Educational underachievement of the white working class – Part 2: What do we know about the causes?

British Education Policy

The pattern of underachievement I highlighted in my last post is relatively easy to observe – it is illustrated clearly by hard data collected by schools and the DfE. The causes of that underachievement are, by contrast, more difficult to pinpoint. In part this reflects the complexity of the problem. Explaining the academic performance of a considerable section of the school population is difficult and carries the inevitable risk of crude generalisation. It also reflects the fact that relatively little research has gone into the subject; most of the research looks at why student on free school meals do worse than their more affluent peers, as opposed to why a particular ethnic group fares particularly badly within the FSM category. (Even the literature that purports to address this question often just highlights the particular underperformance of the white working class and then tries to explain why poverty generally is associated…

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