‘Why Amanda Spielman is wrong about the white working-class’

Amanda Spielman, the current chief inspector of Ofsted, is no stranger to controversy. At the end of last year, Spielman went head-to-head with Muslim parents, teaching unions and third-sector organisations over the potential banning of Muslim children wearing hijabs (headscarves) in a primary school, with the implicit suggestion that Muslim parents could not be trusted to look after the welfare and the personal/intellectual development of their daughters. Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director at the Runnymede Trust writes in Tes.

Skip forward to the third week of June 2018, and the contentious head of Ofsted is now embroiled in a new controversy, this time casting aspersions on white working-class pupils and their parents, with the ill-judged and detrimental view that they have “low aspirations and drive”,  particularly in comparison with “migrant communities”.

Here are (at least) 10 reasons why and how, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, has misrepresented “the aspirations and drive” of white working-class children:

1. Victim-blaming or blaming white working-class families and children for their low achievements is not only a cop-out, it’s a red-herring. Career aspirations don’t just come from families and the home environment; they’re also highly influenced by school practices and wider social and economic factors and external expectations and perceptions

3. Instead of trying to change pupils’ or parents’ attitudes (and victim-blame), we should put more pressure on the system to adapt. Research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that it is more effective to equip poorer parents with tailored advice, support and information to support their children in education rather than focus on the symptoms of their disengagement with education, or their “aspirations”.   

7.  Pitting children against each other by race and class is not only a false comparison (BME children are working class, too), but it is also harmful for children who are not being given positive messages and values about their socioeconomic background. The irony of Amanda Spielman denigrating the aspirations of white working-class children is that 20 years ago this is exactly what the educational system used to say about BME children when they were underachieving in schools. Detrimental and harmful views about the supposedly low aspirations, abilities and expectations of BME children and their parents meant that several BME groups (including those that are now “lauded” for their aspirations and success) were marginalised and destined for disengagement from education.

There is significant research evidence to show that children’s career aspirations and expectations are complex and influenced by many external (and rational choice) factors. But when the head of Ofsted suggested that the educational achievements of white working-class children were due more to their lack of “aspirations and drive”, she not only misrepresented the structural impact of their socioeconomic circumstances, she wrote off another white working-class generation.

Read the full article ‘Why Amanda Spielman is wrong about the white working-class’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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