The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it Contents

4Supporting White working-class children and families: from cradle to career

Supporting the early years sector

71.We were concerned by evidence that disadvantaged White children fall behind their peers from the early years. To close the gap the Government must address wider issues in the early years sector, in the hope of levelling up provision for disadvantaged White pupils.

72.There is evidence that attending early childhood education and care (ECEC) has an impact on children’s outcomes. Research from the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED), published in 2018, found that “more hours spent in formal and informal ECEC between ages two and four has benefits for child cognitive and socio-emotional development at age four”, and that “children from disadvantaged families may be considered to have more to gain from time in ECEC”.141

73.We have also seen evidence that the quality of education on offer is important. The Centre for Education and Youth highlighted that the quality of childcare settings that families from lower socio-economic backgrounds can access tends to be lower than that of childcare providers that wealthier families use.142 Our predecessor Committee found that maintained nursery schools (MNS), a provider that tends to have higher-qualified staff than other provider types, need long-term support. MNS have a strong record of “ensuring excellent outcomes for disadvantaged children”.143 Research from the Department in 2019 explained that MNS tend to have a higher fraction of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and “higher structural quality” than other provider types. They have higher average staff qualifications (27% of MNS staff are educated to degree level, compared with 12% in private providers, 10% in voluntary providers and 11% of childminders). 63% of MNS are rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, compared with 18% of other provider types.144

74.A House of Commons Library briefing explains that:

… in recognition of the higher costs faced by MNS compared to other early years providers … since the introduction of the EYNFF in 2017–18 the Government has provided additional supplementary funding to MNS. This supplementary funding was initially intended to last for two years only but has been subsequently extended and is currently committed up to the end of 2021–22 financial year. Around £60 million of supplementary funding will be provided in 2021–22.145

75.The briefing paper outlines concerns about the short-term nature of this supplementary funding. The Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, responded to a written question in November 2020, saying:

The government announced on 24 August that up to £23 million of supplementary funding will be provided to local authorities, to enable them to continue protecting the funding of MNS during the summer term in 2021 …

The department has secured a continuation of around £60 million of supplementary funding for MNS in the 2021–22 financial year, as part of this Spending Review. The department continues to consider what is required to ensure a clear, long-term picture of funding for all MNS …146

76.According to Early Education, MNS faced additional financial pressures during the pandemic. Only 28% of MNS were “still expecting to balance their budget at the end of the year”. There is “little scope left for further cuts or efficiency savings”, with 57% of MNS already staffed at “minimum ratios”.147

77.The rest of the early years sector has also faced challenges during the pandemic, and there is some evidence to suggest that the sector was experiencing financial difficulties before then too.148 The pandemic has added pressure for many settings, and in July 2020 The Sutton Trust found that “a third of settings in the most deprived areas reported they were unlikely to still be operating next year” and “69% of settings anticipated operating at a loss over the next six months”.149 The Sutton Trust recommended in the short term, a “package of support for the early years sector in line with the support offered to schools”, and a long-term “commitment to increased levels of funding” for free childcare entitlements to “ensure delivery is viable for providers”. The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years claimed that the pandemic “has shone a stark light on the already threadbare financial existence” of the sector, and called for the Government to promote “the value of early education and care… in its own right”, reforming the funding system “to produce a clearer universal offer, targeted to disadvantaged areas”.150

78.In a response to a written question, the Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP outlined the Department’s support for the early years sector during the pandemic. The Minister explained that the Department has:

79.Having access to high quality early years provision helps disadvantaged children, including White working-class children. Maintained nursery schools deliver consistently high outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, but they face financial difficulties.

80.The Government’s announcement of continued supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools is welcome, but the underlying issues of short-termism and insufficiency remain and are more acute as a result of the pandemic. It is not enough for the Government to continually push a decision on the long-term future of maintained nursery schools back to the next spending review - the Government must decide how to guarantee their long-term future as soon as possible. The Government must also acknowledge the “threadbare” state of the early years system previous to the pandemic, and outline a long-term plan for the early years accompanied by a funding settlement for at least the next three years.

What are Family Hubs?

81.Family Hubs are “local support centres where families with children and young people aged 0–19 can access a broad and integrated range of early help to overcome difficulties and build stronger relationships”.152 Family Hubs are a “central access point” for all families that works with other services to signpost support.153 Family Hubs can also have an important role specifically in educating and supporting parents through initiatives such as parenting classes. The Family Hubs network highlights Family Hubs in Stockton-on-Tees that offer “parentcraft sessions” and virtual parenting courses during lockdown, which particularly helped the centre reach fathers.154 We have heard about the potential of this model to support disadvantaged White families throughout their child’s time in education.

