Education is the Key to Helping Poor White Kids23:52 - Friday 11 July 2014 - In Categories
Poor white children are lagging behind at school. That’s according to a recent report by the Education Select Committee, writes Rena Dipti Annobil
Figures showed just 32 per cent of poor white British children obtain five A* to C grades, compared to 51 per cent of black African children eligible for free school meals and 61 per cent of disadvantaged Indian children.
As a result of these figures, MPs have suggested that white working class children need longer school days and better teachers to boost their attainment.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw recently spoke out about this, saying that poverty was all too often used as an excuse for failure by white working-class families. He stated: ‘It’s not about income or poverty. Where families believe in education they do well.’
It’s a statement I have to agree with. I know several black and Asian families who live in council flats and the parents can’t read themselves but ensure that their children are doing their homework in the evenings instead of lounging around in front of the TV.
The black and Asian kids in the report are the children of immigrants who came here to better their lives. My grandparents and parents did the same. They were educated but did not come from affluent backgrounds (my first home was a three bedroom terrace shared by 13 family members)! However, my sisters and I were always pushed (sometimes a little too hard) to excel at school.
The vast majority of non-white families I grew up around planned their lives around their children’s education, not the other way round. Education was, and still is, a priority for them. It is not a priority for many white working class families. Many of them do not aspire to be middle class and traditionally they went into careers that did not require academic qualifications.
But now, the labour market has changed and children will face a tough future if they fail to do well at school. As for the remedy, I think making the school day longer is a terrible idea, and so is fining parents (a suggestion made by Sir Wilshaw), particularly since the parents being ordered to pay the fine probably don’t have any money in the first place.
I believe two things need to happen. First, schools need to hire better teachers (and the government needs to pay them more)! Secondly, schools need to engage with the parents. Many primary schools now have regular parents coffee mornings and short courses where the parents themselves are taught new skills including how best to support their child’s learning. It’s a good way to put learning on everyone’s agenda, because rich or poor, knowledge is an asset that no one can take away from you.