Posts Tagged ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’

Private Schools Turn Down Bursaries for White Working Class Boys

January 7, 2020

This is a very interesting story from last weekend’s I. A retired Maths professor, Sir Bryan Thwaites, offered two private schools bursaries for White working class boys. They both turned it down. Their refusal, and the fact that these bursaries are needed, says much about class and race in the early 21st century. The report contained the observation that ‘inverted snobbery and liberal guilt neglect the white poor’. Which is true, but it’s also true that such bursaries wouldn’t quite be so necessary if it weren’t for Thatcherism. Thatcher promised that her reforms would turn Britain into a meritocracy, where everyone could succeed, regardless of class background, provided they had the talent. This has spectacularly not happened. Class mobility was at a standstill during Blair’s administration. Now it seems to have gone into reverse. And at the bottom are the working class that Thatcher and the Tories despise, and Blair neglected.

Thwaites was a working class lad, who had gone to Dulwich and Winchester Colleges on scholarships. He therefore wanted to award them bursaries amounting to £1.2m to set up scholarships for lads from his background. He said he wanted to address the ‘severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools’. The donations amounted to £400,000 for Dulwich and £800,000 for Winchester. They turned them down because they were afraid that the donations broke equality rules. Winchester said that they ‘did not see how discrimination on the grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values’. Dulwich simply said bursaries were available to everyone who passed their entrance exam, ‘regardless of their background.’

Thwaites, who is himself a former college head, told the Times, ‘If [the colleges] were to say ‘We are helping these deprived cohorts of children,’ that would do a hell of a lot for their reputation and show that the independent sector is taking some notice of what’s going on in the world at large. The implication of their refusal… is that they couldn’t give a damn.’

Poor White Educational Underperformance

The newspaper then printed some stats to show why Thwaites believed such bursaries were necessary. Only 15 per cent of White boys receiving free school meals achieve a grade 5 or higher in English and Maths at GCSE in 2018 compared with 33.6 per cent of Asian boys and 23.4 per cent of Black boys.

It also noted that four years ago universities were told to recruit more working class students – particularly boys – after statistics showed that just 10 per cent of young men from the poorest areas went into higher education.

Thwaites therefore said he was turning his attention to state schools and academies would be only too glad to accept his money. Referring to Stormzy’s decision to set up two scholarships for Black undergrads at Cambridge, he asked ‘If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of Black students, why cannot I do the same for under-privileged White British?’

Trevor Phillips Attacks ‘Inverted Snobbery’ over White Children

The I commented that ‘it is these barriers – of structural inequality and the intersection of race and class – that society tends to tiptoe around in order to avoid honey-yet-difficult conversations.

However, in last month’s Standpoint, Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster and former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, attacked the ‘inverted snobbery’ which held by poor White boys. He claimed that modern society had made institutions ridiculously squeamish about accepting that their treatment of Whites as a ‘non-race’ was itself racist, and added ‘They have become so confused in these ‘woke’ times that a lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood, and liberal guilt ends up rewarding schools for favouring the Black and Brown rich while neglecting the White poor.”

Comments from Other Academics

The report then said that campaigners have long tried to level the playing field so that every child, regardless of its race, gender or background, was given the best possible start in life. They then quoted Dr Lee Elliot Major, the professor of social mobility at Exeter Uni. He said

Philanthropists want to help people similar to them and, of course, that is their prerogative,. But often the bigger issue is help people who are not like them.

Success comes in many forms. Social mobility is not just about getting those magical tickets to the top schools, because that’s not for everyone. State schools cater to all sorts of potential – some students will be high-flyers, so will need support in applying for prestigious universities. Others will seek out an apprenticeship or attend a local college.

I think it’s great that [Sir Bryan’s donations} could be used to support many pupils going through different routes – not just academic study.

However, Major also pointed out the differences between Stormzy’s and Thwaites’ donations. Major said that he had many conversations with Black undergraduates at Cambridge, who were the first in their families to go to university, and who felt isolated there. He remarked

There are very specific issues around highly selective, very academic universities, because they are quintessentially middle-class and very White and I think [Stormzy’s scholarship] was a legitimate move to address this.

He said that there were discussions leading universities could have to make their campuses more inclusive, continuing

If you’re looking at achievement in schools, I would argue taht this comes down to culture in the home, to class and [household] income.

It’s often the case that White working-class boys are [products of] those backgrounds-but equally there are children from all sorts of backgrounds who live in poverty and aren’t getting as much support as they deserve. And the reason I’m anxious about it is that social mobility is an issue that should bring us together.

