Schools minister David Laws has praised 'pushy parents' who stand up for their children's interests and condemned a 'poverty of aspiration' that is preventing educational achievement.
Mr Laws was speaking to a commons education committee about the middle-class dominance of education. He said that parents who take an interest in their children's education should be respected.
"People sometimes do complain about sharp-elbowed parents and people who seek to invest a huge amount of money to give their young people opportunities in life. But we shouldn't complain about any parent who is doing those things, whether they are in the state sector or the private sector," Laws told the committee.
He said he does not want to put an end to the opportunities people currently enjoy but to extend them to those who are less fortunate.
Mr Laws condemned the poverty of aspiration he claims exists in some sections of UK society, particularly among the white working class. He admitted that a number of factors have played a role in creating this culture.
In particular, the minister said working-class children should be given a better chance of studying at state grammar schools.
He defended the Department for Education's (DfE) attempts to improve access to education, however. He said the government has achieved some success in reducing the attainment gap, which has narrowed dramatically in London.
The minister cited a number of statistics as proof of the coalition's success, pointing to a rise of seven percentage points in the number of pupils eligible for free school meals who are achieving at least five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths.
Mr Laws said initiatives are being started around the country and the DfE is devoting particular attention and resources to the most disadvantaged areas.
In January, education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said 'limiting beliefs' are hampering attainment in the UK.
A number of proposals have recently been made to improve disadvantaged children's access to education. Dr Anthony Seldon, headmaster of the private Wellington College, recently made headlines when he suggested wealthier parents pay for education at the best state schools.
Dr Seldon also advocates greater cooperation between state schools and independent institutions.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels