol abuse.


“The fact that poor children from Chinese and Indian backgrounds, where family structures are strong and learning is highly valued, outscore so dramatically children from homes where these values are often missing suggests that culture not ethnicity or cash is the key to educational achievement.  The policy-making implications are clear. To prevent the growth of an uneducated and unemployable underclass of forgotten children, we have to get their parents to engage in their learning and schooling from an early age.”

Related links: Telegraph and Daily Mail stories on report.

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