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Spielman blame white families for apparent Ofsted bias

Discussion in 'Education news' started by Vince_Ulam, Jun 22, 2018.


Should Amanda Spielman blame Ofsted's judgements on pupils' ethnicities?

  1. No

    13 vote(s)
  2. Yes

    9 vote(s)
  1. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Ofsted chief: families of white working-class children 'lack drive' of migrants

    'White working-class children have fallen behind because their families can “lack the aspiration and drive seen in many migrant communities,” according to Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England.

    Spielman’s comments came as she sought to defend the
    Ofsted schools inspectorate against evidence showing it gives harsher judgments [sic] to schools in deprived areas with a high proportion of children from white, working-class backgrounds.


    Nearly half of secondary schools with many pupils from white working-class backgrounds eligible for free school meals were given Ofsted’s lowest two ratings by inspectors, while only 4% received an “outstanding” grade.

    In contrast, secondary schools with similar levels of disadvantaged pupils from ethnic minorities had fewer than one in five rated inadequate or requiring improvement, while 29% were rated as outstanding by Ofsted
    TheGuardian.com, 22nd June 2018.

    Who does Amanda Spielman think she is?
  2. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Towards he end of my career I worked in several schools in London which were 70 or 80% Asian India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Korea & China mostly) in intake. I have to say the vast majority of parents were very ambitious for their children, and supported the school wholeheartedly.
  3. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    So provision of schooling provided to the British working class is deemed to be poor... based off of Ofsted judgements...

    And this is the fault of the working classes? ...

    Erm... logic?
    needabreak, agathamorse and JL48 like this.
  4. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    The chief inspector of schools in England
    needabreak and JL48 like this.
  5. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    White working class males are more likely to perform badly at various levels, a number of research studies have shown.
    (e.g. Sutton Trust report)

    So the question is why do this group struggle...
    needabreak and Catgirl1964 like this.
  6. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    But many of the immigrant families are not of working class background. They may be poor on arrival, but many have middle-class expectations.

    It's not a race thing, it's a class thing.
  7. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    I rarely agree with Ofsted but she's right on this one.

    I, too, taught in inner-city schools where the mix was generally 50/50 between white working class and ethnic minorities working class. Generally speaking, working class students from ethnic minority backgrounds had better support from their homes and communities (school/education/authority was respected); they were more ambitious, better behaved and understood the value of education. And i'm not saying they were brilliant, either. Female colleagues had a lot of issues to do with cultural attitudes to authority.

    White working class students, on the other hand, were less focussed, more of a sense of entitlement, and less respectful of school/education/authority - parents frequently absent on parents evenings etc. (not true of the ethnic minorities). To both generalisations I can think of many exceptions but if I had to broadly define the two groups, that's pretty mcuh what I'd say. The best ever GCSE class I taught in terms of behaviour, respect and effort were a group composed entirely of EAL students from refugee/migrant families. They were lovely - they understand the value of education and were grateful to be receiving one.

    The cynic in me would argue that we prioritised every other group in education so it's no surprise white working class boys slid down the scale in terms of achievement and outcomes; but it's not just school...it's a much wider picture. Is it because opportunities are also dwindling with no manufacturing base to speak of in the UK and the military downsizing?Zero-hour contract McJobs are hardly something to aspire to, are they? Is it a lack of role models? Is it the viscious circle of difficult schools therefore recruitment of good teachers is difficult?
    chelsea2, englbee, cazzmusic1 and 7 others like this.
  8. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I'm surprised anyone is surprised by this. The relative underperformance of white working class (boys especially) has been highlighted regularly for the last 25 years at least. The first Ofsted HMCI, everyone's friend Chris Woodhead ;) , came to my LA's schools conference in the 1990s and one of his "keynote challenges" to the heads/governors/LA officers there was what were we doing about the persistent underperformance of white working class boys? It was the only thing he said in the whole conference that everyone agreed with. (For those with long memories, it was at the time he was running around telling the media that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers who should be sacked but schools and LAs were too weak to do it).

    Many studies since then have confirmed it, speculated on the reasons - usually coming up with comments along similar lines to Spielman's and what @englishtt06 says - and suggesting what schools could/should do. Yet it still persists.
  9. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Throughout my career, I've seen kids from the poorer white ends of town showing by attitude, behaviour and work rate that they have little faith in education to improve their lot. This has certainly caused me stress, and probably several former colleagues their careers.
    There are all sorts of things, to consider. Ofsted seem to base their judgments purely on outcomes, with apparently less weight on the efforts of teachers to support the children's learning.
    The Government and the DfE make encouraging noises about supporting schools with less engaged catchment areas, but I have no idea how much this translates into reality.
  10. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    You may be right, or it may be that many working class Asian families have middle class aspirations, and rather fewer white ones do... At least these days - more may well have done in the past (think 'self-help' in the Victorian period, workmen's Institutes, evening classes etc.)
  11. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    A lot of the 'working class' immigrant parents of the kids I taught had been lawyers, doctors, business owners etc in their home countries before coming. They might have been living in council flats, and dad might have been a taxi driver, but their education and expectations shone through. I recently found out that one ex-student went to Yale to do an MBA. They were living in social housing and didn't have two brass farthings to rub together when I knew them.
    needabreak likes this.
  12. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Many white families from working class backgrounds used to have such aspirations - as well as the various things I mentioned before - I know it was the case in my own family: paternal Grandfather was a working class Scot who moved to the north-east of England as a young child, was working for the railway from the age of about 12, later moved to London and married the daughter of the proprietor of a small shop., taking it over when his father-in-law died.

