White working-class children should receive additional help with English so they can catch up with their peers from ethnic minority backgrounds, according to a new report.
Poor language and literacy skills are holding back the progress of white children from disadvantaged backgrounds, even though English is their first language, the Guardian reports.
The Department of Education study reveals ethnic minority children for whom English is an additional language now outperform their classmates, partly as a result of interventions to improve their language skills.
Experts hope that some of the strategies that have been used to raise the attainment levels of ethnic minority pupils could now be used to help their white peers catch up.
The report states: "Improved language skills have been identified as a key factor enabling ethnic minority pupils to catch up with white British children over time.
"Studies indicate that while white working-class pupils do not have English as a specific barrier, language and literacy skills are an area of concern. They might therefore benefit from targeted help."
Steve Strand, a professor of education at Oxford University and one of the authors of the report, pointed to earlier interventions such as the ethnic minority achievement grant as evidence that deep-rooted issues can be tackled given the right kind of focus and consensus.
The study was commissioned in response to growing concerns about underachievement among poorer white children and explores why some groups are more resilient to the impact of poverty on educational attainment.
Although schools have a key role to play in improving pupils' performance, the report points out that parents and family have an even greater role to play, and ethnic minority parents are more likely to have "attitudes and behaviours" that raise their child's attainment.
Some ethnic groups, even from more disadvantaged backgrounds, are more likely to pay for private tuition or some form of additional schooling, and are more involved with their child's school, the report states.
Posted by Harriet McGowan