Pioneering research into the academic success of children from white working class backgrounds shows Lambeth schools to be bucking the national trend, a report commissioned by Lambeth Council reveals.
The groundbreaking study ‘Raising the achievement of white working class pupils in schools’ was commissioned by the council against a background of growing local and national concern surrounding educational performance of the white working class.
The aim of this research project was to study the experiences of white working class pupils in schools. The study looked specifically into the academic achievements of white working class pupils and identified reasons for underachievement to develop strategies to raise academic success.
The research draws on detailed statistical analysis as well as evidence from parent and community focus groups, as well as 13 schools from across the borough that were used as case studies. The main findings suggest that the worryingly low achievement levels of many white working class pupils has been masked by the middle class success in the English school system and Government statistics that fail to distinguish the white British ethnic group by social background.
The study confirms that one of the biggest groups of underachievers is the white working class and their outcomes at both key stage two (seven to eleven years) and key stage four (14 to 16 years) are considerably below those achieved by all other major ethnic groups at national level. One of the main reasons for pupil underachievement is low aspirations from their parents regarding education and social deprivation. The root causes of underachievement have also been identified within factors such as low literacy levels, feelings of marginalisation within the community, low level of parental education and lack of targeted support to raise achievement.
However, despite underperformance at a national level, the research has found that white working class pupils in a number of the case study schools in Lambeth are bucking the trend. Despite challenging circumstances and low attainment at entry in one Lambeth school, 100 per cent of white working class pupils, aged seven to eleven years old, attained level four and above at Key Stage two. In another primary school, 94 per cent, aged between 14 and 16 years-old, achieved level four and above. At Norwood and Dunraven Secondary Schools GCSE results have shown significant improvement and the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades is 86 per cent and 77 per cent respectively.
The study concludes that the main obstacle in raising achievement is the Government’s failure to recognise that this group have particular needs that are not being met by the school system.
Councillor Paul McGlone, Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Service, said: “The findings of this prove that Lambeth is at the forefront in ensuring all our young people have the same opportunities – providing they put the hard work in. No one gets left behind in this borough, and I hope the Government and schools across the country can learn something from this extremely important piece of research.”
Phyllis Dunipace, Executive Director of Children and Young People’s Services, added: “In Lambeth we are committed to ensuring al pupils, whatever their background reach their full potential. This report highlights a range of strategies used to raise the achievement of white working class pupils in schools. Schools will want to learn what has been proven to work and the factors that make a difference.”
A national conference to discuss the research findings with schools and policy makers will be held on January 27, at Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW 12BJ.