Under-performance of working class boys is big challenge facing schools

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WHITE working class boys are under-performing in school at staggering levels – and tackling that will be the real challenge for education in the years ahead, according to Sheffield MP David Blunkett.

The former Education Secretary was making the keynote address today at the opening of the North of England Education Conference at Sheffield Hallam University.

A programme packed with high-powered national and international speakers has been drawn up by hosts Sheffield University, Sheffield Hallam University and the city council.

World-renowned experts, policy makers, education leaders, headteachers, academy principals and leading academics will all be attending the three-day event.

Mr Blunkett, who is chairing the event, said the Government’s favoured Free Schools may suit well-heeled parents in the wealthy suburbs of London. “But the real challenge of the years ahead is the staggering under-performance of white working class boys. Where is their voice in the current landscape of education, experimentation and reorganisation?” he said.

Mr Blunkett said some schools, including ones in his Hillsborough and Brightside constituency, were aware of the issue.

And he praised the links created between Tapton School in Crosspool and ones in the north east of the city, including Chaucer in Parson Cross.

Mr Blunkett also called on ministers to put education above the hurly-burly of politics and recognise good ideas which had come before them.

“The truth is that many schools are succeeding.

“The policies put in place over the past 15 years, from the literacy and numeracy programmes to the original form of academies have and will make a difference to the life chances of children. It is time to embrace what has worked and to stop the silly game of rubbishing what previous administrations were able to achieve, while continuing to innovate and to demand further improvement.”

The rest of the conference will explore cutting edge thinking, new ideas and innovative practice that will ‘shape the future education landscape’, both in and out of the classroom.