Graham urges Government to focus on prior attainment

Posted on 14 January 2013 (Permalink)

Graham Allen MP has criticised the government's plan to boost numbers of white working class boys at university as "window dressing", and urged ministers to focus on improving children's life chances from birth.

The universities minister, David Willets has called for boys from poor white backgrounds to be treated as applicants from disadvantaged communities, which would force universities to devise targeted access strategies for them.

His call for action follows a 13 per cent fall in the number of university applications from male students last year.

Nottingham North MP Graham Allen welcomed the government's early intervention adviser David Willetts' pledge to do more to boost the number of qhite working class boys at university, but said that intervention at 18 was too late.

He told "As the MP representing the constituency which sends the fewest number of young people to university, I think David Willetts is right to point out the need to pay more attention to white working class boys. However, where he needs to rethink is to tackle this problem 18 years earlier than at the point of admission.

"The key here is ' prior attainment' , not belated favouritism - ensuring that secondary schools are given the raw material from primaries, and primaries in turn are given kids with social and emotional capability which means they can go on to attain at every subsequent level and ultimately go to university without bending any rules.

"Government and universities need to make their contribution much earlier in the life cycle, not merely sustain the window dressing of the widening participation industry."

Allen added: "The answer is early intervention, not a culture of late remedialism which is massively expensive and only ever partially successful. There are no quick fixes to getting my young constituents to university, only patient long-termism starting with babies and their parents to help develop the social and emotional bedrock that will allow my white working class kids to do just as well on their own merits as middle class kids can."