Commenting on the report, The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"The government response to the Education Select Committe report sidesteps the questions of both racism and poverty and how they affect life chances for young people in ways which are deeply entrenched.
"The response continues a strategy of pitting some ethnic groups of young people against other groups, rather than getting into the detail of how to improve life chances. The original report showed 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 Free School Meals. Yet the approach the Government is taking to talking about class is not constructive and comes without any commitments to tackle or reduce child poverty. Class and poverty remain hugely powerful determinants, and we’ve got to understand it is children of all ethnicities who live in poverty or who have SEND that consistently fare the worst.
"With 4.3 million children trapped in poverty, the Government 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.
"Teachers will be wary of a mantra of ‘levelling up’ if there is no promise of recovery funding for high poverty areas and there is a failure to recognise the stealth cuts to funding per pupil. Reports from both the Education Policy Institute and Public Accounts Committee this week showed how much the funding lags behind what schools need and how the schools with the poorest children have faced the biggest cuts.
"We welcome the fact that the government recognises the best teaching practice is characterised by critical thinking and they’ve also recognised that ‘political issues relating to racial justice can be taught about in a balanced and factual manner’. Hence, reflections about ‘Black Lives Matter’ and the impact of racism on young people and local communities are all legitimate and necessary to help children and young people understand and navigate the world in which they live.
"We welcome the support for attention to rising levels of poor mental health and wellbeing, exacerbated by lockdowns during the ongoing pandemic. However, the funding must continue beyond the 2021/22 academic year.
"We believe the experiences of all working-class students, especially those eligible for Free Schools Meals, suggest a case for a re-think on the assessment system and bold thinking on issues such as extended schools and boosting the services around a school which families need. We need to extend youth clubs, boost mentoring programmes, and think about vocational pathways, so we address the skills challenge for this century."
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