On Tuesday, June 22 a group of MPs on the Education Select Committee said white working class pupils have been let down by decades of neglect in the education system.
They also said schools could be breaking the law by promoting “divisive” terminology such as “white privilege”.
Saying these two things concurrently, to me, is obviously intended to stoke the so-called culture war.
It implies that schools and teachers are solely focused on helping disadvantaged children from ethnic minorities, “neglecting” white disadvantaged children.
As a teacher, I’m exasperated.
Schools haven’t neglected white working class pupils. Nor has the use of the term “white privilege” harmed them.
White privilege does not mean you suffer no disadvantage, or that things are easy for you. It means your life hasn’t been made harder because of the colour of your skin.
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The definition has been skewed by some members of the government and the right wing media to make it something it isn’t, and to fuel racism and division in this country.
Educating children about systemic racism or teaching them a more inclusive version of our history won’t fuel neglect of white working class children.
What has fuelled neglect of white working class children is more than a decade of austerity.
What has fuelled neglect of white working class children is lack of opportunities, families disengaged with the education system and poor local services.
Added to this is the problem that many children living in poverty in rural areas are not able to access some of the opportunities of children living in our cities.
The problem is complex and multifaceted. Making opportunities equal for all children requires looking at society as a whole. The housing crisis, disparities in wages, access to jobs and multi-generational poverty are just some of the issues that need addressing.
But stoking up the culture war and trying to turn groups of people against each other isn’t helpful.
All disadvantaged children are being failed by the government and society.
To imply that it’s only white working class children “neglected” is irresponsible and a deliberate attempt to further divide the nation against each other.
Do that and you shift the spotlight and blame from yourself. It’s helpful for the government to get those struggling to survive to point the finger at each other and not at the top.
Why are we comparing which children at the ‘bottom’ are the furthest behind?
Instead, we should be asking what we can do to ensure all disadvantaged children do as well at school as those at the top – the affluent children.
Disadvantaged pupils – those eligible for Free School Meals in the last six years – are on average 18 months behind affluent peers by the time they reach their GCSEs.
Millions of British children live in poverty, and fewer than half reach the expected levels for English and Maths by the end of primary school.
And the disadvantage gap between rich and poor is growing as a result of the pandemic.
Yesterday, Labour MP David Lammy Tweeted the following, which sums it up quite nicely:
Children are behind because there has been a 40 per cent decrease in Local Government funding since 2010. And because there’s been a 38 per cent increase in child poverty in the last 11 years of the Conservatives being in charge. That’s 800,000 more children living in poverty in this country.
The richest six people in the UK own as much as the bottom 13 million.
More than 600 Youth Centres have closed. Spending on Youth Services has fallen 62 per cent – by £737 million. Almost 800 libraries have closed. Food bank usage has risen by 3,000 per cent.
I could go on.
Don’t believe the Tory MPs when they try to divide us and get us to turn against each other – ask them to do better.
Divide and conquer – it’s what they do best.