Despite the government’s attempts to remedy the inequities of apartheid, there are large racial differences in educational outcomes, with whites performing substantially better than non-whites. In understanding these differences most studies have emphasised the role of school quality, without adequate emphasis on the role of the family. This study has investigated the role of the family in determining educational outcomes, and further how this is different for non-whites and whites. A holistic model of education was used which investigates the role of the family, while controlling for the effect of individual and school level characteristics that impact outcomes. Test scores from a literacy and numeracy evaluation were regressed on family level variables (family structure, parental involvement and socio-economic status), school quality variables and measures of individual ability and effort. The results of this study highlight that parental involvement and socio-economic status play an important role in the educational outcomes of both non-whites and whites, even after controlling for differences in school quality and individual ability and effort.