LONDON: Poor white children in rural areas and coastal towns have been revealed as the the biggest under-performers in British schools.

A report from Ofsted, set to be released later this week, outlines how the worst-performing pupils are now found in coastal towns and villages in the east and south-east of England. It is a dramatic shift from twenty years ago, when inner city pupils in large cities like London and Birmingham and ethnic minorities were the least likely to succeed academically. Now these children achieve exam results above the national average, while pupils in towns such as Hastings in East Sussex and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk are floundering at school.

The findings were laid out by Ofsted's chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw. He said: 'Many of these disadvantaged children live in areas that might be considered affluent but nonetheless are performing poorly.

'We need new policies and approaches to deal with underachievement in these areas.' The report, Access and Achievement, shows that poor British white pupils are the lowest performing ethnic group and since 2007 their qualification attainment has improved by just 13 per cent.

By comparison, Bangladeshi pupils of a similar background have jumped by 22 per cent.

Sir Michael, a former headteacher, told the Sunday Times: 'Where those youngsters aren't getting jobs, then they will be attracted to organisations like the English Defence League, and we need to worry about that as a society.'

Although the gulf in achievement between the richest and poorest pupils in cities is closing, it remains 'stubbornly wide' elsewhere.

The report, the first into the academic gap between rich and poor in a decade, also states that children from affluent families are nearly twice as likely to leave school with five good GCSEs than those from underprivileged backgrounds.

Sir Michael announced measures to tackle the disparity, such as more closely monitoring schools and encouraging successful schools to support those nearby that are struggling. DM