White Free School Meal Pupils do considerably worse at GCSEs than any other ethnic group

In Thursday’s Parliamentary Written Questions, information was released about the GCSE results of pupils who attend mainstream state-funded schools, have no special educational needs and are eligible for free schools. In essence: “poor kids”.
The results were broken down by ethnicity and show the % of students in each ethnic group who did not get a C grade or above in either Maths or English GCSE or both.
The numbers show that White Free School Meal students are, by some way, the group least likely to pass either a Maths or English GCSE. The number of White FSM students not passing English was 54.7% and in Maths it was 59.9%. The nearest classified ethnic group were ‘Mixed race’ FSM students of whom 42% did not pass English and 50.5% did not pass Maths. All other ethnic groups were lower again.
By this measure it appears White FSM students are nearly 10% more likely not to pass their English or Maths GCSE than a FSM student in any other ethnic group.
I’m offering no explanation for this. It’s nothing something I’ve looked at in enough detail to guess as to why. But I find it intriguing, and interesting, and something I thought I would shared – particularly as here in the US, where I am studying, I am sometimes looked at as if I am crazy when I try to explain that race is an important but ultimately very different issue here in the UK.
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PS – I have no idea how the phrases ‘While’ and ‘Slack’ got into a Hansard publication. No doubt it’s the fault of schools who no longer teach spelling.
PPS – I am guessing the data is for 2010/11 because the 2012 data was not yet available. 

An EBacc/ABacc English Curiosity

A morning Twitter discussion highlighted this curiosity:
In order to count in the EBacc statistics a student needs to get an English Language GCSE or an English (combined) GCSE. English Literature, on its own, can’t count.
In order to count in the ABacc statistics a student must get three of the Russell Group ‘facilitating subjects’. English Literature is one. English Language is not. (see p.15)
Huh.
This means that we think at 16 it is most important that children study Language but at 18 we suddenly value Literature. Surely this can’t be right?
Given also that a common defence of the EBacc is that its subjects reflect the ‘facilitating subjects’ of the Russell Group, I’m confused. Why is English Language in the EBacc over English Literature if Literature is the one the Russell Group believe keeps your options open most widely, and also is the one that counts towards a school’s “ABacc measure”.
Any ideas?
[PS – big thanks to @miconm and @danielhugill for prompting me to check this]

The "Critical Three": 3 Questions To Ask About Any New Policy

Whenever anyone asks for advice  – whether about a policy, opening a new school, starting a business, using a new teaching technique, whatever – my questioning line is always the same:
(1) What problem are you trying to solve?
(2) What makes you think this particular solution will solve that particular problem?
(3) If you’re so sure that this solution works, why aren’t people doing it already?
Amazingly people falter on all three.
For question 1 the most common pitfall is telling me the *benefit* of the policy, school, business. That’s irrelevant. What I want to know is the problem. Concorde had the benefit of flying its passengers from London to New York in under three hours but it bombed because no-one cared enough to fork out the ridiculous amount of cash it cost to make the journey that quick. Unless your policy ideas is solving a need you will rely on a ridiculous amount of marketing to make people think that they need the idea and then – at some point – people will figure out that this need you injected into them probably isn’t worth the amount of money or effort they are outlaying and hence will stop using it. Always, always be solving a problem otherwise you are wasting time.
If people can answer question 1 (the problem), they can usually answer question 2 (why this solution?). Usually, though; not always. I once worked in a school where teachers persistently failed to deal with children’s behaviour because the process for recording behaviour problems was so laborious. The senior leadership team decided that moving the recording system online would improve the situation. Except, the amount of information required was still the same, only now a teacher also had to find a computer, be in the same place for 15 minutes while the computer loaded, spend 5 minutes finding the file from a shrouded corner of the school’s U Drive before even starting the laborious information filling. The problem was that too much information was required before you could put someone on detention. The solution was therefore making the process shorter not simply putting it online. If your solution doesn’t solve the problem you face, your idea is bunkum.
Finally – and this is the one where most people fall down – why, oh why, if your idea is so brilliantly fabulous and wonderful hasn’t it been tried before? “No-one has thought of it yet” is not an adequate answer. Given the many people who have walked upon the earth and encountered the same frustrations as you, the idea that “no-one has thought of it yet” is entirely unlikely. More possible is that: (a) you didn’t have the right technology before, or (b) the current situation occurred because of a crotchety power-mad individual(s) with ridiculous ideas who have now been removed or sufficiently wooed into changing that your idea should go ahead, (c) someone left a job half-finished, or (d) someone didn’t have the courage or political support to do what you are suggesting, and so on. Without understanding the reasons why your idea has not been tried, however, you run one of two risks (1) it has been tried and it was a total disaster which you are likely to repeat again, or (2) no-one has tried it because there is a glaring hole not currently obvious to you in your idealistic stupor but which will trip you up as soon as you get given the green light for implementation.
When creating new things, no idea is fail-proof. The “Critical Three” Questions won’t save you from a confluence of events that could strike down your good idea, but they can at least help ensure that – from the outset – the idea has some worth on which to base any of your gainful efforts.