Austerity risks leaving some pupils behind

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White pupils from poorer backgrounds, especially boys, suffered the worst start in life as they continued to fall further behind every other ethnic group at school due to austerity measures, according to a new report.

The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) showed people under the age of 34 were hit by the steepest fall in incomes and employment, and had less access to decent housing and better paid jobs.

EHRC Commissioner Laura Carstensen said: "The gateways to opportunity that the Commission identified five years ago remain harder to pass through for some groups such as disabled people, those from poorer backgrounds and women over a certain age.

"It's great to see the barriers being lowered over the last five years for some people, but during the same period they've been raised higher for younger people in particular.

"Theirs are the shoulders on which the country will rely to provide for a rapidly ageing population, yet they have the worst economic prospects for several generations."

According to the report, younger people suffered the greatest drop in income and employment, compared to older age groups and now face greater barriers to achieving economic independence and success than they did five years ago.

White pupils from poorer backgrounds, especially boys, have been hit hardest, continuing to fall further behind every other ethnic group at school - with their chances of a successful and prosperous career decreasing as a result. Only 28.3% of boys on free school meals gained at least five GCSEs at A* against 76.8% of Chinese pupils.

Chinese and Indian pupils continue to perform better than all other ethnic groups at school and a higher proportion of school leavers from ethnic minorities go on to higher education than white pupils.

Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have seen the biggest improvements in education and employment, while black workers, who were previously one of the better paid ethnic groups, suffered one of the largest falls in wages.

Girls now outperform boys at school and university, but women still suffer a pay gap which increases as they enter the "sandwich years" juggling caring for children and parents.

Poor White boys in particular suffer a combination of disadvantage. Being poor now has a far more negative impact on the education of White children than it does for any other ethnic group. Poor White boys suffer higher rates of exclusion from school and achieve the lowest academic results – making them less likely to enter higher education and therefore more likely to end up in lower-paid, insecure jobs. Men aged 45-49 now suffer the highest rates of suicide – a figure which has increased significantly over the last five years.

Life for some ethnic groups has improved dramatically. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi group saw some of the greatest improvements of any group across educational attainment, health, employment and level of poverty, although these improvements tended to be from a much lower starting point, and they still do not fare as well as White people across these areas of life. Chinese and Indian students have continued to perform better than all other ethnicities at school and, overall, a higher proportion of ethnic minority pupils goes on to higher education than White pupils. 

The review shows that Britain continues to become generally more tolerant and open-minded. However it notes that the target of hate crime and discriminatory treatment may have switched from some groups to others.  There are some suggestions that this is in response to the economic downturn and subsequent pressure on public services, to increased religious and ethnic diversity and in reaction to world events.

Professional Development Today
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