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Boys Underachievement: Contextualising ‘Gaps In Educational Attainment


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Dr Steve Strand presented some of his findings from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (2007) in order to explore Boys' underachievement: Contextualising ‘gaps' in educational attainment. His research has shown the attainment gap at age 16, in terms of gender, ethnic group and socio-economic class, to be in inverse rank to the extent of press and media attention (total points score 0.22, 0.61 and 1.29 respectively). However, the interaction effects of these variables are significant (e.g. the gender gap is much larger for Black Caribbean and Bangladeshi pupils than for White British pupils), and call for more "nuanced interpretations"; care also needs to be taken not to over-generalise to the individual.

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Boys Underachievement: Contextualising ‘Gaps In Educational Attainment

  1. 1. Boys’ underachievement: Contextualising ‘gaps’ in educational attainment DCSF Gender Agenda Conference Great Hall, King’s College, 28 th November 2008 Dr. Steve Strand Associate Professor University of Warwick [email_address] 024 7652 2197
  2. 2. Aims of this session <ul><li>What are the attainment gaps at age 16 by gender, ethnicity and social class, how do they compare? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the interactions (if any) between these factors? </li></ul><ul><li>Do gaps change (widen or narrow) as pupils progress through secondary school? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we account for the gaps through control for a range of pupil, family, school & neighbourhood contextual factors? </li></ul><ul><li>Consider implications for policy. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) <ul><li>Large scale, DCSF funded </li></ul><ul><ul><li>15,770 Y9 pupils (aged 14) in 2004 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Over sampled the six major ethnic minorities (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, Black African & Mixed heritage) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>647 secondary schools, includes independent sector & PRUs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Detailed in-depth data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Extended face to face interview with Young Person, 45 min main parent interview, 10 min second parent interview, links to ASC & NPD (KS2, KS3, GCSE/GNVQ) . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Longitudinal tracking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subsequent interviews at Wave 2 in 2005 & Wave 3 in 2006, further follow up planned through until age 25 (2015). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Aims </li></ul><ul><ul><li>to better understand the factors influencing attainment and progress during secondary school. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Gender gap <ul><li>-0.22 SD = 36 points (e.g. converting 6 grade ‘D’ to 6 grade ‘C’) BUT gap is subject specific (e.g. -0.31 for English but only -0.07 for maths and science) </li></ul>Gender Total Points Score 5+ A*-C incl. Eng & maths Girls 0.07 49% Boys -0.15 41% Gap 0.22 -7%      
  5. 5. Ethnic gaps
  6. 6. Ethnic gaps Ethnic group Total Points Score 5+ A*-C incl. Eng & maths Black Caribbean -0.29 31% Pakistani -0.13 36% Black African -0.09 42% Mixed heritage -0.09 41% White British -0.05 45% Bangladeshi -0.04 42% Any other group 0.18 50% Indian 0.32 59% Gap (lowest vs highest) 0.61 28%
  7. 7. Socio-Economic Classification (SEC) gap
  8. 8. Socio-Economic Classification (SEC) gap
  9. 9. Summary – attainment gaps at age 16 In inverse rank to the extent of press and media attention Gap Total points score (standardised) 5+ A*-C incl. English & maths Gender 0.22 7% Ethnic group 0.61 28% Socio-economic class 1.29 57%
  10. 10. Interaction effects <ul><li>There are significant interactions, the ‘effect ‘of ethnicity is not the same for all levels of social class, the ‘effect’ of gender is not the same for all ethnic groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Three main results: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Effect of class is strongest for White British pupils </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The lowest attaining groups are both Black Caribbean boys and White British boys from low SEC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black Caribbean pupils in medium and high SES homes, and particularly boys, are underachieving relative to White British pupils </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. KS4 points score by ethnicity, class & gender
  12. 12. White British ‘working class’ <ul><li>Full range of socio-economic variables: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SEC of the home </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maternal education (highest qualification) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family poverty (Entitlement to FSM) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rented accommodation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Single parent households </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Neighbourhood disadvantage (IDACI) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>White British are the lowest attaining group whatever the SES dimension, additional variables accentuate the ‘White working class’ effect even further </li></ul>
  13. 13. Mothers educational qualifications and IDACI by ethnicity % 5+ A*-C Incl. En & Ma Mothers educational qualifications Ethnic group Degree or other HE GCSE A*-C or A/AS Less than GCSE White British 69% 47% 24% Indian 85% 66% 49% Pakistani 71% 47% 31% Bangladeshi 54% 56% 41% Black Caribbean 40% 29% 23% Black African 60% 44% 26%
  14. 14. The challenge: nuanced interpretations <ul><li>Class – why are most ethnic minorities more resilient to social disadvantage? Equally why do Black Caribbean and Black African (particularly boys) from high SES homes underachieve? </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnicity – why no difference between White British and Black Caribbean pupils from low SEC homes? Why do Black African pupils achieve so much better than Black Caribbean pupils? </li></ul><ul><li>Gender – why is the gender gap in attainment so much larger for Black Caribbean and Bangladeshi pupils than for White British pupils? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Progress during secondary school <ul><li>The gender gap is relatively small, but it increases across secondary school (from -0.07 to -0.22 SD) </li></ul><ul><li>The overall social class and ethnic gaps remain stable, but there is a substantial interaction: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>White British working class pupils (both boys and girls) show a relative decline, particularly from low SEC homes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most minority ethnic groups make strong progress, particularly in the last two years of secondary school. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. High social class - Key Stages 2-4
  17. 17. Low social class - Key Stages 2-4
  18. 18. Accounting for the gaps <ul><li>Demographics are ‘package’ variables – what are the causal mechanisms? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many variables had a significant association with attainment in multiple regression models : maternal education, parental resources, monitoring, family discord, family structure, truancy, SEN, attitudes, school type and %FSM, neighbourhood deprivation etc </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The largest influences were: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pupils’ educational aspirations and parents’ educational aspirations for their child; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pupils’ academic self concept; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Frequency of completing homework. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Educational aspirations
  20. 20. Aspirations, ASC and motivation <ul><li>Key findings </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Little social class effect for Asian & Black African groups, or Black Caribbean girls, aspirations uniformly high </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No gender differences, except for White British & Black Caribbean pupils </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>White British & Black Caribbean working class boys have the lowest aspirations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Similar pattern of results for Academic Self-Concept (ASC) and for frequency of completing homework (indicator of effort & motivation) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Ethnicity, class and gender - Summary <ul><li>In low SEC homes all minority ethnic groups make strong progress during KS4, and have caught up (Black Caribbean) or exceeded (all other groups) the attainment of White British pupils by age 16. Key resilience factors are high educational aspirations (both pupils & parents), strong academic self concept and strong commitment (homework). </li></ul><ul><li>In high SEC homes ethnic differentials remain strong, with Indian, Pakistani & Bangladeshi pupils outperforming White British (when social disadvantage is included in models). Again aspirations, ASC and homework can account for this. However Black Caribbean and Black African boys underachieve relative to their high aspirations, high ASC and comparable homework to White British peers. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Gender - Conclusions <ul><li>Gender differences in attainment at age 16 are small relative to social class and ethnic gaps </li></ul><ul><li>Need to pay greater attention to the intersections of class, ethnicity and gender </li></ul><ul><li>Care not to over-generalise to the individual </li></ul><ul><li>Are some regularities between gender and attainment, in particular: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Boys’ writing at primary school </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Growing disaffection during secondary school </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Conclusions (Continued) <ul><ul><li>Boys’ writing at primary school </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Handwriting under-emphasised as a language act? Substantial gender difference in ‘automaticity’ in handwriting (ES=0.50); strong correlation with writing composition (Y2 and Y6), even after control for reading & maths scores </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>hypothesise for a sig. proportion of boys handwriting is not automatic and competes for working memory with higher-level skills of idea generation, vocabulary selection, spelling, revising text against plans etc (Medwell, Strand & Wray, 2007) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Growing disaffection at secondary school </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gender gap grows as pupils’ progress 11-16: Low aspirations, poor ASC and effort = disaffection (particularly working class White British and Black Caribbean boys) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Issues of school quality, curriculum and teacher expectations </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>Strand, S. (2007). Minority ethnic pupils in the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. DfES Research Report RR-002. London: Department for Children, Families and Schools. </li></ul><ul><li>Strand, S. (2008). Minority ethnic pupils in the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England: Extension report on performance in public examinations at age 16. DCSF Research Report RR-029. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families. </li></ul>
  25. 25. APPENDIX 1: Ethnic group*gender*class