Local MP calls for government intervention in schools

Commons committee hears evidence on underachievement amongst white working-class schoolchildren.

Birmingham MP Richard Burden has submitted evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee inquiry into the educational underachievement of white working class children, calling for government intervention to address the attainment gap between them and children from other backgrounds.

After convening a Parliamentary debate on the issue in May 2009, when a report funded by Birmingham City Council revealed that a high number of white pupils on free school meals in Birmingham were performing poorly in schools, the member for Northfield has submitted a detailed response on the difficulties facing white working class pupils within education.

In it, he highlights that in 2010-2011 less than a third of white British students eligible for Free School Means reached the national GCSE target of 5A*-C passes including English and Maths. In contrast, 63% of white British students not eligible for Free School Meals reached the national target. The size of the achievement gap between children with different levels of household income is unique to the white ethnic group.

His evidence went on to state that the government should also consider targeted interventions, including policies to raise school quality in disadvantaged areas and improve school engagement with parents from low income backgrounds.

He also claimed that improved data and analysis of the educational achievement of different ethnic groups and income classes is urgently needed to ensure the problem can be properly assessed and tackled and there needs to be a greater celebration of the often diverse heritage of Britain’s white working class communities in a positive and inclusive way, which is clearly differentiated from the racially divisive approach of groups such as the English Defence League and the British National Party.

Mr Burden added that numerous factors associated with deprivation and poverty have created educational underachievement, and a successful response will take more than school based interventions. The Government, he claims, need to make major reform to the wider economic environment, housing, employment, welfare, and the rising cost of living to successfully address the underlying causes of educational underachievement.