ECONOMY

Disadvantaged pupils held back by use of term white privilege, MPs say

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erminology like “white privilege” may have contributed towards a “systemic neglect” of white working-class pupils who need support, MPs have said.

The Commons Education Select Committee said schools should consider whether the promotion of such “politically controversial” terminology is consistent with their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

Disadvantaged white pupils have been badly let down by “muddled” policy thinking and the Department for Education (DfE) has failed to acknowledge the extent of the problem, the report said.

The MPs made a series of recommendations to improve white working-class pupils’ outcomes, including finding “a better way to talk about racial disparities” to avoid pitting different groups against each other.

The committee agreed with the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities that discourse around the term “white privilege” can be “divisive”.

A strong network of family hubs should be introduced across the country to boost parental engagement and mitigate the effects of multi-generational disadvantage, the report said.

It said funding needs to be tailor-made at a local level, initiatives should focus on attracting good teachers to challenging areas, and vocational and apprenticeship opportunities should be promoted.

The report highlights that 47 per cent of free school meal-eligible (FSM) white British pupils did not meet the expected standard of development at the end of the early years foundation stage in 2018/19 – around 28,000 children.

In 2019, just 17.7 per cent of FSM-eligible white British pupils achieved at least a strong pass (grade 5 or above) in English and maths at GCSE, compared with 22.5 per cent of all FSM-eligible pupils. This equates to nearly 39,000 pupils.

The committee found these disparities particularly striking because white people are the ethnic majority in the country – and yet FSM-eligible white British pupils are the largest disadvantaged group.

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