University is 'far too late' to start thinking about white working-class boys
PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 10:00 16 January 2013
A call for universities to recruit more white, working-class teenage boys has been described by a Camden councillor as coming "far too late" in the effort to close the attainment gap.
Earlier this month, Conservative universities minister David Willetts told The Independent newspaper he would like to see white, working class boys put in the same category as students from other disadvantaged communities and ethnic minorities when universities are recruiting students.
He said the university access watchdog, the Office for Fair Access, could look at a range of disadvantaged groups, including social class and ethnicity, in access agreements and added “so I don’t see why they couldn’t look at white, working class boys”.
Reacting to Mr Willetts’ comments, Labour councillor Georgia Gould (Kentish Town), who has conducted research into Camden’s attainment gap, said: “I agree with him, we shouldn’t exclude white working class pupils. [But] it’s far too late to be thinking about it at university because if you look at the achievement in Camden in 2011 only 33 per cent of white British pupils on free school meals received five A* to C grades at GCSE. So for a lot of those pupils university isn’t even an option.”
These figures look bleak when compared with the borough-wide average of A* to C grades, which stood at 60 per cent in 2011.
Last October, the council held a conference to address the issues.
As part of this project, Cllr Gould and colleagues explored the problems facing white working-class pupils by speaking to teachers and parents.
“What we have found is that [a lot of] parents find schools a very intimidating place so we need to break down barriers to ensure parents are working with schools,” said Cllr Gould.
“Parents need to be part of the solution from an early age, from Early Years Learning Centres and schools we need to be engaging with parents.
“We are developing a set of recommendations around breaking down barriers between schools and parents, encouraging schools to go out to community centres, running programmes in school for parents, [as well as] shared sessions for parents and children.”
She added: “We have to look at these issues and see social mobility in a much broader sense, rather than just focussing on university.”