Caller's theory on why white working-class pupils are 'failing at school'

22 June 2021, 12:26

By Tim Dodd

White working-class kids fail just as much as black kids, this caller says, as MPs say the term "white privilege" may contribute towards "systemic neglect" of white pupils.

It comes as the Commons Education Select Committee says schools should consider whether promoting such "politically controversial" terminology is consistent with their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

The committee made a series of recommendations to improve white working-class pupils' outcomes, including finding "a better way to talk about racial disparities" to avoid pitting different groups against each other.

Sue in Bromley began by telling Nick: "What I want to talk about is this education report because it has me fuming and I don't want to play around with terms like 'white privilege' etc., because as someone who experienced the education system as a black working-class student many years ago, I could look around me and I could see that white kids were failing just as much as black kids.

"We were all in it together, we were all in the same position, there was no division really, and yet there would be report after report saying black kids were failing and that wasn't what I saw.

"What was going on, was that in my household, my parents told me that because I was black, because I would face discrimination my whole life, that I had to work really, really hard, and that education was important. That I had to go university, that I had to achieve the best I could because no matter how much I achieved, my skin colour would go against me."

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Nick then asked: "Why is that not happening with white children?"

Sue replied: "White children were not told that, because what their parents seemed to think was that they'd be okay regardless. Their parents didn't have to say to them you will be discriminated against, which is actually what happened to them as working class pupils."

"Do you mind me asking how long ago you were at school?" Nick asked.

"I was at school in the seventies," said Sue.

"I've worked in education myself, and I think to divide the working class like this is very clever but it's not real."

A DfE spokesperson said: "This government is focused on levelling up opportunity so that no young person is left behind.

"That's why we are providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade - £14 billion over three years - investing in early years education and targeting our ambitious recovery funding, worth £3 billion to date, to support disadvantaged pupils aged two to 19 with their attainment."