Not for the first time, white working-class children have been flagged up as having the lowest educational attainment of almost any ethnic group in the country (they outscore only Roma and Gypsy children).
Last year, just one in three of these pupils achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths – half the national average.
Sadly, as we highlighted in our report, Requires Improvement, published last September, this is nothing new.
Behind these headline figures, however, are a number of inspirational schools managing to buck this national trend and as part of our ongoing research we have been finding them and talking to them.
White pupils on free school meals in these schools achieve excellent results, surpassing national averages despite the disadvantages they face. Their achievements – and their schools’ achievements – are evidence that with a good education it’s possible for any child to succeed regardless of ethnicity, income or family background.
We now urgently need to find ways of letting other schools learn from them. That’s why, as part of our major review on education, we have spoken to these inspirational heads who are delivering against the odds.
They have shown us innovative ways of engaging with parents, improving pupil attendance and building links with local employers to drive up pupil engagement and attainment.
A recurring message we have heard is that both schools and families have an important role to play.
This shouldn’t be seen as an “either / or” debate: if we want to give children the best chances, efforts on both fronts are needed.
Schools can achieve a huge amount but they stand a much better chance if they can persuade parents to stand shoulder to shoulder with them