Chinese students are two years ahead of their white British peers by age 16, report finds

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Chinese students are two years ahead of their white British peers by the time they finish their GCSEs, an analysis of official data shows.

Chinese pupils, who make up 0.4 per cent of the total student population, perform “significantly better” in Maths and English GCSE and by age 16 they are 24.8 months ahead of their white British counterparts, according to a new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI). 

Analysing figures from the Department for Education’s national pupil database, researchers also found that Indian students are over a year (14.2 months) ahead of white British pupils by the end of GCSEs.

Meanwhile, black Caribbean students lag 2.2 months behind white British pupils, and have made the least progress since 2011.  

The report also found that poor teenagers are 18 months behind their wealthier peers in their GCSEs and that progress in closing the divide has come to a standstill. 

The GCSE attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier counterparts widened slightly between 2017 and 2018, the EPI’s annual report suggests.

Progress has slumped for the first time since 2011 and, if the recent five-year trend continues, the research concludes it will take more than 500 years for the gap to close.

It also found that disadvantage gaps are larger and growing in parts of northern England.

Researchers calculated that in 2018, poorer students were generally around 9.2 months behind their richer classmates at the end of primary school.

By the time they took their GCSEs, the report found they were 18.1 months behind in terms of average attainment in English and maths – widening by two months since 2017. For all GCSE subjects, the figure remained unchanged from 2017 at 18.4 months.

David Laws, EPI’s executive chairman and former Lib Dem schools minister, called the findings a “major setback” for social mobility.

Educational inequality on this scale is bad for both social mobility and economic productivity,” he said.

“We need a renewed policy drive to narrow the disadvantage gap – and this needs to be based on evidence of what makes an impact, rather than on political ideology or guesswork.”

But the Government said the gap had “narrowed considerably” in recent years.

Nick Gibb, school standards minister, said: “We are investing £2.4 billion this year alone through the Pupil Premium to help the most disadvantaged children.

“Teachers and school leaders are helping to drive up standards right across the country, with 85 per cent of children now in good or outstanding schools compared to just 66 per cent in 2010, but there is more to do to continue to attract and retain talented individuals in our classrooms.”



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