The Commons Select Committee (CSC) on Education has produced a report on the underachievement of white British working-class children. This ostensibly highlights the poor educational performance of white British children who are eligible for free meals (FSM) compared to those in receipt of FSM from ethnic minority groups such as those of Indian and Chinese ancestry. I say ostensibly because there are severe flaws in methodology. These are:
- The definition of white British is far from simple. The report distinguishes between Irish, traveller of Irish heritage, Gypsy/Roma and Any other white background (see CSC table 2 page 13). The Any other white background is the largest. It is not clear from the report how the white British were defined, for example , a child of white immigrants might well consider his or herself white British. Who would whether they were or were not British?
- The numbers of some of the ethnic minority groups cited are small, for example, at the end of Key Stage 4 (the end of GCSE courses) in 2013 there were only 168 Chinese in the country who pupils who qualified for FSM. (see CSC table 2 page 13).
3. The use of FSM as a proxy for working-class means that white British apples are being compared with variously coloured ethnic minority oranges. Most importantly the use of FSM means that the British white working-class as a whole is not represented , but only the poorest section of it. Hence, the general treatment in the media of the report, that it shows the white working-class to be falling behind ethnic minorities, is grossly misleading. The report recognises this:
…measuring working class performance in education through FSM data can be misleading. The Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) drew our attention to a mismatch between the proportion of children who were eligible for free school meals and the proportion of adults who would self-define as working class:17 in 2012/13, 15% of pupils at the end of key stage 4 were known to be eligible for free school meals,18 compared with 57% of British adults who defined themselves as ‘working class’ as part of a survey by the National Centre for Social Research.The CRRE warned that projecting the educational performance of a small group of economically deprived pupils onto what could otherwise be understood to be a much larger proportion of the population had “damaging consequences” on public understanding of the issue. The logical result of equating FSM with working class was that 85% of children were being characterised as middle class or above.
The white British group will be overwhelmingly drawn from the most deprived part of that group’s population, while many of the ethnic minority groups held up as superior to the white British children , will have a large component of people who are not drawn from the lower social reaches of their society, but are poor simply because they are either first generation immigrants or the children of first generation immigrants and have not established themselves in well paid work – think of all the tales the mainstream media and politicians regale the British with about immigrant graduates doing menial jobs. These parents will both have more aspiration for their children and a greater ability to assist their children with their schoolwork.
The range of those qualifying for FSM is extensive and there is considerable complexity resulting from pupils going in and out of the qualifying criteria, viz:
(Para 12 of the report) . Of the Children are eligible for free school meals if their parents receive any of the following payments:
• Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
• Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
• the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
• Child Tax Credit (provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and
have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
• Working Tax Credit run-on—paid for 4 weeks after they stop qualifying for
Working Tax Credit
• Universal Credit
13. A report for the Children’s Society noted that the criteria for FSM mean that parents working 16 or more hours per week (24 hours for couples from April 2012) lose their entitlement to FSM since they are eligible for working tax credit; as a result there are around 700,000 children living in poverty who are not entitled to receive free school meals. In addition, not all those who may be eligible for FSM register for it; a recent report for the Department for Education estimated under-registration to be 11% in 2013. This figure varies across the country: in the North East under-registration is estimated to be 1%, compared to 18% in the East of England and 19% in the South East.
4. Greater resources, both material advantages and better quality staff, are being put into schools which have a very large ethnic minority component than schools which are predominantly filled with white British children. This is occurring both as a matter of deliberate government policy and through not-for-profit corporations such as charities.
Government policies are things such as the pupil premium . This is paid to schools for each pupil who qualifies under these criteria:
In the 2014 to 2015 financial year, schools will receive the following funding for each child registered as eligible for free school meals at any point in the last 6 years:
£1,300 for primary-aged pupils
£935 for secondary-aged pupils
Schools will also receive £1,900 for each looked-after pupil who:
has been looked after for 1 day or more
was adopted from care on or after 30 December 2005, or left care under:
a special guardianship order
a residence order
The amounts involved for a school can be considerable. Suppose that a secondary school with 1,000 children has 40% of its pupils qualifying for FSM. That would bring an additional £374,000 to the school in this financial year. At present £2.5 billion is being spent on the pupil premium.
According to a Dept of Education (DoE) investigation published in 2013, Evaluation of Pupil Premium Research Report , a good deal of this money is being spent on ethnic minorities and those without English as a first language (see tables 2.1 and 2.2, pages27 and 30) . The pupil premium can be used to provide extra staff, better staff, improved equipment after school activities and so on.
Schools can allocate the Pupil Premium money at their discretion and often make the identification of where money has gone next to impossible because they do things such as merging the Pupil Premium money with money from other budgets and joining forces with other schools in the area to provide provision (see pages 14/15 in the DoE report). It is probable that the Pupil Premium money brought into schools by white British working-class FSM children is being used, at least in part, to benefit ethnic minorities. The converse is wildly improbable.
Ethnic minorities are concentrated in particular areas and particular schools. This makes it more likely that ethnic children will go to schools with a higher proportion of free school meal pupils than schools dominated by white pupils. That will provide significantly greater funding for an ethnic minority majority school than for one dominated by white Britons, most of whom will not qualify for the Pupil Premium. .
Because ethnic minority families, and especially those of first generation immigrants, are substantially larger on average than those of white Britons, the likelihood of ethnic minority children qualifying for FSM will be greater than it is for white Britons because the larger the family the more likely a child is to qualify for FSM. This will boost the additional money from the pupils premium going to ethnic minority dominated schools.
