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White working class needs more respect, says MP.

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor jon.walker@trinitymirror.com

POLITICIANS need to stop denigrating white working class culture if they want to raise standards in schools, an MP has warned.

Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) called for greater respect to be shown for the history and culture of people such as the white working class communities in his constituency, as MPs published a hardhitting report warning that white children from poorer backgrounds were falling behind.

Richard > The Commons Education Committee carried out the investigation after a report by inspector Ofsted described how white British children eligible for free school meals were now the lowest-performing children at age 16 other than children from Irish traveller, Gypsy or Roma backgrounds.

Only 31 per cent achieved five or more GCSEs at A*-C including English and mathematics.

And the gap is getting wider, with results improving each year for children from most ethnic minority backgrounds faster than for white British youngsters.

Figures provided by the Department for Education in evidence to the inquiry show that 36 per cent of Birmingham children eligible for free school meals in the city who are classified as white achieved the benchmark of five GCSEs at grades A to C including maths and English.

But for other children eligible for free school meals, the proportion was 53 per cent. Mr Burden said it was important to raise the aspiration of pupils and this could involve presenting them with a more positive image of the communities they came from - highlighting the role of working class communities in creating modern Britain through their involvement in manufacturing, and political reform through involvement in groups such as the suffragettes, which began as a middle class movement but grew to involve women from a range of backgrounds.

Burden MP But he said that some politicians pushed a view of British history which concentrated entirely on middle class experiences and denigrated the trade union movement, which had raised living standards for working people.

Mr Burden said: "Often if you live in a community where you feel the world has passed you by, you feel on the edge of decision making and that employment opportunities are for other people.

"It stops young people feeling that here are opportunities out there for them "And that's why we need to celebrate the heritage that they come out of much more."

He added: "What we get too often is the rubbishing of things like trade unions, when actually the things that enabled working people to improve their lives in the past often came out of that tradition."

The Commons inquiry suggested longer school days could help boost the results of poorer children by giving them somewhere to do their homework, and urged Ofsted to advise schools on providing space for pupils to use once the school day was over.

In the past, children who left school without decent exam results would have spent their working life doing routine manual work in factories, now they are more likely to end up as "Neet" (not in education, employment or training), the inquiry said it a report.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 19, 2014
Words:520
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