Press release

Government reforms aid attainment among black pupils

Figures show academies programme helping to boost black pupils' results.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Children using a computer

The latest figures show how the government’s education reforms are raising standards among black pupils more quickly than any other ethnic group.

Black pupils have for several years been the lowest-performing ethnic group in England’s schools - but Department for Education statistics show that since 2010 the gap between their results and other pupils’ has narrowed in both primary school tests and GCSEs, and that they have achieved the largest improvements of children from any background.

The reforms which have contributed to the turnaround include:

  • the acceleration of the academies programme since 2010, allowing under-performing local-authority-run schools to be transformed by high-performing sponsors, and giving heads and teachers the freedom to leave council control by converting their schools into academies
  • introducing the English Baccalaureate, which has encouraged schools to enter thousands more pupils for GCSEs in the key academic subjects most valued by leading universities and employers
  • bringing in the pupil premium, which gives schools extra money to improve the performance of their poorest pupils

Schools Minister Lord Nash said:

For years black pupils’ results have lagged behind their peers’ but that gap is being eroded at all levels - the government’s school reforms are helping thousands more black pupils, including the poorest, to do well at primary school, thrive in their GCSEs, and then succeed in life.

It is particularly through sponsored academies, where long-term underperforming local-authority-run schools are being turned around by brilliant sponsors, that black pupils are benefiting. There are proportionately far more black pupils in academies than in council schools, and the improving performance of black pupils is reflected in the improvements in academies.


Nationally, 58.1% of black pupils achieved 5 or more GCSEs at C or better including English and maths last year. That represented the biggest increase of any ethnic group from 2012 (up 3.5 percentage points) and from 2010 (up 8.8 percentage points). The national average is 60.6%.

It means the gap between black pupils’ and all pupils’ GCSE results has more than halved in just 4 years and is now just 2.5 percentage points - more than two-and-a-half times what it was in 2010 (5.8 percentage points).

And among the poorest black pupils, the gap has also closed markedly - 43.1% of black boys eligible for free school meals achieved 5 or more GCSEs at C or better including English and maths last year - up 2.8 percentage points on the previous year, and the gap between the poorest black pupils and all pupils has narrowed by 4.4 percentage points since 2009.

Sponsored academies - where the proportion of black pupils is a third higher compared to all state-funded schools - are in particular helping black pupils get better results:

  • just under half of black pupils in sponsored academies (46.5%) achieved 5 or more good GCSEs including English and maths in 2010 - the lowest of any ethnic group - compared to 55.8% of all pupils in other state-funded schools, a gap of 9.3 percentage points

  • but by 2012 (the most recent year for which these statistics are available), the figure had risen to 53.7% for black pupils in sponsored academies and fallen slightly to 54.7% for pupils in local-authority-run schools - a gap of just 1%

  • black pupils in sponsored academies also extended their lead over black pupils in similar local-authority-run schools - where just 47.3% achieved the key GCSE measure

The EBacc

The figures also show that black pupils are also increasingly taking and achieving the set of key academic subjects most valued by universities and employers - the EBacc:

  • in 2011, just 16% of black pupils took the EBacc and just 9.9% achieved it - gaps between their performance and all pupils’ of 5.6 percentage points and 5.4 percentage points

  • but last year, 33.7% took it and 19.6% achieved it - that means the gaps are now just 1.7 percentage points and 3.1 percentage points respectively

The progress black pupils make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs is also well above the national average with:

  • 76.2% of black pupils making the expected level of progress in English in 2013 compared to 70.4% for all pupils

  • 74.2% of pupils making the expected level of progress in maths compared to 70.7% of all pupils

In primary schools tests

The performance of black pupils in primary school tests (taken by 11-year-olds) has also significantly improved in recent years:

  • 73% of black pupils achieved the expected level in the key measure (the 3Rs) last year, against 75% of all pupils. That means the gap between black pupils and their peers in the main primary school indicator is now just 2 percentage points, compared to 5 percentage points in 2010 (when the key measure was achievement in English and maths)

  • the progress in the 3Rs made by black pupils between ages 7 and 11 was especially impressive - the 2 percentage point improvement from 2012 to 2013 is the biggest of children of any background

  • and since 2010 the gap between the proportion of black pupils reaching the expected level in maths at age 11 compared to all pupils has fallen from 8 percentage points to 3 percentage points (there are no statistics directly comparing improvements in English between 2010 and 2013 because of the way English performance is now calculated)

Notes to editors

  1. Black pupils make up 8.1% of all children in primary sponsored academies, compared to just 5.6% in all state-funded schools. Black pupils make up 8.2% of all children in secondary sponsored academies, compared to just 4.9% in all state-funded schools.

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Published 26 June 2014