Increasing White Working Class Attainment
Earlier this month TES revealed that almost half (47%) of schools with a high percentage of White British pupils are ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ while on 18% of similarly deprived schools with Non-White British pupils hold these ratings.
While some believe this shows that Ofsted penalises schools in white working class communities, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, has come to Ofsted’s defence.
Amanda suggests that the difference in inspection outcomes is due to a “lack of aspiration and drive” in white working-class families. Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s previous Chief Inspector has supported Amanda’s claims, commenting that “I’m working in parts of England with white British populations where the parents don’t care. Less than 50% turn up to parents evening.”
Studies have shown that white working-class boys are consistently achieving less than their peers starting from early years and going right up to further education, where white working-class boys are the least likely to enrol in a university course.
What can we do to make sure the white working class communities are achieving their full potential?
Is there a way to close the gap?
Chris Pascal & Tony Bertram published a report in March 2016 called the ‘High Achieving White Working Class (HAWWC) Boys Project’ which looked at a group of particularly high achievers (those in the top 15% when entering school) to try to identify into ways we might be able to enhance the achievements of white working class boys overall, to close the gap in their attainment on entry to school.
Their report shows that children that there are a number of factors that helped these boys to achieve well including:
- Meaningful parent (& family) relationships
- One on one time with a parent to increase self-esteem
- Learning at home, including a focus on conversing
- The ability to play at home, both outdoors and indoors.
- Access to early years education (often through the funding scheme for 2-year-olds)
- Experienced Key Worker that knows the child and family
The great thing is that a number of these factors can be influenced by early years settings.
The attainment gap exists at age 5 and widens as children get older, so if we can work to make a difference before age 5 and ensure these children are reaching their potential, this can stay with them throughout their lives.
The report suggests that ‘the overwhelming evidence is that early intervention (critically, between birth to three years) makes the greatest long-term educative impact on this socially disadvantaged group.’
Amongst other factors, the report shows that parent interaction has a hugely positive effect on children, but one rather surprising finding was that ‘for most of our project parents there was an almost total lack of awareness of their son’s status as a high performer in the schooling system. They were pleasantly surprised to have their son singled out as a high performer, and though many were aware that their son was making good progress at school, they had no idea that he was in the top 15% of achievement against the EYFSP scores in the country ie he was outstanding in his level of attainment on entry to school’
And many of the parents in the study had never been told about their own parenting skills. ‘Some reported that it was the first time anyone had ever given them positive feedback on their parenting competencies and capacities, which were in all cases outstanding.’
Working with parents and letting them know about how important their own interactions with their children can be is hugely important for early years settings. Tools like ParentZone can help you to reach out to parents that you may otherwise have little communication with.
You can read the full HAWWC report here and access online resources such as Child & Family case studies, parent and practitioner information sheets and video blogs.