Of course there are lots of white working-class boys living in areas of deprivation – but the very fact they’re deprived is glossed over. We’re wasting talent in this country – talent from all backgrounds. (pp. 33-4).

Finally, there was a report in one of the papers that the donation had been accepted by a charity run by a Black man, which had been successful in combating low educational achievement amongst Black lads. He was looking forward to turning around the lives of White boys as he had done with Black.

Looking through the newspaper reports, it’s clear that some people are very uncomfortable with a grant being set up for poor White boys. It’s understandable. British politics and society is dominated by White men, and so a bursary aimed at raising the achievements of White boys seems reactionary, an attack on the feminist and anti-racism campaigns.

Which is why it needed the support of Trevor Phillips and a Black educationalist. 

Winchester College’s excuse for turning down the bursary because it was ‘incompatible with their values’ seems very fake to me, however. A friend of mine was privately educated. He once told me that these schools don’t exist to teach children so much as to give them the network of personal contacts to open careers and other opportunities. They exist to preserve middle and upper class privilege. Rich Blacks and Asians are welcome, but not the poor generally, although they may well accept working class BAME pupils as a gesture towards meritocracy.

Lee Elliot Major’s comment about Black students finding themselves very isolated at Cambridge university is true, but I also know White academics from a working/ lower-middle class background, who intensely resented what they felt was the entitled, patronising attitude of wealthier students from the Oxbridge set. He is right about funding being made available for academic and training paths that are more suitable to students’ aptitudes. There was also a recent report in the I about the massive drop out rate at university. Some of this is no doubt due to the real financial struggles some students face now that tuition fees have been introduced and raised, and they are expected to become massively indebted to fund their education. But some of it is also due to university education now being promoted as the only academic route. A friend of mine, who worked in university administration told me that this wasn’t working and was leading to people dropping out over ten years or more ago.

And I completely accept his observation about the role class, income and background play in academic aspiration. In my experience, this also naturally includes those from Black and Asian backgrounds.

But Blacks, Asians and girls have had much attention focused on improving their academic performance and improving their opportunities, that have not been directed towards White boys from poor backgrounds. And this needs to be addressed.

Doing so does not undermine, or shouldn’t, the efforts to improve performance and opportunities for women and minorities, however.

But if we are serious about improving poor and working class academic performance, whether White, Black or Asian, it will mean rejecting Blairism and its rejection of the working class in order to concentrate on copying the Tories.

Labour Planning New Anti-Racist Legislation, Aim to Make Equalities Commission Independent of Government

November 26, 2019

Here’s another piece of news from today’s I, for 26th November 2019, which may have some bearing on Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ latest smear against Jeremy Corbyn. According to the paper, Labour plan to introduce a raft of legislation to tackle racism, including monitoring the wage gap in ethnic minorities. But what seems to have alarmed the Tories and their supporters, John Woodcock and Ian Austin, is that they have raised questions about the political independence of the Equalities of Human Rights Commission, and plan to make it truly independent of government appointment. The article by Jane Merrick, runs

Labour has provoked controversy by questioning the independence of the equality and race relations organisation which is investigating the party over anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn will launch Labour’s Race and Faith Manifesto alongside Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler today with policies to tackle discrimination and under-representation of black and ethnic minorities in government, the workplace and schools. But the manifesto contains a move to make the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the body conducting an inquiry into Labour, “truly independent”. This reform would “ensure it can support people to effectively challenge any discrimination they may face”, the party said.

A Labour government would also change the national curriculum so that colonialism, slavery and the role of the British empire were taught in schools.

Pay gap reporting,currently limited to gender, would be extended to black and ethnic minority workers in businesses of 250 employees or more, while a race equality unit would be set up in the Treasury to review spending announcements for their impact on these communities.

But the measure to reform the EHRC proved controversial last night. The body started an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour earlier this year. The organisation’s commissioners are all experts in equality and the law and are appointed by the government.

The former Labour MP John Woodcock said: “The decent people in Labour need to disown this appalling attempt to smear the EHRC or accept that they are complicit in it.”

The former MP Ian Austin, who left the Labour party over anti-Semitism, said: “No one is going to listen to a lecture about racism from Jeremy Corbyn when Labour is the only part in history to be subjected to a full inquiry by the EHRC.”

Ms Butler, shadow Equalities Secretary, said: “Labour’s Race and Faith Manifesto takes us beyond what we’ve previously committed in hos we’ll radically shift policies to ensure the economic, social or structural barriers faced are addressed. It’s time for real change.”

Labour would also end what it calls “rip-off” charges for passports, visas and other tests from the Home Office.

