The racially charged education row is not about helping white kids. It’s a cheap and nasty trick

·3-min read
 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

There are no safe spaces when it comes to the culture war and classrooms have become the latest battleground. Yesterday was Windrush day, the 73th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Caribbean men and women recruited by the Government to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War. Those first Windrush immigrants faced a cold climate in every sense and extreme hostility.

Sadly for many, the word Windrush is now synonymous with a scandal which involved the deportation of some of these pioneers and the gruelling existence of institutional racism. So, what better way to mark Windrush day than the Education Select Committee deciding to release a racially-charged report which concluded seemingly at random that the term “white privilege” is the thing which is contributing to “neglect” of disadvantaged pupils. It said it agreed with the controversial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities that the term can be divisive.

That was the largely discredited report which famously said institutional racism did not exist and talked fondly about the “slave experience”. When you’ve been in politics as long as I have, you can spot the themes which create controversy, then disappear without actual policy trace and then appear again when you desperately need a headline to distract from real progress.

White working-class pupils, normally boys, is one of those boomerang talking points which return again and again. Politicians of all parties like to crack this out to show this huge, faux-sincere commitment to their educational attainment by blowing the dog-whistle, pitting them against other children from different racial backgrounds, watch the sparks fly and then do very little to actually help any of them.

Of course, we should want to help poor white children. We should also want to help poor brown and black children. We want all children to have the best chances in life. It’s not only morally just, it’s about letting talent flourish. We know that a child’s life chances are determined by the time they are about three years old.

So why did the Government cut one of the most proven schemes to help early years, Surestart? We know the arts can really help children develop, and are often what really boosts private education, so why has provision in state schools been cut? What about the removal of the educational maintenance allowance which was a godsend to poor white kids who wanted to study at university? The list goes on. This is not about suddenly trying to save white kids. It’s a cheap, nasty race row to distract from the absolute state that education is in following the pandemic and all the mistakes that were made from the mess over exams to failing to get laptops to the poorest. No-one with half a brain cell thinks poor white kids have “privilege”. It’s a disingenuous distraction from how bad our education system is right now. The Education Select Committee should stop stoking the culture war and fight for school children of all colours who deserve better.

Let’s hope today is the beginning of a fresh start for Britney

Britney Spears will today give evidence virtually to a court in a bid to end her conservatorship, where her father has controlled every aspect of her life. She claims her dad “restricted everything from whom she dated to the colour of her kitchen cabinets”. This sounds like something from another century and beyond toxic. Let’s hope she can be free to live her life and start afresh.

What do you think about the Education Select Committee’s report? Let us know in the comments below.

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