James O'Brien dissects claim 'white privilege' phrase leads to neglect of working-class pupils

22 June 2021, 14:47

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien responds to claims by ministers that phrases like "white privilege" may contribute towards "systemic neglect" of white working-class pupils.

A report by MPs claimed that disadvantaged white pupils have been badly let down by "muddled" policy thinking and the Department for Education (DfE) has failed to acknowledge the extent of the problem.

Chair of the Education Select Committee MP Robert Halfon told LBC's Nick Ferrari that white privilege as a "divisive and wrong" term may have a role to play in an oversight of this cohort.

James began: "So you are being ordered today to believe that the same people who didn't think that white working class children deserve to be fed during the school holidays are suddenly massively concerned about their educational attainment.

"I have never ever heard anybody from the right of British politics complaining about poorer children doing worse than richer children. Have you?

Read more: MP condemns term 'white privilege' as "divisive and wrong"

He questioned, "Have you ever heard a Daily Mail columnist or a Sun columnist or indeed a Conservative politician complaining about the fact that white children on free school meals do a lot worse in school than their children do?"

James pointed out that his own children are not on free school meals, but he is vehemently against it: "I think it's disgraceful, I think it's wrong and it needs to be fixed from the very top of Government.

"It's appalling that the circumstances of your birth still determine the quality of your education. It just is.

"If you're lucky enough to have a few quid, you can swerve it, if you're lucky enough to be able to move to an area that has grammar schools in it, you can afford a house in a catchment area, you can swerve it. 

"If you're lucky enough to be possessed of the skills and the time to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for your child's education that would ordinarily fall upon the shoulders of overburdened, under-resourced teachers, then go for it,  you're lucky."

"If you're unlucky, if you're doubly unlucky, you can't afford school fees, you can't afford private tuition, you can't help your kids because you don't have the skills or you don't have the time or you don't have the money.

"You haven't got the energy. You haven't got the wherewithal. You haven't got the, wait for it, education. And who speaks up for you?"

He continued that the Conservative politicians who today are "encouraging you to blame it all on anti-racist ideas" do not speak up for the people in these situations.

James questioned, "Why do they never ever ever complain about white kids on free school meals doing worse in school than their own children? Why is that never a problem?"