A report found that white working-class British boys are falling further behind other groups of children at GCSE, despite a string of initiatives designed to boost the performance of disadvantaged pupils.
The Centre for Social Justice, which was set up by Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith after he quit as Tory leader, found that over the period 2007-2012 the gap in performance between poor white boys and the average for all pupils widened.
White British boys receiving free school meals – a measure of classroom disadvantage – were performing much worse than other deprived groups of pupils.
Only 26 per cent of white British boys on free school meals gained five A*-C GCSE grades, including English and Maths, last year, compared with 40 per cent of black boys and 63 per cent of all other pupils on free school meals.
Christian Guy, the centre’s director, said: “These figures are sobering. They suggest that despite much money and effort white working-class boys are in danger of becoming an educational underclass.
“They are falling further behind other disadvantaged groups and they lag far behind the majority of pupils. We need to take a close look at the reasons behind this growing inequality and reassess the measures we are taking to close the performance gap.”
The report found serious problems among some children starting school, with some four year olds starting primary school in nappies.
The study also heard of cases where pupils were going to their first day already strides behind their counterparts.
The report, called Requires Improvement, has been drawn up by a working group of educational experts chaired by Sir Robin Bosher of the Harris Federation of Academies and a former primary school head teacher.
Sir Robin said he has come across some children at four-years-old who are developmentally nearer to two when they start school and therefore require a lot of help if they are to catch up.
He added: “I see about 10 per cent in each class who are so unsociable that they hurt others, adults and other young children. But they’re unsociable because they’ve no practice at being sociable.”
Presently children are not formally assessed until the end of the academic year they turn five, but at this stage many were found to be well behind their peers.
The report said that six per cent of boys did not know that print is read from left to right and top to bottom by the end of their first year.
Sir Robin added: “Educational failure is too common in our current system. It affects disadvantaged children and makes reform urgent. This is about social justice. We need to do more to make sure all children are given a good education.”
The report comes after the Government said that teenagers who fail to score good grades in their English and maths GCSEs must continue studying the subjects.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “This government is taking decisive action to support disadvantaged pupils and close the unacceptable attainment gap between them and their peers.
“We are increasing the Pupil Premium to £2.5 billion a year and doubling the number of disadvantaged two year olds eligible for free nursery places to 260,000.
“We’ve turned round more failing schools than ever before and are setting up new free schools to give all parents, not just the rich, the choice of a good school.
“From this week all pupils will study English and Maths to 18 if they don’t achieve a C at GCSE — meaning thousands more young people will have the chance to leave school, college or training with a good grasp of these vital subjects.”
Christopher Hope at the Telegraph UK