It has been accepted in academia for some time now that the worst-performing group, educationally, in the UK are white British working-class boys.
In the decade up to 2016, a Sutton Trust study, here found that white pupils on free school meals achieve the lowest grades at GCSE of any main ethnic group, with only a fifth of boys and a third of girls achieving five good GCSEs. Disadvantaged pupils from Bangladeshi, black African and Chinese backgrounds had improved by more than 20 percentage points over that same decade (up to 2016).
One theory is that the most concentrated drive for improvements in state schools has been in London, which has a higher concentration of ethnic minority pupils, rather than in rural and coastal areas. Another is that many immigrant parents have stronger educational aspirations for their children – a sense of possibility not realised in disadvantaged white British families.
It’s not just in how poorer white families understand their place in society, but, disgracefully, how middle-class society often depicts them.
Since the use of the word “chav” started up in the late 90s, to describe a white working-class person obsessed by reality shows and bling, government policies have made life harder for the white working-classes. The securities they were led to believe awaited them– a job with regular hours, paid holiday and sick pay – frequently melted away into a new uncharted world of non-unionised service sector, the ‘gig’ economy and zero-hours contracts, often rebranded as ‘flexibility’.
House prices during this time have soared beyond the reach of those on low incomes; rents are also high, and decent council housing is now scarce; it can only be accessed by a form of competitive victimhood; awarded to those judged by councils to be in direst need.
The optimism of the disadvantaged white British population, fuelled partly by council mandates to look after those in greatest need, has been replaced by a sense of stagnation and loss, a learned behaviour stemming from the competitive victimhood mentioned above.
Ferdinand Mount, in his 2004 book Mind The Gap, wrote how the English working-classes have been “uniquely disinherited”. They have, he said, been “subjected to a sustained programme of social contempt and institutional erosion which has persisted through many different governments and several political fashions”. These people are:
“…impoverished not simply in relation to the better-off in Britain today but in relation to their own parents and grandparents. And the upper class are uncomfortably aware of it, which is why they show so little respect and affection for the lower classes.”
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this contempt has long seeped into governmental policy-making, particularly when one looks at long-term policy trends on housing and employment, the two staples of any citizen’s life: for those who were already disadvantaged, both sectors have been made more insecure.
Politics, the media and the arts have made increasing use of unpaid interns – a way to get a valuable foot in the door of a given profession, provided one has an additional source of financial support – this has had the effect of exiling of the working-class from public influence. Taken away their voice, if you will
Last year in a Guardian article titled ‘Where are all the working class people’. here
It was noted in film, TV and radio their representation was 12.4%, compared to a third in the population as a whole. Again more recently there were BBC and Channel 4 adverts for interns specifically from an ethnic background, it was reported here by Brietbart.
Liberal, middle-class white people in the arts now often welcome diversity mainly in terms of more female and ethnic minority voices but not so much by white, male working-class ones, which they find variously too ‘Brexity’, too angry, too thick, too unaware of the subtle cultural nuancing by which the middle-class intelligentsia operates.
The #MeToo movement has sparked discussions about gender pay equality and sexual harassment, but these issues are much harder for women in low-paid, insecure jobs to challenge. The working class, usually white, being excluded. Why isn’t there much discussion about the gender gap in construction labouring or the waste bin collection rota?
Any reasonable person has an interest in seeing a Britain in which women and ethnic minorities are better represented in society. But that won’t get done by glossing over the full, harsh realities an indigenous class currently suffer.
Much of the language now used in debates on diversity, on Twitter, student protest and elsewhere, makes no acknowledgement of the existence of a white male working-class who are currently failed by everything from education to housing to the employment market.
The phrase “pale, male and stale,” as racist as any I can think of, and also recently used by Meghan Markle, the duchess of Sussex describing academia recently at Kings College London.
This is often used by those in supposed positions of power to underline a narriative.
The words “white men” now used on social media to describe all that is outdated, prejudiced and wrong with the world.
Cultural confidence derives largely from how wider society sees you and your possibilities.
If white working-class boys are indeed suffering from a lack of educational aspiration, it’s time the cultural intelligentsia, the ‘opinion formers’ started to mind their language.