Longer school days could be a solution to the problem of underachievement in youngsters from white working-class backgrounds.
These could enable schools to give pupils extra help with their work and provide greater access to "character-building activities" that can boost their confidence and give them a better chance of success in a career or continuing education.
The recommendations are made in the Department for Education's (DfE's) response to an inquiry into the issue of underachievement by the Education Committee.
"It is our view that all schools should plan the structure, content and duration of their school day based on what works in the best interests of their pupils' education, and not simply on tradition," the DfE states.
It points out that some schools, including many in disadvantaged areas, have already altered their timetables in order to balance teaching, extracurricular activities and supervised, self-directed work.
Providing a calm and supportive environment in which pupils are able to complete their work has significantly boosted confidence and engagement levels, the DfE says.
Ofsted is to identify examples of successful practice in this area and will publish its findings on its website.
According to official figures, only 32.3 per cent of white pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM)achieve five A* to C grade passes at GCSE including maths and English - significantly below the national average for all (FSM and non-FSM eligible) pupils of 60.6 per cent.
In contrast, those from other backgrounds fare significantly better. Some 76.8 per of Chinese children and 61.5 per cent of Indians achieve the GCSE benchmark, along with 51.4 per cent of Black African youngsters and 42.2 per cent of Black Caribbeans.
A number of other proposals are made in the DfE's response, including analysing the incentives of those in teaching jobs to ensure the most challenging schools attract the best teachers.
In addition, the response suggests looking at ways to boost levels of parental engagement in education, backing plans for special academies to improve mothers' and fathers' ability to support their children. These academies are being pioneered in Middlesbrough and the London borough of Camden.
Posted by Alan Douglas