Here's a chart showing rates of underperformance on GCSE exams by ethnic group and economic status (free school meal eligibility), followed by excerpts from several related articles run by BBC News over the past few years:
Poor white boys struggle in GCSEsTuesday, 15 December 2009
Poor, white, teenage boys in England have slipped further behind other youngsters in their GCSE exams, reveals a breakdown of this year's results.
The official figures show that fewer than one in five who qualified for free meals achieved the benchmark of five good GCSEs including English and maths.
Twice as many white boys from better-off homes, not eligible for free meals, achieved this level of results.
Girls are still outperforming boys in achieving the GCSE benchmark — 54.5% to 47.3% — but the gap has narrowed this year by 0.9 of a percentage point.
Black pupils have also improved their GCSE results at a rate that is faster than average — rising to 41.5%.
There has also been a narrowing of the difference between poorer pupils and those who are better off — as defined by eligibility for free school meals.
But this still remains a substantial divide — with 54.4% of pupils not eligible reaching the level of five good GCSEs including maths and English, while only 26.9% of free school meal pupils achieved this.
The results show the intersection of different factors — gender, race, English as a second language and poverty.
But the group of white boys who qualify for free meals is unusual for falling further behind.
The gap between these pupils and their classmates who do not receive free meals has widened from 29.8% to 31.6%.
These results echo findings last month from an analysis of primary school results which found that poor white boys had fallen below almost every other category of pupil.
Poor white boys do worst in testsThursday, 19 November 2009
White boys from poorer homes now do worse in primary school tests in England than any other main group, latest figures show.
Only 48% of white British boys eligible for free school meals achieved the expected level in English and maths.
The average for all pupils was 71.8% — and that gap, 23.8 percentage points, was up from 23.1 points last year.
Attainment varied between ethnic groups with Chinese, Irish, Indian and mixed white and Asian children doing best.
Last year 52.5% of white British boys and girls together had the worst performance, though the girls' attainment was 55.4%.
This year, as a group, white British pupils again did worst.
Again it was the boys' performance that was weaker than the girls'. While 55% of girls achieved the expected level they were outperformed by the next nearest group — Pakistani girls (57.4%).
There are almost 200,000 white British boys, of whom 31,237 (16%) were from homes poor enough to qualify them for free school meals.
In the past, poor black boys have tended to have the weakest performance.
But this year 51.6% of black boys on free meals made the grade and the gap in their attainment compared with the national average, 20.2, was down from 21.8 in 2008.
Attainment was 49.7% among the weakest group of black boys, those from Caribbean backgrounds.
This left the white British boys on free school meals at the bottom. Even worse for the government is the fact that the attainment gap widened.
This has been a persistent problem for ministers.
Research shows that even children from affluent families who started out in the bottom ability group as toddlers overtake those from the poorest backgrounds who started out in the top ability group, by the time they are six or seven.
LEVEL 4 ENGLISH AND MATHS, FREE SCHOOL MEALS
All pupils: 53.3%
White British boys: 48%
Black Caribbean boys: 49.7%
Asian boys: 58.7%
White British girls: 55%
Pakistani girls: 57.4%
Poor white boys still lag behindThursday, 11 December 2008
Five out of six poor white boys in England did not meet the government's target of at least five good GCSEs including English and maths this year.
This compares to 25% of black boys and 32% of Asian boys of similar backgrounds, the new figures show.
Only one group performed worse — Gypsy/Romany pupils on free school meals.
Schools minister Jim Knight said the groups where children were doing well often shared a belief in the "value of family and education".
Liberal Democrat children's spokesman David Laws said: "Over half of poor Chinese boys achieve the five A*-C standard.
"Urgent questions must be asked about why white boys from similarly deprived backgrounds are falling behind."
White working class boys failingThursday, 31 January 2008
Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs including maths and English last year.
Among white boys from more affluent homes — 45% achieved that level of qualification.
Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better — with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.
"To have 85% of white boys from poor families failing to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths is truly shocking."
Low attainers 'poor white boys'Friday, 22 June 2007
Most of the persistent low achievers in England's schools are poor and white, and far more are boys than girls, a Joseph Rowntree Foundation study says.
Chinese and Indian pupils are most successful. Afro-Caribbean pupils do no worse than white British from similar economic backgrounds, results suggest.
The authors, Robert Cassen and Geeta Kingdon, analysed official data, focusing on four measures of low achievement:
no passes at all in GCSE/GNVQ exams
no result better than grade D
no pass in either English or maths GCSE
not getting five GCSEs including English and maths at any grade
Prof Cassen also visited schools and colleges and interviewed educationists and council officials.
The chief characteristic of low achievers is that they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
They are more likely to qualify for free school meals, live in areas of high unemployment, and have single parents who themselves have poor qualifications.
White boys 'trailing at school'Wednesday, 15 November 2006
Boys from white working-class backgrounds are doing worse at school than black teenagers, according to a Conservative Party report.
The document from the party's social justice policy group says only 17% of white male students gained five or more A*-C grade GCSEs.
That compares with 19% for boys of Caribbean origin, Tories suggest.
It compared the exam performance of boys in receipt of free school meals from different ethnic backgrounds.
It suggests that social issues, such as a lack of parental support, peer pressure and family breakdown are contributing to white working-class teenagers' poor exam results.
But the report adds that black teenage boys are affected by similar factors, yet are performing marginally better at school.
"The fact that poor children from Chinese and Indian backgrounds, where family structures are strong and learning is highly valued, outscore so dramatically children from homes where these values are often missing, suggests that culture not ethnicity or cash is the key to educational achievement."