My evidence to the Education Select Committee


I have recently submitted evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee inquiry into the “educational underachievement of white working class children.”

Four years after I first raised this issue there remains a severe gap in educational achievement between poor and better off white children – and not enough action taken on the problem. I’m therefore very please the Select Committee have decided to launch an inquiry into this issue.

My evidence looks at the extent of – and factors leading to – the educational underachievement of white working class pupils, and approaches the Government need to tackle in response. This must include both targeted interventions in education policy, and wider action to tackle the inequality between young people of different income levels.

It’s appalling that in 2010-2011 less than a third of white British students eligible for Free School Means reached the national GCSE target of 5A*-C passes including English and Maths. In contrast, 63% of white British students not eligible for Free School Meals reached the national target. The size of the achievement gap between children with different levels of household income is unique to the white ethnic group.

I am calling for:

  • The Government to take targeted interventions to address the attainment gap, including policies to raise school quality in disadvantaged areas and improve school engagement with parents from low income backgrounds.
  • Improved data and analysis of the educational achievement of different ethnic groups and income classes to ensure the problem can be properly assessed and tackled.
  • A greater celebration of the – often diverse – heritage of Britain’s white working class communities in a positive and inclusive way, which is clearly differentiated from the racially divisive approach of groups such as EDL and BNP.
  • The Government to make major reforms in the wider economic environment – including in housing, employment, welfare, and the rising cost of living – to successfully address the underlying causes of educational underachievement.

You can read my full submission here: 201309 – Richard Burden MP – Submission to Education Select Committee

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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