The Commons Education Committee has published its report on Underachievement of White Working Class Children.
The report found that:
“Good schools and teachers can make a huge difference to the academic achievement of children eligible for free school meals” and that:
- “Good schools greatly benefit disadvantaged children: Twice the proportion of poor children attending an ‘outstanding’ school will achieve five good GCSEs when compared with what the same group will achieve in ‘inadequate’ schools. In contrast, the proportion of non-FSM children achieving this benchmark in ‘outstanding’ schools is only 1.5 times greater than for equivalent peers attending schools that are rated as ‘inadequate’.
- The problem of white ‘working class’ underachievement is not specific to boys; while girls generally do better than boys poor, white, British girls are the lowest performing major ethnic group.
- Just 32% of poor white British children achieve five good GCSEs including English and mathematics, compared with 42% of black Caribbean children eligible for free school meals and 61% of disadvantaged Indian children.
- The attainment of poor children from other ethnic backgrounds is improving faster than the attainment of poor white children.
- The achievement gap between white British children eligible for free school meals and their better-off white British peers has barely changed over the last 7 years, and this gap is larger for white British children than in any other ethnic group.
- White British students with lower socio-economic status spend fewer evenings per week completing homework than peers from other ethnic backgrounds.
- White British students who are eligible for free school meals have a higher rate of absence from school than other major ethnic groups.”
‘Social mobility‘ has been a regular topic on this blog, including:
- possible solutions
- parental expectations
- external factors
- The importance of the early years. A recent Nuffield Foundation study highlighted that staff training and qualifications are a key aspect of quality in early years education. Those with graduate leaders scored more highly on quality measures. The research found that maintained schools providing early education in disadvantaged areas were more likely to offer better quality, probably because of the presence of graduates on teachers’ pay and conditions available to support on-site early years provision.
In its Official Response to the Government’s Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17 consultation, Voice commented:
“There is an increasing gap between those in poverty and those not. Those in poverty are finding it increasingly difficult to work to get themselves out of poverty. There are many well motivated families who are in the poverty gap who, no matter how hard they work, can never get out. They are low waged, with long hours. The time they can spend with their families is minimal. This leads to financial, emotional and aspirational poverty.
“Infrastructure within communities is being lost as a consequence of austerity measures – services such as libraries, youth clubs, museums, training centres, art activities, bus services and social services are being lost. Those in poverty cannot afford to travel into cities and enjoy the facilities in the city centres. There continues to be hidden poverty in rural areas along with suburban poverty in the cities.
“Until there is a return to community-based support, there will be reducing opportunities for families to extricate themselves from their disadvantageous circumstances. The current fiscal climate is cuts with no benefit to the poor. There is little real distribution of wealth as promised to narrow gaps.”
On what “works well in tackling child poverty now”, Voice responded:
“Consistent and coherent well planned local services.
Skilled professionals who are appropriately supported.
A sound infrastructure of support for tackling financial and aspirational poverty both now and also on an intergenerational basis.
Consistency and a confident work force.
High quality inclusive education.
A Curriculum that is differentiated and allows pupils to catch up and fulfil their potential.
A thriving and well managed infrastructure – youth clubs, libraries, sports centres, swimming pools.
A stable Social Services that is able to support families on a consistent and coherent basis with staff that know the area.
A good affordable and efficient integrated transport system allowing access to alternate hubs where there are educational, cultural and sporting opportunities.”
On “at a local level, what works well for preventing poor children becoming poor adults?”, Voice commented:
“High quality inclusive education, a curriculum that is differentiated and allows pupils to catch up and fulfil their potential, a thriving and well managed infrastructure – youth clubs, libraries, sports centres, swimming pools, a stable Social Services that is able to support families on a consistent and coherent basis with staff who know the area, a good affordable and efficient integrated transport system allowing access to alternate hubs where there are educational, cultural and sporting opportunities.”
Voice also remarked:
“Whilst we are in favour of challenging our brightest pupils – and the ethos in schools is for pupils to achieve ever higher reaching targets – there is a risk that the next steps in a child’s learning may be overlooked because of the constant pressure to improve results. The statement, ‘Ofsted will not rate schools as Outstanding unless they can show how they’ve raised attainment and narrowed the gaps for their poor children’ (para 10, page 36) only compounds the pressure.”