Graeme Paton, Telegraph (London), June 27, 2014
White working class children are being “marginalised” at school after being forced to follow a multicultural timetable that shuns British traditions, according to research.
Large numbers of schools follow a curriculum that celebrates a “diverse range of pupils” while sidelining those from poor British families, it was claimed.
Head teachers told how they ran numerous projects such as Black History Month and “cultural days” to raise awareness of countries such as Portugal, Poland and Jamaica.
But it was claimed that white British pupils from deprived homes often “cannot see themselves or their lives reflected in the curriculum”, turning them off school altogether.
The study, published by Lambeth Council in south London, said that poor children were further isolated by a “small world” mentality, with parents failing to take them to the local park or visit places of interest.
Researchers called on the Department for Education to develop a “curriculum that treats white British identity in the same way as ethnic minorities”.
It comes just weeks after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, pledged to require all schools to actively promote British values in the classroom to combat extremism.
The conclusions come amid growing concerns that working-class white British children are lagging dramatically behind at school and now perform worse than any other group.
According to figures, just 32.3 per cent of poor white British children left school last summer with five A* to C grades at GCSE.
Poor children from every other ethnic group performed better, with more than three-quarters of poor Chinese pupils and 61.5 per cent of those from deprived Indian families achieving the best results.
The gulf in results between poor white children and their richer classmates has hardly changed in the last seven years, even though the gap seen in other ethnic groups is narrowing.
Research by officials in Lambeth–one of the capital’s most multicultural boroughs–was commissioned to arrest the decline of working-class white British pupils.
The study was based on interviews with 76 heads, teachers and school support staff, alongside 39 parents and 61 pupils.
Teachers criticised a culture of low aspirations and a “small world” mentality among many poor white families, claiming many parents spent hours with children in front of the TV, refusing to visit local parks.
But the study said parents themselves “lamented a lack of white culture reflected in school life which perpetuated for many the marginalisation they felt within their communities”.
It said some schools “felt that the pressure on schools to establish a curriculum which is relevant to a diverse range of pupils has possibly marginalised white pupils”.
One head teacher told researchers: “The curriculum that has been on offer has not been meeting the needs of white British pupils. There has been much emphasis in recent years on elements of black history and a celebration of cultural days such as ‘Portuguese day’. There has been nothing for the British culture.
“This might have led to a sense of them losing their identity.”
Another head said: “It seems to be easier to celebrate the good things about other cultures–the dance, the food, the stories and to ask parents to come in and share their food, their traditions with us. We’ve worked through the cultures and have left this one to last.”
One primary school teacher told how the school was “very explicit in celebrating other cultures”, but added: “There is always that difficulty in identifying what is British culture. How many of our pupils would understand what maypole dancing is about?…
“We celebrate Christmas and Easter but even that is done in a diverse way. I think white families are expected to just fit into the curriculum, it is seen as the norm for them and we focus on the children new to the country.”
Another head teacher told how Caribbean, Polish and Portuguese families had a greater sense of cultural identity but “nothing binds” white British children together.
It was claimed that many poor white British children in the area have black cultural role models and “speak with a South London patois”.
Poor white British children ‘need remedial language tuition’
Children from poor white British families are coming to school barely able to speak after being “stuck in front of a TV all day”, according to head teachers.
A study found evidence of children who were only able to “grunt” after being raised by lazy parents with an “appalling” attitude to education.
The research–commissioned by Lambeth Council in south London–suggested that the prevalence of “text culture” was also a problem, with many pupils becoming overly reliant on mobile-phone style abbreviations at the expense of a proper grasp of English.
It claimed that a “general lack of knowledge or understanding of the world” acted as a “barrier to aspiration” for many children.
Despite living within a few miles of central London, some pupils had never even see the River Thames, researchers suggested.
It said that children from white working-class homes should be entitled to the same kind of remedial language support as pupils who have English as a second language.
The comments follow the publication of statistics last week showing that almost one-in-five primary pupils now speak another language in the home, rising as high as three-quarters in parts of London.
One head teacher told researchers that some poor white children were “coming to school only being able to grunt because they had been stuck in front a TV all day”.
Another primary school teacher said many white British pupils failed to make as much progress as those with English as a second language, adding: “They do not have the academic language or the language enrichment with which to progress. Many write in a colloquial way… They are exposed to media, text culture.”
Middle-classes ‘hogging community facilities’ in poor white areas
Children from poor white families are being increasingly pushed aside by their middle-class counterparts who hog community facilities, a study has found.
Researchers said that too many children from poor white homes were alienated by wealthy peers from the same ethnic group.
The study, commissioned by Lambeth Council in south London, said the “barrier to achievement for some white working-class children was the achievement of the white middle-class children”.
It also told how local children’s centres were “dominated by the white middle-class” but not the “target audience” of deprived families.
Children’s centres–such Labour’s flagship Sure Start facilities launched in 1998–usually provide childcare while giving mothers and fathers access to advice on health services, parenting skills and job applications.
They are traditionally established in deprived areas but anyone in the local community can use the services.
In the Lambeth study, one teacher said: “This area has a thriving local neighbourhood centre, which is the designated children’s centre for the area which also has strong links with the school. Yet few of the poorer white families use it.”
A school governor told researchers: “The purpose of the children’s centre is to enable parents of young children to get back to work but what you get is your centre full of middle-class parents who are working.”
In 2010, David Cameron admitted that some new Sure Start centres were overtaken by the “sharp-elbowed middle classes”.