Schools should do more to celebrate the heritage and culture of white pupils, an MP has said.
Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) called for “greater celebration” of the heritage of white communities in schools, to help white working class children succeed in the classroom.
The MP said he backed multi-culturalism and efforts to recognise the contribution people from other ethnic backgrounds made to Britain - but said the culture and identity of white people was neglected.
Schools could follow the examples of Birmingham community historian Carl Chinn and working class English folk singer Billy Bragg in celebrating white identity in a positive way, he said.
Mr Burden issued the plea in a paper submitted to the Commons Education Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into underachivement by white working class children.
In general, the performance of white pupils in schools is in line with the national average.
But studies looking specifically at children eligible free school meals have found that white pupils do worse than any other group.
A report by school inspectors Ofsted earlier this year said 30.5 per cent of “white British” children eligible for free meals gained five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths, below the national average of 36 per cent.
The figure for eligible African-Carribean pupils was 40.2 per cent, for eligible Pakistani children it was 46.5 per cent, for eligible Black African children it was 48.4 per cent, for eligible Indian children it was 57.9 per cent, for eligible Bangladeshi children it was 58.6 per cent and for eligible Chinese children it was 68.2 per cent.
Mr Burden said in his evidence: “Multi-culturalism has made a highly successful and valuable contribution to UK society – making our country more inclusive, tolerant and vibrant. But it is well documented that there has been insufficient recognition and celebration of the often diverse heritage of culture and identity of white communities, particularly in or near to major towns or in specific areas of the country – such as traditional coastal resorts.
“The Department of Education has previously acknowledged that needs to greater efforts made to include white people in discussions on diversity and identity, but there is little evidence to demonstrate that the Government has actively pursued such policies.”
He added: “Schools are important places for helping children explore their identity, and more emphasis needs to be made on how teachers can support white pupils to develop and express their culture and background. When developing such policies, the Government must be cautious to ensure that a white British history and narrative is not promoted at the expense of all other cultures.”
Schools also had to ensure their teaching was “unequivocally opposed to the racially divisive approach of groups such as English Defence League and the British National Party,” he said.
“The kind of approach articulated by performers such as Billy Bragg and academics such as the Birmingham community historian, Carl Chinn, may be useful in taking forward this expression of identity.”
The MP also said the Government should consider “targeting funding on schools in areas with low white working class achievement” and looking for ways to encourage white working class parents to become more involved with their child’s school.