Chinese pupils extended their lead as the most successful ethnic group at GCSE last summer, new figures revealed this week. Black teenagers closed the gap on their counterparts from every other ethnic background in GCSE results last year.
And Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils, whose results have also been below the national average, improved by 3.2 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.
Chinese pupils, however, continue to pull away at the top.
In 2004, they were already the highest performing group, with 74 per cent of pupils achieving the benchmark.
Last year, this figure rose by seven points, higher than any other group, to 81 per cent. Chinese pupils are now also at or near the top-rated group for performance in all the key stage 1, 2 and 3 tests.
More than nine out of 10 Chinese teenagers achieved the benchmark level 5 in maths, compared to 74 per cent nationally. And one in four pupils achieved the highest level, 8, in that test. This was more than double the proportion of any other ethnic group.
The proportion of black Caribbean teenagers achieving the Government's benchmark of five or more A*-Cs climbed by nearly six percentage points, from 36 to 42 per cent, last summer.
Results of black African youngsters improved nearly as fast, rising by five percentage points from 43 to 48 per cent.
This compared to a three-point increase, from 52 to 55 per cent, among white pupils.
Black pupils' results also improved faster than the national average in each of last year's key stage 3 tests, covering English, maths and science.
Jacqui Smith, schools minister, said: "The improvements in results shown by disadvantaged ethnic minority groups is a tribute to the hard work of pupils and teachers.
"But there is still much more to do and we need to continue to build on this progress and close the gap even further."
The results confirmed the enduring effect of parental wealth on academic performance.
Some 30 per cent of pupils eligible for free meals achieved the GCSE benchmark, compared to 59 per among those not eligible. The gap is one percentage point less than last year.