Tackling white working-class underachievement

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“They feel forgotten … they have been abandoned and let down.” These were Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments on white working-class families and their children at a recent event hosted by the Sutton Trust. He pointed out that two-thirds of pupils on free school meals are from white working-class low-income backgrounds, and proclaimed: “That’s the greatest challenge. If we don’t resolve that, we’re not going to close the gap.”

It sounds a bit like a call to arms, but this issue has been part of the education debate for a while now. A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation back in 2007 found that “white children in poverty have on average lower educational achievement and are more likely to continue to underachieve”.

Skip forward to 2014 and the Education Select Committee’s report on the issue found that white British children eligible for FSM are consistently the lowest-performing ethnic group of…

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