Ethnic minority students ‘losing out’ despite better school performance

Posted On: 
28th December 2016

Black and Asian Muslim pupils are more likely to be unemployed than their white peers despite performing better at school, according to an official report.

The report says social mobility promises are being "broken" for many in society.
PA Images

The Social Mobility Commission said the promise that hard work will be rewarded is being “broken” for many in society.

Its Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility report shows that poor white boys are the worst performers at primary and secondary school, but that black and Asian Muslim youngsters, girls especially, do worse for jobs. 

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The commission's research reveal that black children, despite starting school on a par with their peers from other ethnic groups, are most likely to fail maths GCSE, have the lowest outcomes in science, maths and technology A-levels, and are the least likely ethnic group to achieve a good degree at university.

Black boys face extremely high levels of school exclusion and overall do substantially worse than their female peers.

Theresa May on taking over as Prime Minister in July vowed to “fight against the burning injustices” of poverty, race, class and health, and give people back “control” of their lives.

She pledged a society where people can “go as far as your talents will take you”.

Yet Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said the findings show Britain is a “long way” from being a level playing field.

“The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. This research suggests that promise is being broken for too many people in our society,” he said.

“It is striking that many of the groups that are doing best at school or improving their results the most are losing out when it comes to jobs and opportunities later in life.

“It is deeply concerning that poor white British boys are doing so badly in education, from the early years through to university. Yet they are less likely to be unemployed and face social immobility than young people from black and Asian communities, Asian women especially. 

“Britain is a long way from having a level playing field of opportunity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background.

White pupils remain the least likely group to go to university, with only 1 in 10 of the poorest attending, compared to 3 in 10 for black Caribbean children, 5 in 10 for Bangladeshi and nearly 7 in 10 amongst lowest income Chinese students.

The report also reveals a gender divide, as British Bangladeshi and Pakistani women earn less than their counterparts from other ethnic minority groups, despite a “rapid” improvement in educational attainment within those communities.

Despite achieving higher qualifications at school than their male counterparts, researchers find that female Bangladeshi graduates are less likely to gain managerial and professional roles than male Bangladeshi graduates.

The report called for a series of recommendations to “dismantle” the barriers between each group.

  • Schools should avoid setting, particularly at primary level, and government should discourage schools from doing so.
  • Schools, universities and employers should provide targeted support to ensure Muslim women are able to achieve their career ambitions and progress in the workplace.
  • Universities should implement widening participation initiatives that are tailored to the issues faced by poor white British students and address worrying drop-out and low achievement rates amongst black students.

The report was commissioned by the Social Mobility Commission with research carried out by academics from LKMco and Education Datalab.