Working class white boys in Birmingham are being left behind in exam results at a time when all other ethnic groups are making great progress.
In a bid to turn the situation around the council’s education department is drawing plans to prevent the boys doing even worse in the race to gain qualifications and skills.
While children from many other minority ethnic backgrounds, including Bangladeshis and African-Caribbean, have improved performance over the last decade, working class white boys, those getting free school meals, have failed to match their progress.
According to the council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, Coun Les Lawrence, the level of white working class boys achieving five GCSEs at grades A* to C has ‘‘stubbornly’’ remained at 29 per cent for the last three years.
Meanwhile overall attainment in Birmingham schools has been creeping up, with 86 per cent of pupils in Birmingham schools gained five A* to C grades at GCSE in 2011.
It is thought the decline in traditional manufacturing and labouring jobs may have led to a ‘‘lack of aspiration’’ among white boys from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Meanwhile, following concerted efforts to raise attainment among other groups, performance is on the rise. Results for black Caribbean boys has risen by six per cent to 45 per cent and 50 per cent of Somali boys achieved the grades, up 14 per cent on the previous year. In the Bangladeshi community boys getting the grades have risen by 29 per cent over five years to 63 per cent.
At all levels and groups girls out-perform boys.
Coun Lawrence (Con Northfield) said: “The performance among white working class boys has levelled out, we have arrested the decline, but the performance needs to start going up. I believe we are at a tipping point.
“The general level of aspiration in many communities constrains what a school can do. There is a far greater influence from the wider community. We need to regain that focus on a sense of achievement,’’ he said.
“The low skilled manufacturing jobs are no longer around and we have only replaced them with service jobs. It is an issue we have as a society, not just schools.”
He said that mentoring initiatives in other ethnic groups had reaped rewards, with Bangladeshis being encouraged to follow successful business people from similar backgrounds and black boys given a focus towards the sports and leisure industry and health sector.
“We are looking at introducing similar schemes in areas like the Three Estates in Kings Norton and Shard End,” said Coun Lawrence.
He added that emphasis has also been placed on early years intervention to ensure children are given encouragement to succeed from an early age.
“If we can raise everyone’s levels at that age we will see improvement for years to come,” he said.
He highlighted schemes such as ‘stay and play’ which saw young parents joining the children, growing in confidence and moving on to become nursery nurses, child minders and in some cases teachers.
According to a report to the council’s equalities scrutiny committee the recent focus on early years is seeing improvements in children’s performance across the board at key stage one, or age seven. But it concludes: “At the end of key stage four (age 16) disadvantaged white boys and girls constitute the two lowest performing groups in the city. There are continuing concerns about the underperformance of white disadvantaged pupils.”
The equalities scrutiny committee has echoed those concerns and will monitor progress on these initiatives.
Chairman Coun Robert Alden (Con Erdington) said: ‘‘A lot of effort has gone into working with various groups, now similar efforts need to go towards white working class boys.”