Ofsted head: white working-class ‘less driven than migrants’

Amanda Spielman says lower aspirations to blame for underperforming schools in poor white British areas

UK School
(Image credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Schools in white working-class areas are underachieving because local families are not as motivated as immigrant communities, according to Ofsted’s chief inspector.

Speaking at the Festival of Education in Berkshire on Thursday, Amanda Spielman “hit back at claims that the inspection system is biased against schools serving white working-class communities”, says Tes (formerly the Times Educational Supplement).

Spielman insisted that inspections were conducted “without fear or favour”, suggesting that the discrepancy could be due to lower aspirations among low-income white British families compared with more recent arrivals.

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Ofsted data has revealed that nearly half of secondary schools in white working-class areas are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement”, “compared to just 18% for similarly deprived schools where most pupils are non-white British”, The Independent reports.

The findings led some critics to suggest that deprived schools with a high percentage of white British pupils were being judged unduly harshly by Ofsted inspectors.

“We can’t pretend that Ofsted judgements are not lower in certain areas, many of them with a high proportion of white working class children,” Spielman said.

White working-class communities have often felt the “brunt of economic dislocation”, she said, in some cases giving rise to “a lack of aspiration and drive” which translates to lower educational attainment.

Some leading members of the education system have taken issue with Spielman’s explanation.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), told The Independent that the Ofsted boss was “looking desperately for others to blame” for a pattern of systemic bias.

Spielman’s comments echoed remarks made earlier yesterday at the conference by former Ofsted chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who claimed that in some parts of the country, many low-income white British families “don’t care” about education.

“The reason why London schools are doing so well, apart from good teachers, is that a lot of the immigrant families care about education, they value education, they support their children,” he said.

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