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Educational reforms 'should target white working-class children'

02/11/2016 Joanna

Future governmental reforms of the education system should specifically aim to tackle serial underachievement among white working-class students, according to a new report.

Independent thinktank ResPublica has published a study of educational standards in Knowsley - an area where more than 95 per cent of the resident population is white British - and identified a need for targeted action to help reduce the higher-than-average proportion of people growing up with no qualifications.

It highlighted limited sixth-form provision, a lack of diversity and a stop-start approach to new educational initiatives as the main problems affecting Knowsley and demographically similar areas, suggesting "wholesale change" may be needed to put this right.

Specifically, the report recommended that cities in the north may need to introduce some kind of Northern Teaching Premium, which would offer teachers incentives to work in these areas. These might include paying off their student debts, offering higher wages, subsidised housing or additional continuing professional development and fast-track progression.

It also suggested that future educational reforms be modelled on the approach taken by the British Olympic team, focusing not only on pupils' individual academic achievement but also targeting the performance of teachers, the curriculum and school leadership and management.

Additionally, Theresa May's plan to bring back grammar schools were welcomed, as it is believed this will make it more likely that children receiving free school meals will be able to achieve as much as those from middle-class backgrounds.

Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica, said: "Reintroducing grammar schools is potentially a transformative idea for working-class areas, where there are little or no middle classes to game the admission system.

"We know that selection improves the performance of those white working-class children selected - the trouble is too few of them are. We recommend that new grammars in the first instance are exclusively focused on the needs of white working-class children."

Mrs May previously highlighted this issue in her first speech as prime minister, noting that white working-class boys are the group least likely to attend university in the UK.

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