An example of not-for-profit intervention is the charity Teach First. The select committee report (para 116) describes their work:
The Government’s response to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s first annual report noted that Teach First will be training 1,500 graduates in 2014 to 2015 and placing them in the most challenging schools, and that as of 2014/15 Teach First will be placing teachers in every region of England.
The Teach First website states: “Applicants to our Leadership Development Programme are taken through a rigorous assessment process. We select only those who demonstrate leadership potential, a passion to change children’s lives and the other skills and attributes needed to become an excellent teacher and leader. These participants teach and lead in our partner primary and secondary schools in low-income communities across England and Wales for a minimum of two years, ensuring every child has access to an excellent education.”
Apart from specific programmes such as the Pupil Premium and special training for teachers to prepare them what are euphemistically called “challenging schools” which end up disproportionately favouring ethnic minority pupils, there is also scope within the normal funding of state schools to favour ethnic minorities because head teachers have a good deal of discretion in how funds are spent. That applies with knobs on to Academies and Free Schools.
There is also a considerable difference in funding between the funding of areas with large ethic minority populations, especially black and Asian groups, and areas with largely white populations, for example, between East Anglia and London: “ The government has announced plans to raise per-pupil funding 3.7pc in Norfolk to £4,494, 7pc in Cambridgeshire to £4,225 and 2.5pc in Suffolk to £4,347 next year following a campaign by MPs.
“But councillors have called for a long term overhaul of the funding system, which will still see each student in the county receive around half of the allocation in the City of London, which will get £8,594.55 for each pupil.”
5. The effect of political correctness. With good reason any teacher, and especially white teachers, will be fearful of not seeming to be devoutly political correct. They know they are at the mercy of other teachers , parents and pupils and know that an accusation of racism from any source could well end their teaching career at worst and at best seriously disrupt their lives while a complaint is being investigated. In addition, many teachers will be emotionally attached to political correctness generally and to multiculturalism in particular.
In such circumstances it is reasonable to suspect that teachers in schools with a mix of ethnic minority and white British children will devote more time and patience to ethnic minority pupils than to white children. They may do this without conscious intent, with either fear or the ideological commitment making such a choice seem the natural one.
Such preferential treatment for ethnic minority children is facilitated by the large amount of continuous assessment involved in GCSE. (This is supposedly being reduced but the results of the change has not yet worked through to the end of a GCSE cycle. Teachers routinely help children to re-write work which does not come up to par, in some cases re-doing the work themselves . Teachers have also been caught helping pupils to cheat during exams . The opportunity and the temptation to help ethnic minority children is there and the pressure of political correctness may cause opportunity to become actuality.
6. The disruptive effect on schools of a large number of pupils from different backgrounds with English as a second language, the type of schools where the headmaster boasts “We have 100 languages spoken here”. The most likely white British children to be in such schools are those from the poorest homes which means they qualify as FSM pupils. They will be lost in these Towers of Babel not only because often they will be in the minority, but also because, unlike children with English as a second language or ethnic minority English speakers who will have a good chance of enhanced tuition, the white British FSM pupils will not enjoy such a privilege and may be actually ignored to a large extent because of the desire of the staff to assist ethnic minority children.
7 . The downplaying of British culture. The school curriculum in Britain and especially in England (where the vast majority of the British live) is shaped to reflect the politically correct worldview. This means that ethnic minority culture and history are frequently pushed ahead of British culture and history. The larger the percentage of ethnic minorities in a school, the greater will be the tendency to marginalise the white British pupils, who will almost certainly be drawn largely from those qualifying for FSM. They will be deracinated and become culturally disorientated.
To this school propaganda is added the politically correct and anti-British, anti-white propaganda which is pumped out ceaselessly by mainstream politicians and the media. This will reinforce the idea that being white and British is somehow at best inferior to that of ethnic minority cultures and at worst something to be ashamed of, something to be despised, something which is a danger to its possessor.
As far as the general public is concerned, the Select Committee report is saying the white working-class children – all of them not just those receiving FSM – are doing less well than ethnic minority children. The reason for this is simple, the mainstream media have reported the story in a way which would promote such a belief, both in their headlines and the stories themselves.
A comparison between the white British population as a whole and the ethnic minority populations as a whole would be nearer to reality, but it would still be comparing apples and oranges for the reasons given above. The ethnic minority children would still be likely to have on average parents who would not be representative of the ancestral populations they came from, political correctness would still drive teachers to favour ethnic minority pupils, continuous assessment would still allow teachers to illegally aid ethnic minorities, heads could still decide to divert more funds towards ethnic minorities and the promotion of ethnic minority cultures and history would still exist.
What could be done to remedy matters? Continuous assessment should stop and end of course synoptic exams substituted . Ethnic minority children should not have more spent on them than white British children. School funding in different areas should be broadly similar per capita. British culture and history should be the dominant teaching driver. Political correctness should be removed from the curriculum generally.
As for future studies, these should be controlled in a much more subtle manner than simply using FSM as a criterion. Any study of all or any part of group should control for parents’ education, income, the amount of money spent on each pupil, the teacher pupil ratio, the quality of the teachers and the general facilities of the school.
Those suggestions would not entirely cure the problem, but it would be good start to both getting at the truth and ending the demonization of the white working-class which has gathered pace ever since the Labour Party decided to drop the white working-class as their client base and substitute for them the politically correct groups of gays, feminists and most potently ethnic minorities.