Commenting on "The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it", a report by the House of Commons Education Committee, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"It is important to understand that social class is the biggest determinant of educational success or failure. Too many children and young people are disengaged from the curriculum. It is time to acknowledge the link between our current curriculum and assessment approach and the de-motivation of thousands of students. 

“We believe the experiences of working-class students in education do merit much greater focus. They suggest a case for an overhaul of the assessment system and bold thinking on issues such as extended schools and restoring the services around a school which families need. We need to extend youth clubs, boost mentoring programmes, and think about vocational pathways and getting a much better balance back into the curriculum.  

"With 43 million children trapped in poverty, the report should do more to acknowledge the impact of poverty and the huge challenge that poverty poses for schools. Whilst schools can make a difference, they can't make the difference on poverty.  

“The NEU believes that experiences and stereotypes around class and ethnicity are inter-related, and we must therefore support schools to think about sex, class and ethnicity. Indeed, from the report’s own evidence, it is Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children whose attainment and entry to higher education needs the most attention, and findings for Black Caribbean children on Free School Meals are insignificantly different to white children on FSM.   

"Making ritical statements about teacher quality in poorer areas, as this report does, obscures the real discussion about what heads and teachers in high-poverty schools actually need in order to champion and empower learners. The school accountability system must understand the context for different schools. We certainly don't support more punitive sanctions as a route to retain teachers.   

"The report should have explored whether an average of £50 per pupil will be enough to support their recovery. This does not match the commitment our international neighbours are making to their children - the Netherlands and the United States are investing £2,500 and £1,600 per pupil respectively.   

"We are worried about the stealth cuts to Pupil Premium funding that will leave almost all schools struggling financially, with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds being the hardest hit. This will undermine the life chances of working-class students.  

"It is deeply unhelpful to try and make it harder to talk in schools about racism, which seems to be one intention of the report. Racism is endemic across society and in workplaces and nearly half of Black children are living in poverty. Racist content is being targeted at young people online in working-class areas across the country and so all schools must talk proactively about racism, including tackle racist bullying, in age-appropriate ways. We think a proper role for Government would be to share good practice about how to tackle racism using education, and how to develop teachers' skills around poverty-proofing the school day. The NEU has published guidance on this.  

"Both challenging racism and empowering all working-class students should be at the heart of this next phase of recovery education, after Covid. We should be prepared to ask big questions about how to redesign education to respond to these inequalities." 

ENDS 

2021-108-NEU