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Ethnic and gender differences in educational achievement and implications for school improvement strategies

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A vital element in school improvement is raising the levels of achievement of under-performing groups of pupils in schools. This short report examines the extent and reasons for underachievement throughout the key stage 1 and 2 and GCSE school years in inner city local education authorities. Statistical trends and patterns of performance are analysed, by gender and ethnic factors, to illustrate differences in attainment. This is followed by a discussion of the implications of the empirical evidence for school improvement. Overall, the message from our study is that there are no simple explanations for ethnic differences in educational achievement. Ethnic heritage does not presuppose underachievement. Some ethnic minority groups, such as Indian and Chinese, have levels of attainment above the average of the white UK groups. Others such as Caribbean, Portuguese and African are under-performing. Additionally, ethnic minority achievements are differentiated by both gender and level of fluency in English. The findings of this study suggest that pupils in the early stages of English fluency perform at very low levels, while bilingual pupils who are reasonably proficient in English perform better, on average, than English-only speakers at KS1, KS2 and GCSE. Whatever the pupils' ethnic origin, girls tend to perform at higher levels than boys at all key stages. Several other factors are likely to have an influence on performance at the end of each stage of the National Curriculum. This study also raises wider questions about how contextual analyses can be used for school self-evaluation.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-02-01

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