A piece in today’s Times:
Schools should open for longer to help all disadvantaged pupils including white working-class boys and those from ethnic minority backgrounds to catch up with their peers, a landmark report will recommend this week.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities will call for the school day to be lengthened. A government source said: “This is about lifting up everyone who is struggling at school.”
Only 13 per cent of white boys on free school meals go on to higher education, less than any ethnic minority group, according to data from the Department for Education last year.
In a letter to the government in November Tony Sewell, chairman of the review, wrote: “White ‘working-class’ boys are the group least likely to go to university. So we have a duty to identify which disparities are influenced by race, and what else is shaping different people’s life chances.”
He added: “The evidence is showing that many of the disparities are driven by differences in age, sex, class and geography.”
The government formed the commission last July in response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Its terms were set by Munira Mirza, who heads the No 10 policy unit. Its 200-page report, handed to ministers yesterday, also explores ways for pupils to be taught about the contribution of ethnic minorities in their local communities.
A source familiar with its contents said: “What this report is trying to solve is how do you have an inclusive curriculum that tells multiple nuanced stories of the different groups, communities and traditions that have made the country what it is today without taking a segregationist approach or without so-called decolonisation.” The report will urge the government to stop using the term BAME, an acronym for “black, Asian and minority ethnic”, on the basis that it is outdated and masks differences between groups.
It will make further policy proposals in education; health; employment and business; and crime and policing.
Many of its recommendations are expected to be wide-ranging rather than targeted. Sewell wrote: “Solutions may well be found in changes which are best grounded in raising the bar for everybody, not just specific groups.”
The review will not recommend making it mandatory for companies to report their ethnicity pay gaps. Two sources familiar with the review’s work said that there had been an internal row over the pay gap reporting proposals.
Polling commissioned from the think tank British Future found that a majority of people agreed that it was more difficult for people who are black, Muslim or born abroad to succeed in the UK. The research found that three quarters of both white and ethnic minority Britons agreed that it was important to teach the history of race and the British Empire in schools. Eight in ten said that they would support doing more to recognise the contribution of the Commonwealth in the Second World War.
Those polled also said that they would like to see more action to tackle hate speech online and to promote greater mixing in schools between children from different backgrounds.
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “There is more common ground than we might think.”
The commission’s members include Lord Ajay Kakkar, who chairs the King’s Fund, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a space scientist and broadcaster, and Keith Fraser, who chairs the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.
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