Both Woodcock and Austin are Blairites, and the real reason for their departure from the party probably has less to do with anti-Semitism and more from their determination to unseat Corbyn and carry on with Blair’s Thatcherite campaign of privatision, including that of the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state for corporate profit.

As for the independence of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, we’ve seen how the allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters personally, and the Labour party generally are very much politically motivated. Especially as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who spewed more smears in the Times today, is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu and Boris Johnson. Which, like the rest of the  Tory press, has had nothing to say about the islamophobe Tommy Robinson urging everyone to vote Tory. Strange that.

Frankly, I don’t believe the EHRC can be trusted in the hands of a Tory government. They will abuse it to smear their enemies. Considering how serious the issue of racism is, it is quite right that it should be independent.

Vox Political on the Government’s Refusal to Perform Assessment on Effect Benefit Cuts

November 3, 2015

Another of Mike’s articles worth reblogging and reading is his lengthy critique of the government’s claim that it is unable to do a cumulative impact assessment on the effect their welfare reforms are having. This is despite the fact that Landman Economics and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research did one about a year ago for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Their report made concrete proposals on how the government could alter its analytical and data gathering tools so that they, too, could make a similar assessment.

The government has not done so. As the title of Mike’s article makes clear, this means that The government is not UNABLE to assess its policies’ impact on the disabled. It is REFUSING to do so.

Mike’s article also critiques the verbiage the Tories have spewed about making the tax and welfare system fairer, and being committed to supporting the poor through ‘targeted’ welfare payments. The article begins.

People who signed a petition calling for the Conservative Government to “assess [the] full impact of all cuts to support and social care for disabled people” have been told that the tools aren’t there to do the job. This is because the Tories have chosen not to use them.

More than 29,000 people have signed the petition, leading to a response from the Department for Work and Pensions. If it tops 100,000 signatures, it may trigger a debate in Parliament. Don’t get your hopes up – the evidence provided in these debates is routinely ignored by the government because it doesn’t want to know.

The DWP screed starts with some waffle about being committed to a “fair tax and welfare system” with the effect of each policy change “carefully considered”, in which “everyone contributes to reducing the deficit” and where “those with the most contribute the most”. Is that in money or percentage terms?

But it continues: “However, it is not possible, using the Government’s existing analytical tools, to produce a cumulative assessment of the impact of policies on disabled people.”

This is why a cumulative impact assessment published by Landman Economics and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, recommended more than a year ago that the DWP should change its tools.

Of course, the simple fact that the report was published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission meant that it was never going to get very far. The Tories have for a very long time hated anything related to gender or racial equality, all the way back to the Commission’s predecessors in the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission. The Daily Heil in particular repeatedly called for the Commission for Racial Equality to be closed down.

Mike’s article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/10/30/the-government-is-not-unable-to-assess-its-policies-impact-on-the-disabled-it-is-refusing-to-do-so/.

Private Eye on Osborne’s Cuts to ESA

October 16, 2015

Private Eye in their issue for the 24th July – 6th August published this article in their ‘HP Sauce’ column criticising George Osborne’s decision to make further cuts to benefits for the disabled.

From WRAG to RAGS

Chancellor George Osborne’s justification for yet more deep cuts in financial support for disabled people is that he is merely eliminating “perverse incentives” not to find work. If only that were true.

Until now, those who were found by strict health tests to be too sick or disabled to work but potentially capable in the future qualified for “work-related activity group” (WRAG) employment and support allowance (ESA). So someone requiring lengthy rehabilitation after an accident, for example, or with certain kinds of mental illness, would receive a payment which included an element to cover the extra disability-related living costs they would face, such as travel, care and health visits. It was subject to regular reassessment.

As Osborne well knows, most of those in WRAG are not working because they are simply too ill to do so – or they face fierce discrimination when trying to find work. But as part of the latest round of “austerity” measures, from 2017 new applicants will now receive the same weekly payment as fit unemployed people claiming jobseekers’ allowance. This means disabled people will lose nearly £30 a week, or £1,500 a year.

This is on top of other cuts, including the closure of the Independent Living Fund, further reductions in employment support and disability living allowances and personal independence payments, restrictions to Access to Work, and reductions to social care packages – not to mention the bedroom tax.

No wonder the government continues to ignore calls from its own watchdog, the Social Security Advisory Committee, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission for an “impact assessment” of austerity measures on disabled people. It would confirm that, far from a “fair and efficiently targeted” policy, benefit cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable hardest. After all, the government’s latest figures on low income show that working age families with a disabled member now have higher rates of poverty than pensioners.