White working-class boys are lagging dramatically behind other children at the age of five amid growing fears over poor parenting skills in the most deprived communities, it emerged today.
Official figures show that just over a third of white boys from the most disadvantaged families are developing properly in the early years.
Data from the Department for Education shows they are less likely to be able to read, communicate, use basic numeracy and show the necessary physical and social awareness as children from other groups.
It emerged that more white boys eligible for free school meals actually hit Government targets for early development this summer compared with 2011.
But figures show the gap between these pupils and the national average widened in the last 12 months following an improvement in standards across-the-board.
It will raise concerns that tens of thousands of disadvantaged white boys are not ready for school at the age of five, with fears that many will fail to catch up throughout compulsory education.
The disclosure comes after Ofsted launched a major inquiry earlier this year into the gulf in standards between rich and poor pupils in the English education system.
Launching the report, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said one of its principal objectives would be tackle an “anti-school culture” among white working-class families.
He warned that thousands of poor children – particularly boys – were growing up with little hope of a good education or career after being raised by families that fail to set proper boundaries or fully understand the difference between right and wrong.
Today, a DfE spokesman said the the achievement gap between rich and poor children, and between boys and girls, had been "too big for too long".
“We are determined to give children from poor families the chance of a better start in life, which is why we will give 15 hours a week free early education to 260,000 of the poorest two-year-olds," he said.
“We must also ensure staff have the skills and qualifications they need to give every child a high quality early education. That is why we commissioned a review of early years qualifications and we will be responding in due course.
"By improving the quality of staff and raising the status of the profession, we will give parents greater confidence in the education their children are receiving.”
The latest data was based on children’s performance at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage – a compulsory “nappy curriculum” for under-fives which must be followed by all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England.
Children’s development is tracked in six areas – personal and social development, communication and language, problem solving and numeracy, understanding of the world, physical development and creativity.
Nationally, 64 per cent of pupils achieved a “good level of development” at the age of five this summer, meaning they can dress independently, count to 10, write their own name and other basic words and sing simple songs from memory.
But the data shows a significant gender gap, with 73 per cent of girls hitting the target compared with just 55 per cent of boys. The 18 percentage point gap was the same as 2011.
Among white boys eligible for free school meals, the proportion dropped to just 36 per cent. It represented a 28 percentage point gap compared with the national average – one point up on the gulf recorded in 2011.
By comparison, 56 per cent of poor white girls achieved the level this year.
Poor boys from other ethnic groups performed better, it emerged, with numbers rising to 50 per cent among Indian children, 42 per cent among Pakistani children and 44 per cent among black Caribbeans and 48 per cent among children from black African families.
By Graeme Paton
Source: Telegraph.co.uk - http://goo.gl/o5z3Y