England is Still Failing Poor White Boys

December 21, 2009

Recent official figures show, yet again, that England’s poor white teenage boys are still dropping behind in education. The BBC has reported…

Poor, white, teenage boys in England have slipped further behind other youngsters in their GCSE exams, reveals a breakdown of this year’s results.

The official figures show that fewer than one in five who qualified for free meals achieved the benchmark of five good GCSEs including English and maths.

The latest statistics back up the findings of the Runnymede Trust, which were published in their report, Who Cares About the White Working Class back in January (this should be compulsory reading for anyone who does claim to care about poverty in England).

Right-wing groups argue that scarce resources are given to minority groups at the expense of the white working class, whereas the mainstream left tend to ignore the white working class altogether (unless it is to falsely condemn them as thugs and bigots). The reality is that the poor white working class are subjected to widespread institutional classism (a form of bigotry so acceptable that our spellchecker doesn’t even recognise the word).

Not only do impoverished white lads have to put up with levels of stereotyping which would chill a liberal to the core if it were directed against race, gender or disability; they also have to contend with the widest ‘aspiration gap’ imaginable. In his groundbreaking book, ‘The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone‘, Richard Wilkinson shows that the level of poverty per se is much less important than the level of inequality within a society (i.e. it is ‘relative poverty’ which does the damage). Our society is still dominated by white affluent males, which places poor white males at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to the aspiration gap. This situation won’t get any better simply by throwing money at poor white boys; what we really need to do is stop throwing money at rich ones!

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One Response to “England is Still Failing Poor White Boys”

  1. the coalition want you to believe that getting rid of the gifted and talented programme at schools means more money can go to the pupil premium. The reality, however, is that the areas based grant that usually pays for extra curricular initiatives is going to be cut in the education department by £311m, and it will be up the children’s services chiefs themselves to decide where to cut. If a chief doesn’t think helping poor white boys is worth the smaller amount of money they have to play with, the ignoring of this particular group of boys could rise, and who knows how much extreme right wing groups will capitalise on this?

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