Coffee House

Shock as select committee backs minister

18 June 2014

8:56 AM

18 June 2014

8:56 AM

Like all good select committees, the Education Select Committee is rarely a helpful chum of Michael Gove. Its warnings on the reform of GCSEs, for instance, played a part in one of Gove’s biggest volte-faces.

But its report this morning on ‘underachievements of white working class children’ (a group it then narrows to ‘poor white British boys and girls’ who are on free school meals) recommends a course of action not dissimilar to that which Gove is already taking, set in motion by the Blairites. It says:

‘This problem [of underachievement] must be tackled by ensuring that the best teachers and leader are incentivised to work in the schools and areas that need them the most, and by providing better advice and guidance to young people. Schools face a battle for resources and talent, and those serving poor white communities need a better chance of winning. Poor white children in rural and coastal areas have been ‘unseen’ for too long: unless such steps are taken the potential of white working class children will be left unlocked, and the effects of the current trend will continue to be felt beyond the school gates. White working class children can achieve in education, and the Government must take these steps to ensure that they do.’


Some of the recommendations include incentives for teachers to work in the most challenging schools (which Team Gove would argue could include performance-related pay), an extended school day so that disadvantaged children can complete their homework and better scrutiny of the Pupil Premium. The overarching and entirely obvious conclusion is that ‘good schools greatly benefit disadvantaged children’. So obvious, in fact, that it might not need saying, but in an environment where some teaching unions lose their tempers when even vaguely tougher monitoring of their members is suggested, it is necessary. Gove might cheese off some of his colleagues, he might enjoy scrapping just a little bit too much, but he’s also continuing one of the most important social justice missions of modern times. The right to a good education for a poor child whose parents could never afford private schooling will be far bigger legacy that Gove and his Blairite predecessors will leave than any of the tiffs and tantrums that all of them have engaged in over the years.

P.S. The Independent splashes today on ‘Rabbit Hutch Britain’. One factor in a disadvantaged child’s underachievement at school is unsuitable home environment for completing school work, such as no desk or table to sit at. If we were building sufficient numbers of the right sort of homes where they were needed, then we’d release the pressure on some families desperate to move out of cramped accommodation. Recommendations on housebuilding are outside the Education Select Committee’s remit, but it’s a point worth mulling when considering the social justice agenda of any government.


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Show comments
  • Dutchnick

    In the Caribbean some years ago having previously owned a school outside the UK I was very interested in the little school next to where we were staying. It was a three teacher school in little more than a tin shack with no windows. Black board, chalk and that was it and the exam they call common entrance allowed the top 8200 in the country to go to grammar schools. Test papers were published every day in the local newspapers in the week before the exam and I could not believe just to what a high standard they were. To me it gave lie to Labour’s idea of rebuilding every school overlooking what matters and that is teaching.

  • andagain

    If we were building sufficient numbers of the right sort of homes where they were needed

    Well, we’re not, and we are not going to. Ever.

  • The Masked Marvel

    A lack of a proper desk? How about a lack of a sentient parent or two? Any opportunity to bang on about building more social housing can’t be passed up, it seems. You can build all the big rooms you want and furnish them with the latest flatpack joy, but it will make no difference at all if the parents are useless.

  • Last Man Standing

    As usual Isabel makes it a housing crisis not an immigration one, indeed she will not mention the effect of mass immigration on poor white British – we mean English. The way to help such people, members of our own society, is not to allow them to be crowded out by the poor of everyone else’s society.

  • El_Sid

    I think Scroobius Pip said it best :

    ensuring that the best teachers and leader are incentivised to work in the schools and areas that need them the most,

    I’ve long thought that the OU needs to get involved in secondary education, what would now be called a MOOC. Just film teachers giving lessons on the core bits of the curriculum, put it on Youtube, and then pay them per click – it’ll soon be obvious which ones are getting good word-of-mouth. That way everyone gets to at least see the best teachers.

    Yes it’s not interactive and not the whole solution – but it’s got to be better than eg I had a not-very-good geography teacher doing some of my biology lessons, he pretty much just read the textbook and hoped that we wouldn’t ask any awkward questions.

  • HookesLaw

    Ambition and desire – not to mention need – would and should overcome any ‘cramped working environments’.

    What we should not forget in all of this is that everyone should be working equally hard, the more talented as much as the less talented. Everyone should be working hard to maximise their abilities. Insofar that everyone should be under pressure or being pressed then the talented need to be worked just as hard as the less so. We should get away from any notion of the ‘clever’ having it easy.

  • southerner

    I post a perfectly reasonable comment about Gove and grammar schools and the mods block it. Why?

  • John_Page

    unless such steps are taken the potential of white working class children will be left unlocked

    They surely don’t mean “unlocked”. Isn’t the whole point to unlock their potential?

    • Mr Grumpy

      A confusion of cliches. They meant “untapped”.

  • anyfool

    There is a new survey which shows how far education in the UK has sunk under Labour, white children are now apparently the worst performing group, of course the mantra poor white is thrown in the mix, what these dimwits in the educational establishment forget is that 50 years ago the poor where really poor and to be as rich as todays poor was an aspiration then.
    The solution these witless fools have come up with, more time at school for the failures, more time at the place of failure is supposed to improve things.
    The teachers need sacking or made to work much harder for their not insubstantial wages.

    • itdoesntaddup

      I am sure the eugenics movement among those of non-white ethnicity would be encouraged by your recommendation, just as they are by the failure to educate these children, who therefore will not compete with their own offspring effectively – except for benefits.

  • english_pensioner

    When I was at school the one aim of parents in poorer families was that their children should do better than they’d done. I remember our neighbours were so proud when their son, having done his National Service joined the Army as a regular.
    This attitude no longer seems to exist amongst poorer white families and they are being out done by poorer families of other ethnic backgrounds as reported in today’s news. What’s happened to this parental ambition?

    • McRobbie

      There’s a simple reason..there is a career nowadays getting benefits and doing no work therefore no skills are needed except how to shout with a begging bowl in the hand. Thanks labour.

  • Andy

    Of course Gove is right. He is right to reform education and drive up standards. The Left hate him because he is right, so more power to his elbow.

    • Holly

      …and the unions hate him because his drive to get good teachers, and up the teacher standards in their training, make some of their members more ‘visible’ when they fail to live up to the higher standards Gove is aiming for.

      If the teacher is ‘duff’, they themselves do more harm to a child’s education, and there should always be a spotlight on ALL teachers.
      There should be nowhere for them to hide, and hopefully Gove will help make sure they can no longer hide behind the work of the good teachers.
      Teaching, like nursing/medicine is a vocation.

    • telemachus

      The left hate him because he is divisive and elitist
      It will be difficult to reverse the damage he is doing
      But reverse it we will

      • Andy

        Actually Fascist Face it is you and scum like you who are ‘divisive and elitist’. How many members of the Fascist Labour Party, who are only to quick to demand that everyone send their children to the hopeless comprehensive round the corner, send their children to Private schools. The hypocrisy of these scumbags and the likes of you knows no bounds. You are pure evil.

      • grammarschoolman

        Yes, working-class children learning is terribly damaging – to the Labour Party, who soon won’t have anyone left to vote for them.

    • dado_trunking

      It does not cost money to change minds. The £400m diverted from other causes can be ignored.

      • Owen_Morgan

        Well, yes, it can, if a huge amount of other people’s money is being splurged, to help make up minds in the first place.