Commons Select Committee Report on White Working Class Education


The House of Commons Education Select Committee have published an important report on educational underachievement by children in white working class communities. This is a key issue for the Northfield area, and one that I’ve been looking into for years.

In 2009 I held an adjournment debate on the problem after a report funded by Birmingham City Council revealed that a high number of white pupils on free school meals in Birmingham were performing poorly at schools. I raised my concerns about the severe gap in educational achievement between poor and better off white children and calling for recognition of the problem in the mainstream political debate. So in 2013 I was pleased to see the Select Committee launch an inquiry into the problem, which I submitted evidence to.

Tackling educational underachievement is at the heart of the Climb Project I’ve launched in South West Birmingham. Climb brought together schools in area recently to discuss important HMI/Ofsted work on school performance in the Northfield area. Last week I wrote to Birmingham City Council to follow up action on issues raised there. I will continue to work with schools, local businesses, the Council and community groups to build aspiration and educational standards in the local area.

This report underlines the severity of poor, white British under attainment. We need targeted interventions in schools and education, and a greater recognition and positive celebration of white working class identity, to help tackle this problem. Above all though, we need urgent action to reduce inequality levels between young people.

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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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