Educational achievement at age 16, at the end of statutory full-time education, is key to young people’s future educational, economic, health and well-being outcomes. I look at achievement gaps by the three central dimensions of inequality: race, sex and class, and use the Second Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE2) which is the most up-to-date nationally representative dataset with comprehensive measures.
The largest achievement gaps are those associated with family socio-economic status (SES) as indexed by parental occupation, education and household income. For example, the achievement gap between pupils with at least one parent in a managerial or professional occupation and those with parents in semi-routine or routine occupations was large (0.81 SD). This was almost three times larger than the gap between boys and girls which was small (0.29 SD), and eight times larger than gap between Black and White pupils which was very small (0.11 SD).
The most important thing though, is to look at this data intersectionally, since everyone has a race, sex and class background, we don’t hold any of these characteristics in isolation. The young people with the lowest achievement at age 16 are from low SES backgrounds, particularly (though not exclusively) White British and Black Caribbean young people, and particularly (though not exclusively) boys. The message for social justice from the analysis is: your race, your sex and your class all matter, and in combination.