In Brief

Equality bosses call for special treatment for white working-class boys

EHRC wants government action plan to tackle pupils’ low achievement levels

Working-class white boys struggling at school should get the same treatment as traveller children and the disabled, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said.

According to the watchdog, some working-class white boys are so far behind classmates from other ethnic and social groups that government action is needed to tackle the crisis.  

The EHRC says there has been an “inconsistent response” to the Public Sector Equality Duty, which came into force in 2011 and requires public authorities “to combat inequalities between different ethnic groups” in a range of public spheres, reports The Daily Telegraph.

In education, there are higher attainment gaps and exclusion rates among “children sharing certain protected characteristics including boys, disabled children and gypsy and traveller children”, an EHRC spokesperson told the Telegraph.

Official figures show that upon starting school, white boys who qualify for free school meals are 13 points behind disadvantaged black pupils in key literacy skills. By the age of 16, their average GCSE score is 29.5%, compared with 40.5% for disadvantaged Asian boys, the Daily Mail reports.

Meanwhile, female pupils are 35% more likely to go to university than their male peers.

“Attainment is an issue particularly for white boys on free school meals or from disadvantaged backgrounds, whereas exclusion rates are higher for gypsy, Roma, traveller boys and black boys,” the EHRC spokesperson said. 

The commission has recommended that schools and local councils where white boys are underperforming should publish data on the difference in gender performance between different ethnic groups, and draw up plans to combat it. These would potentially include bringing in male authors as potential role models to encourage white disadvantaged boys to read, or introducing lessons to challenge gender stereotypes.

Currently, traveller and disabled children are eligible for grants to support extra teaching and outreach staff who work with parents to improve attendance - grants that are not are not available to all white children.

Becky Francis, director of University College London’s Institute of Education, said: “There’s reasonably good evidence that challenging gender stereotypes in the home and school is actually effective and is the best strategy for narrowing gaps.”

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