‘Forgotten’ White working-class pupils let down by decades of neglect, MPs say
Education: Secondary / Tue 22nd Jun 2021 at 07:06am
WHITE working-class pupils have been badly let down by decades of neglect and muddled policy thinking and only a proper targeted approach will reverse the educational underachievement of this long forgotten disadvantaged group, MPs say today.
The Education Committee’s report The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it, highlights how White British pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) persistently underperform compared with peers in other ethnic groups, from early years through to higher education.
The report notes the Department for Education’s failure to acknowledge the importance of investigating the reasons for the disparities, instead relying on muddled thinking and an insistence that pursuing the same policies will somehow provide a solution.
In contrast, the Committee highlights the reasons behind the disparities and identifies five key solutions.
Statistics on underperformance (page 18)
Early years: In 2018/19, just 53% of FSM-eligible White British pupils met the expected standard of development at the end of the early years foundation stage, one of the lowest percentages for any disadvantaged ethnic group.
GCSE performance: In 2019 just 17.7% of FSM-eligible White British pupils achieved grade 5 or above in English and maths, compared with 22.5% of all FSM-eligible pupils. This means that around 39,000 children in the group did not achieve two strong passes.
Access to higher education: The proportion of White British pupils who were FSM-eligible starting higher education by the age of 19 in 2018/19 was 16%, the lowest of any ethnic group other than traveller of Irish heritage and Gypsy/Roma.
The Committee found these disparities particularly striking because White people are the ethnic majority in the country and, while White British pupils are less likely to be disadvantaged, FSM-eligible White British pupils are the largest disadvantaged group.
During its inquiry, the Committee heard of many factors that may combine to put White working class pupils at a disadvantage. It was not convinced by the DfE’s claim that the gap can be attributed to poverty alone, with pupils from most ethnic minority backgrounds more likely to experience poverty, yet consistently out-performing their White British peers.
Among the many factors that may combine to put White working-class pupils at a disadvantage are:
Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said: “For decades now White working-class pupils have been let down and neglected by an education system that condemns them to falling behind their peers every step of the way. White working-class pupils underperform significantly compared to other ethnic groups, but there has been muddled thinking from all governments and a lack of attention and care to help these disadvantaged White pupils in towns across our country.
If the Government is serious about closing the overall attainment gap, then the problems faced by the biggest group of disadvantaged pupils can no longer be swept under the carpet. Never again should we lazily put the gap down to poverty alone, given that we know free school meal eligible pupils from other ethnic groups consistently out perform their White British peers. In 2019, less than 18% of free school meal eligible White British pupils achieved a strong pass in English and Maths GCSEs, compared with 22.5% of all similarly disadvantaged pupils. This equates to nearly 39,000 White working-class children missing out.
So far, the Department for Education has been reluctant to recognise the specific challenges faced by the White working class, let alone do anything to tackle this chronic social injustice. This must stop now.
Economic and cultural factors are having a stifling effect on the life chances of many White disadvantaged pupils with low educational outcomes persisting from one generation to the next. The Government needs to tackle intergenerational disadvantage, inbuilt disadvantages based on where people live and disengagement from the curriculum.
What is needed is a tailor-made approach to local funding and investment in early years and family hubs. This should be alongside more vocational opportunities, a skills-based curriculum and a commitment to addressing low participation in higher education.
We also desperately need to move away from dealing with racial disparity by using divisive concepts like White Privilege that pits one group against another. Disadvantaged White children feel anything but privileged when it comes to education.
Privilege is the very opposite to what disadvantaged white children enjoy or benefit from in an education system which is now leaving far too many behind.”
The full report can be found below.
Glad the establishment have just found out, they could have saved alot of time and money investigating this issue by asking a few teachers anytime over the last 50 years. The Robins Report and the Newsom Report called Half Our Future both in 1963 signalled the failures in our education system and the failure to develop technical education (in contrast to Germany) and since then the system has progressively gone off the plot, except for Surestart, but that was cut wasn't it. We have certainly lost 40 years due to the mistaken belief teachers couldn't be trusted and the pursuit of rigor via the National Curriculum, OFSTED and OFFQual and a progression to truly a terminal examination system. Had the implications of these reports in 1963 or teachers working in schools since then been listened to then we wouldn't have politicians pontificating about failure due to their own failures but might have been celebrating 50 plus years of remarkable success.
Interesting that Robert Halfon should be Chairman of this report. Didn't he vote against free school meals for school children? And vote for all the austerity measures that the Conservative Government brought in that saw massive cuts in funding for education, youth services and schemes that were helping the under privileged kids of all backgrounds over the last 11 years?? Slightly hypocritical I would say!