Only 24 per cent of boys in this category gain five or more A*-C grades in their GCSEs compared with 27 per cent of Afro-Caribbean boys, according to a report on gender and education by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The findings go further than last month's Rowntree report that said white British boys are more likely than others to become persistent low achievers.
The Government's report found that boys and girls from low- income families were three times as likely to be excluded.
Paul Grant, head of Robert Clack school in Dagenham, east London, said he welcomed the attention white working class children were being given. "My children are from an overwhelmingly working class community around 80 per cent are white, 20 per cent Afro-Caribbean," he said. "They need structure, they need a culture of achievement and they need extra-curricular activities like sport."
Mr Grant said that the proportion of children achieving five A*-C grades in their GCSEs had risen from 17 per cent in 1997 to 50 per cent last year, including maths and English. He said: "Our results have gone up with all levels of ability that's the key. The gap between the achievement of boys and girls at this school is very narrow." John Bangs, education spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, said that the union had called on the Government to target more funding on white working class children. He said: "It has been obvious to us for some time that the ethnic minority achievement grants given to local authorities should cover all groups at the bottom of the tables for achievement, including white working class boys."
The report, Gender and Education, which summarises previous research on the subject, states that 70 per cent of children identified as having special needs are boys and that boys make up 80 per cent of those permanently excluded.
Girls are more likely than boys to have been the subject of psychological bullying. Boys are more likely than girls to have been physically abused. Boys are also more likely to have committed criminal offences such as handling stolen goods or carrying an offensive weapon 33 per cent compared to 21 per cent.
Surprisingly, researchers found that the type of school a child attended did not appear to influence the gender gap, since there were hardly any schools where boys did better than girls. Combating images of laddish masculinity and establishing a strong school ethos were seen as crucial to raising boys' achievements. Researchers said "the jury is still out" on the impact of single sex schools, though there was some evidence that girls' and boys' attitudes to subjects such as science were less influenced by gender at single-sex schools.
Although the teaching profession was become increasingly female researchers found no strong evidence to link the gender of teachers to children's performance.