WHITE working-class children must do homework in school to help them catch up their peers from other ethnic groups, MPs say today.

Their report raises the alarm over a wide – and growing - gap which sees poorer white pupils skip more lessons and achieve poorer results at GCSE.

It highlights research suggesting white youngsters do far less homework than pupils from Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi and other ethnic backgrounds.

Loading article content

And it urges watchdog Ofsted to lean on schools to ensure “space and time” is set aside at the end of the day for pupils who have “nowhere to work at home”.

The report reads: “One possible response to this is providing time at the end of the school day for children to complete homework.

“The current trend towards longer school days presents an opportunity for schools…which may particularly benefit white working class children.”

According to research, quoted by the Commons education select committee, the average white working-class child does homework on just 2.54 evenings per week.

That is significantly less than other ethnic groups, including Black Africans (3.13), Pakistanis (3.13) and Indians (3.29).

The number of poorer white children who do homework on three or more evenings per week (49.3 per cent) - is also significantly lower than Black Africans (66.8 per cent), Pakistanis (68.5 per cent) and Indians (70.4 per cent).

Yet evidence from the USA suggested that increasing the length of the school day can add two months’ extra progress to pupils’ attainment over the course of a year.

And that benefit was even greater for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, who gained an additional half a months’ progress.

Yesterday, the chief inspector of schools called for parents to be fined if they miss parents’ evenings, fail to read with their children or allow homework to go undone.

Controversially, Sir Michael Wilshaw accused white working-class families of no longer valuing education as a way to improve their family's prospects.

Launching the report, Graham Stuart, the committee’s Conservative chairman, said it was crucial that the best teachers and leaders were given incentives to work in “the most challenging schools”.

He said: “Poor white British children now come out of our schools with worse qualifications than equally poor children in any other major ethnic group.

“They do less homework and are more likely to miss school than other groups.

“We don’t know how much of the under performance is due to poor attitudes to school, a lack of work ethic or weak parenting.”

Just 32 per cent of poor white children achieve five good GCSEs including English and mathematics, much lower than black Caribbean (42 per cent) and Indian (61 per cent).