Minorities 'are best attenders'

Ethnic-minority pupils are at school for up to a week more than their white peers, a three-year study at Hillhead High in Glasgow has revealed.

After analysing its attendance figures from 1997 to 2000, Surinder Bhopal, a home-school link teacher, says that ethnic-minority pupils are better attenders overall by around 3 per cent. More than a third of the 1,100 pupils come from ethnic-minority backgrounds.

"When translated into raw figures, this equates to an overall attendance rate of 33 weeks out of a possible 38, compared to an average white pupil attendance rate of 32 weeks out of a possible 38," he states.

Mr Bhopal acknowledges that Glasgow pupils are poor attenders compared to the rest of Scotland, although Hillhead's average is higher than the city's.

His survey suggests changes in the culture of some ethnic minority families, with parents from Muslim backgrounds more prepared to support their daughters in education, moving away from the tradition of favouring boys.

Parents are also less likely to withdraw children for long periods when visiting their native countries. "It used to be common for ethnic minority pupils to take long breaks but more parents are taking their kids away during the holidays," says Mr Bhopal.

While some are more committed to education, others are less so. Mr Bhopal believes there is "disenfranchisement" among some Pakistani boys, reflected in deteriorating behaviour, rebelliousness and rising exclusions.

His study throws up several anomalies, not least that, overall, boys are better attenders among all pupils. Girls continue to do better in exam passes at Hillhead, yet their attendance has slipped. Mr Bhopal believes persistent absentees in third and fourth year may be skewing the figures. White females were the worst attenders. "Only 39 per cent of white females attended between 91-100 per cent of the time, compared with a school average of 43 per cent and they were the most represented in the 51-80 per cent attendance category. Overall, 27 per cent of white females fell into this attendance category," he says.

Mr Bhopal points out that differences between pupil groups in terms of gender and ethnic background are most evident in the percentages who attend for between 91-100 per cent of the time, the best attenders. Significantly more pupils from ethnic-minority homes fall into the top category - 59 per cent compared with only 39 per cent of white pupils. Only 43 per cent of all pupils were in the top category, 7 per cent below the Scottish average.

He has published previous studies on attainment and homework, linked to ethnicity issues. A key finding was that bilingual pupils do less well in English than in mathematics and chemistry.

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