Grade predictions lottery

27th June 2008 at 01:00
The truth about how pupils' ethnicity affects the targets set for them in each authority is exposed
The truth about how pupils' ethnicity affects the targets set for them in each authority is exposed

Exclusive

Targets never before published show the huge difference ethnicity and postcode make to expectations of exam performance in England.

Details for all 134 local authorities that have produced targets for this summer were obtained exclusively by The TES under the Freedom of Information Act.

The difference in goals at GCSE mean that white teenagers who live in one area are expected to do nearly twice as well as those living elsewhere, while targets for black Caribbean pupils can be five times greater in some areas.

The biggest difference was between Pakistani pupils, who are expected to do 10 times better in Sutton, a south London borough, than in Telford and Wrekin in the West Midlands; the proportion expected to get five A* to C grades was 88 per cent in the former and 9 per cent in the latter.

Goals have been set for up to 21 ethnic groups in each area for all primary and secondary exams.

Local authorities have produced the targets based on data from schools, but this is the first time the figures have been made public.

The Government brought in authority-wide targets for all ethnic groups four years ago in an attempt to narrow the gaps between them.

But critics have warned that the targets could distract from pupils' personal abilities and result in low expectations.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said the money spent on developing such "micro-targets" would be better spent on schools, which inevitably had a better idea of individual students' needs.

But Dr Tony Sewell, an expert on achievement among ethnic minority pupils, said: "These figures are great ammunition for parents living in particular parts of the country, who can ask why less should be expected of their children.

"This is not simply down to socio-economic backgrounds because, for example, you have two London boroughs - Lambeth and Hackney - that are very similar in that respect, but that have very different expectations of their black Caribbean pupils."

Average targets for England calculated for each of the main groups appeared comparable with past results, with black-Caribbean pupils the lowest performing and Chinese the highest (see panel). In Lincolnshire, white pupils were expected to be the lowest performers.

Gypsy pupils were the only ethnic group for which no authority thought more than half would reach the standard, although only 13 authorities returned results. Barking and Dagenham in east London had the highest expectations for them, at 43 per cent, while East Sussex had the lowest, at 10 per cent.

Ethnic goals

Pupils expected to get five A*-C grades at GCSE, calculated as an average from the authority targets

Black Caribbean: 40%

Black African: 42%

Pakistani: 43%

Bangaladeshi: 47%

Mixed race: 50%

White British: 51%

Indian: 59%

Chinese: 69%

Detailed targets, pages 16-19

Leading article, page 28.

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