Sir Peter Lampl: White Working Class Boys

Sir Peter Lampl wrote for The Sun on white working class boys.

It has been a bad week for white working class boys. Two new reports show they’re missing out on a good education.

In a nutshell, they reveal that if you’re poor and white, you’re less likely to study A-levels or go to university.

Today’s Sutton Trust report – from Oxford University – shows that only 29 per cent of white boys living in poor areas go on to study for A-levels.

By contrast, 68 per cent of boys in well-off families study for those exams – a vital passport to university – 46 per cent of white working class boys living in better off communities go on to take them.

Our report follows a study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing that poor white children are much less likely to go to university than those from ethnic minority communities.

Chinese and Indian are more than more than twice as likely as white British kids to study for a degree. And if you’re poor and Indian, you’re four times more likely to go to university than if you’re poor and white.

We should celebrate their great success. But we have to ask ourselves why poor British kids are doing so badly.

Growing up on a council estate in Wakefield as the son of a Czech refugee, I had few advantages growing up.

But I was lucky. My family moved and I got an education at a brilliant state-funded school, Reigate Grammar, which set me on the path to success.

That’s why I find the statistics out this week to be, quite frankly, scary. Today I reckon I would have had little chance getting into a top uni. At the Sutton Trust, we support bright students from low income backgrounds through secondary school.

We see time and time again that background does not determine ability, although it can affect outcomes.

It’s not just about going to a good school. It’s about whether you take the right subjects at school, especially if you want to go to our best universities.

It’s about having parents who get you reading at home and take you on trips to museums and galleries. And it’s about whether you do regular homework.

Those who are very bright and poor also lose out. One in three clever and poor boys with top marks in primary school doesn’t do well at their GCSEs.

That means they’re out of the running for top universities, where you’re eight times as likely to win a place if you’re from a rich neighbourhood as from a poor one.

But something else is happening too. Families in ethnic communities often value education much more. Their parents expect children to work harder, and aim higher.

By contrast, too many working class white British families today don’t have the same ambitions for their children. And the kids lose out as a result.

We’ve got to believe in our kids and give them the tools to succeed. But government has a part to play, too.

Chancellor George Osborne will soon announce the government’s spending plans for the next three years. Money is tight, but getting education right is vital to our economy. Well skilled people earn more and pay more taxes. We can’t afford to waste talent.

The government pays schools an extra £925 for every poor pupil on their rolls. We hope that ‘pupil premium’ stays.

It must still be paid to schools for their clever kids from poor homes as well as those who are falling behind.

And we’d like to see some cash given as a reward to schools which get great results for poorer pupils.

The government has said it wants to create three million apprenticeships. And David Cameron told business bosses last week that he wanted every school leaver to have a choice of university or an apprenticeship.

We agree with the PM. But six in ten apprenticeships for young people today are set only at GCSE standard.

We want every young person to have the chance to gain an apprenticeship at A-level standard and we want lots more degree-standard apprenticeships.

You can earn more on a great apprenticeship than from many degrees. Yet, there aren’t nearly enough great apprenticeships for young people.

We need to make sure that working class white kids have the ambition, education and choices to enable them to get on in life.

2018-02-06T11:51:40+00:00 November 12th, 2015|Categories: Articles and Letters, Our news|