    Despite his lack of formal education he was, by all accounts (he died before I was born) a great reader and a firm believer in the value of education, something that was evident in the way his children themselves valued education and moved 'up' the social scale to what can be termed middle class occupations. One of the last things I was able to tell his widow, my grandmother, was that I had got a place at Cambridge. She was incredibly happy and proud. She died about 4 weeks later.

    Sadly various reports, backed up by anecdotal evidence, is that this sort of working class aspiration amongst the white working class is far less common today than it was say 50 -100 years ago.
    Catgirl1964, agathamorse and Alice K like this.
  13. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    Is it that those that had the aspirations have now taken advantage of the new opportunities offered, and now form part of the middle class?
    That would take account of both situations, as most immigrants gained access to the opportunity much later than the white working class.
    englbee and galerider123 like this.
  14. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Attributing the underperformance of white working class families to problems inherent in those people is just about the crassest form of analysis Ofsted have produced and boy, they have produced some utter ***** over the years.

    If you rip the heart, fabric and structure out of a community and replace it with poverty, hopelessness and zero hours contracts for very low wages - as has happened all over working class areas, then you get what has happened. To then blame this on the people living there is not even wrong, but it is par for the course when it comes to these absolute clowns.

    Good luck turning it round by thinking you can instill character into people in those former working communities via a few well meaning teachers. We've been teaching children in those communities for 25 years now and it hasn't worked yet. Perhaps we are all rubbish.

    Or maybe we should give them lines.

    I have no respect for the likes of Spielman.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2018
  15. PeterQuint

    PeterQuint Lead commenter

    For me, I think people are missing the big issue here.

    Spielman says:


    So, if your school is in a white, working-class area it's more likely to get a low grade from Ofsted, but that's not bias.

    Can anyone tell me any example of "... the right kind of support and intervention..." given by Ofsted specifically to tackle this problem?

    This really does sum up the entire problem. Parents will choose schools based on poor Ofsted reports. Schools will be forced to join MATs based on poor Ofsted reports. Staff will be sacked because of poor Ofsted reports. Teachers will be forced into intolerable workloads, causing them to leave the profession and worsening a shortage problem which is costing the taxpayer many millions of pounds.

    Even when Ofsted knows the reason for the poor report isn't the staff or school, but the kids and parents.

    How much longer can this continue?
  16. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    The logic is flawed in that it exposes the inadequacies of using OFSTED to judge schools.

    I have seen first hand that some cultures seem to value education more than others. Statistics seem to bear this out. One of our jobs as teachers is to help ALL students to access and ultimately value a quality education, but we have to recognise that this is going to be more difficult with some cohorts than others.

    OFSTED needs to be aware of these difficulties when making judgements and look at the bigger picture of what the school is trying to do. Otherwise good teachers, leaders etc will not go to a school with such a cohort as they will stand a much higher chance of being judged inadequate and possibly lose their careers as a result, no matter how hard they try.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2018
  17. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    Well it’s been at least 20 years so far, this is the first inlkling of logic so I don’t see it changing anytime soon. The government will never accept it’s the parents’ fault there are too many of them (voters) compared with teachers. Maybe another 20 years; sorry nqts etc. Quite frankly I see society failing before the ed problems are solved. I know; mucho negativo, probs my age. Back to the vino!
    Catgirl1964 likes this.
  18. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Two issues really.

    Why do WWBs underperform in school assessment measures?

    Why do schools with high numbers of WWBs get a lower grade from OFSTED who claim to have 'taken this into account'?

    Bear in mind, I grew up in WWC society so this is an account of what I experienced and met and it is not generalisable, but I will try.

    The first one requires people from a WWB background to explain. Not people from a WMG background to explain. It isn’t that WWB and their parents lack aspirations. It’s that they lack middle class aspirations.

    A child will learn from the culture that they grow up in what kind of knowledge will be helpful to them. Some WWBs believe that middle class knowledge (academic work) and attributes (conscientiousness in academic work) is unhelpful for them whereas working class knowledge (ability to earn money through doing 'trades' or skilful practical work) and working class attributes (anti-authority) will be what is needed. The parents value 'trades' and so reinforce this. Aspirational parents don’t value trades. Indeed, aspirations for middle class occupations amongst WWB can sometimes be met with an anti-middle class rhetoric. It’s almost an enhanced version of class consciousness. (Edit: middle class people or aspirants emit just as strong anti-working class occupation aspirations rhetoric.)

    Why does OFSTEd give these schools lower grades? Because it measures schools on their ability to deliver the traditionally middle class knowledge based outcomes of GCSEs. The very nature of the inspection system is Wittgenstein in nature, they are tracing the frame around the lens through which they see the school. If we switched the assessment to post school outcomes - lawfully occupied in tax paying positions by the age of say 23 you might find schools look to 'game' the system differently and that WWB don’t do so badly.

    Not getting the GCSE grades isn’t such a bad thing as people make out to some WWBs. You can network to get positions amongst the trades without problem as many of those in hiring positions will have has similar school experiences. They will also have been privately building WWB knowledge such as competency in the trades.

    I’m not advocating a return to secondary moderns, but putting more trades back into schools and reducing the EBACC would certainly enable some schools to better meet accountability measures.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
  19. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    This reminds me of a conversation I had at a private school in Germany, with a Bangladeshi father. What he said was: I am just a taxi driver, but I want my son to do well at school so he can be a big man.
    Sadly, for their kids, many white working class parents don't seem to share this aspiration.
    agathamorse likes this.
  20. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    Great post
    agathamorse likes this.

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