MPs ought to be embarrassed by a stunt designed to whip up animosity without addressing real problems of inequality and disadvantage
The chairman of parliament’s education select committee has produced a report designed not to illuminate a problem but divert attention from it. Conservative MP Robert Halfon and his colleagues think that “white working-class” pupils have fallen behind because of the use of terms such as “white privilege”. They suggest that there is an “industry” benefiting non-white people. This is a ludicrous culture war stunt to whip up animosity without addressing real and growing problems of inequality and disadvantage.
In Mr Halfon’s world, the “white working class” is the victim of unfair racial competition in which it is outperformed by other minority ethnic groups. The framing is incendiary, and, as the report admits, the data is ropey. Eligibility for free school meals is a crude proxy for disadvantage. The support goes to children with parents who are not usually working; or are not employed more than 16 hours a week; or have very low incomes. How can Mr Halfon make claims about the “white working class” when he is in fact talking about the poorest 13% of the total white cohort in English secondary schools?