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Education Committee holds session on the educational outcomes for white working-class pupils

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Today (13 Oct)the Education Committee (@CommonsEd) will hold its first oral evidence session for the Committee’s inquiry into working class white pupils, exploring this group’s educational underachievement, and what can be done to improve it.

The session will give Members the opportunity to speak to experts regarding the challenges facing these pupils. Members are likely to ask witnesses for their reflections on; the extent of the achievement gap between disadvantaged white pupils and their peers, the key challenges facing white working-class pupils and what the Government’s priorities should be in tackling this issue.

The average attainment 8 score for white boys eligible for free school meals in the 2018 GCSEs was 28.5, compared to a national average of 46.5.

Following this initial inquiry into the educational underachievement of white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Committee will go on to investigate issues faced by other disadvantaged groups.

Witness schedule

Tuesday 13th October

Panel 1 – 10am

  • Professor Lee Elliot Major OBE, Professor of Social Mobility, University of Exeter
  • Professor Diane Reay, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent

Panel 2 – 11am

  • Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation
  • Mary Curnock Cook OBE
  • Dr Sam Baars, Director of Research and Operations, Centre for Education and Youth

Inquiry on white disadvantaged pupils

The Education Committee investigates the issues faced by disadvantaged groups, with an initial inquiry (Launched 17 April 2020) into the underachievement of white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Committee’s call for written evidence will run alongside the continuing work on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the education system and the implications for the most vulnerable in society.

This is an initial step in a series of inquiries that the Committee will undertake on the issues faced by disadvantaged and left behind groups and how they can best be supported.

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This work will be all the more important given that these groups are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the implications of COVID-19 on education and children’s services.

In addition to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, the inquiry will focus on the reasons behind the differences in attainment and the impact this has on society. It will also look at what the priorities should be for tackling underachievement.

The Department for Education’s 2018 GCSE performance statistics show that while the national average Attainment 8 score is 46.5, white boys who are eligible for free school meals score an average of just 28.5.

The inquiry fits into the Committee’s theme of supporting disadvantaged groups and the ladder of opportunity.

Robert Halfon 100x100Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

“Everyone’s current focus is rightly on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and how we adapt to the challenging new circumstances faced by our dedicated learners of all ages and hardworking teachers and staff.

The outbreak will have a particularly heavy bearing on those from disadvantaged groups. It is therefore vital that we continue to work to ensure they are properly supported and remain absolutely determined that this unprecedented national crisis does not set back efforts in tackling the social injustices faced by too many groups.

There is a worrying trend of white pupils from poorer backgrounds underperforming compared with their peers. Such gaps in learning seriously limit young people’s potential to get on in life and more must be done to tackle this very real social injustice.

While our initial focus is on white working class pupils, we will not forget other disadvantaged groups and the Committee will be looking across the board at those being left behind. At this difficult time for families, everything possible must be done to ensure the most disadvantaged children do not fall off the education ladder of opportunity completely.”

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