It's time to give white, working class boys a fair shot in life
The Conservative government has broken the so-called “Red Wall”. Now we must smash the in-built prejudices that have sent so many working class, white boys to the bottom of the pile and swept some very legitimate challenges under the carpet
Imagine the legitimate public outcry there would be if a set of statistics showed that disadvantaged black boys or Asian girls were way behind their white counterparts at school. Heads would roll. Yet this is precisely what is happening to white boys from disadvantaged backgrounds, and modern society is ignoring their plight.
That’s why I convened a debate in the House of Commons today. White boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are underperforming against all races and ethnicities of other boys.
By the age of five, they are 13 per cent behind disadvantaged black boys and 23 per cent behind disadvantaged Asian girls in phonics, and they are 40 per cent less likely to go into higher education than their black counterparts.
Why has it become such a taboo subject to speak out on behalf of the under-privileged, especially in Westminster circles? I’d love those who speak about “white male privilege” to come to Mansfield to talk to the blokes who have spent their whole lives underground digging coal to keep our lights on, and who are now dying early of lung disease because of it. These people are not privileged.
My debate was about them, their children and their communities who need our help and our focus in levelling up education in four key areas.
First, we need to boost childcare funding. It’s not right that two parents who collectively earn 200k can access 30 hours of free childcare whilst a single mum on the living wage doing 15 hours a week cannot.
Second, our schools must become “community hubs”, with parents encouraged to take a more active role in their child’s education. After-school family literacy classes in primary schools have worked really well in my constituency, and in fact my family has benefitted from a few of them.
Third we need “super-nanny” style leadership teams in failing schools and better incentives for the most experienced teachers to take on our severely failing schools which have become “dumping grounds” for white working-class boys.
Finally, we must equip failing schools, often found in deprived areas, with the resources and flexibility in the curriculum to deliver real and genuine change. One way of doing this is by updating the National Curriculum and making lessons directly relevant to the 21st century world of work these kids are going to inherit.
Schools need more freedoms so that they can offer more vocational or technical education and teachers should be allowed to teach thematically rather than in subject silos that don’t connect with the real world.
For children from families that haven’t placed a high value on a good education in the past, classroom subjects should have a clear link to their future jobs. And we must stop the “middle class aspiration” for everyone to go to university from leading to a “one size fits all” approach to education.
It’s time to give white, working class boys – many of whom are my constituents – a fair shot at life.
It should be taboo not to talk about the fact that these kids’ race and background are causing them to miss out on life’s opportunities, and that we are wiping out generations of talent.
This Blue Collar Conservative government has broken the so-called “Red Wall” and must now smash the in-built prejudices that have sent so many working class, white boys to the bottom of the pile and swept some very legitimate challenges under the carpet.
We built this government with the support of these communities across the Midlands and the North. It’s now time to grapple with this burning injustice and ensure that we deliver for them and for the whole country.
Ben Bradley is Conservative MP for Mansfield
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.