82.In December 2020 the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, announced a National Centre for Family Hubs and Integrated Services.155 The Minister told us that the Government is “doing a big piece of research on what works best within those integrated services, because it is about getting early support out to families that need it”.156 The Government have committed £2.5 million to “research and developing best practice around the integration of services for families, including family hubs”,157 and more recently the Secretary of State for Education announced an investment of £14 million “to champion family hubs” through launching the National Centre for Family Hubs (run by the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families).158

Family Hubs: supporting disadvantaged White families in the early years

83.We heard that the early years sector is difficult to navigate, with multiple strands of support for families run by different Government departments. The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) outlines these strands:

84.Dealing with a confusing system is an issue for many disadvantaged families, including disadvantaged White families. PACEY highlighted barriers to taking up these early years education and childcare for disadvantaged families, saying that “disadvantaged families are less likely to be well informed about childcare, and more likely to receive information via organisations such as JobCentres and word of mouth”. PACEY add that “nearly a quarter of parents of eligible two-year-olds are not aware of their entitlement”. Poor access to entitlements and services extends to health care. The previous House of Commons Education Select Committee found that “there is a lack of data on the number of health visitors”, and that “only around 80% of children were receiving the home visits required”.160 That inquiry found examples of good practice, including in Manchester where “every child is assessed eight times between 0–5 years old … with interventions following as necessary”.

85.We spoke to Merle Davies, Director of the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development (CECD).161 The the centre operates in “very much a white disadvantaged community”.162 Merle Davies described her experience of supporting disadvantaged White parents, highlighting:

86.Family Hubs seem ideally placed to help families who are unaware of, or confused about, their entitlements.167 As the Early Years Healthy Development Review found, “Local Family Hub networks may consist of both physical and virtual places where services to support families come together, from birth registration to midwifery, health visiting to mental health support and parenting courses to infant feeding advice”. This could include a “key contact”, who ensures continuity of care and builds relationships with families, allowing “a greater sense of continuity as the family could be personally introduced to other service providers within the Family Hub network”.168

87.High-quality, joined-up education and health support for disadvantaged White families in the early years of their child’s life is crucial and has demonstrable benefits. The Family Hub model is ideally placed to deliver continuity of support and care, helping disadvantaged White families build relationships with trusted contacts, navigate a complex system of entitlements, and identify problems early on.

88.However, there are areas of the country, including those serving disadvantaged White communities, where families do not have this support. The Government’s work on the National Centre, and investment of £14 million is positive, but children need this support now.

89.The Government must explain how the National Centre for Family Hubs will support the development of Family Hubs and should set out bold targets for every town to have a Family Hub using existing community assets where appropriate.

90.All Family Hubs must have a clear strategy for the early years, with the aim of bringing services, including health visitors and early years educators, together into one place to make it easier for disadvantaged White families to navigate the system, particularly with regard to taking full advantage of their free entitlements. The Government must implement the recommendations put forward by the Early Years Healthy Development Review, particularly around exploring the idea of a “key contact” for families and supporting local authorities to identify how best to introduce families to their local hub. The Government should also follow the example of the Manchester system, where consistent and frequent contact with families enables early intervention. This will create a joined-up, universal early years support system that works for all parents, and most particularly those disadvantaged White parents whose children are falling off the ladder of opportunity from the very first rung.

Family hubs: providing cradle to career support

91.We heard evidence that the home environment and parental engagement with children’s education may influence outcomes throughout the educational life course.

92.Professor Matthew Goodwin said that we need to understand more about “the role of family breakdown and educational outcomes within this [disadvantaged White] community… I would like to see what is going on within these households, in terms of single-parent background and family breakdown as well”.169 Other witnesses drew our attention to the impact of family structure. Sonia Shaljean, founder of Lads Need Dads, called for a national study on the impact of fatherlessness, particularly with regard to White working-class boys who may lack positive male role models.170 Edward Davies, Director of Policy at the Centre for Social Justice, noted the difficulty of comparing ethnicity, income and family stability. He highlighted the variation in marriage between socio-economic groups, saying that poorer communities are likely to have lower marriage rates than wealthier communities.171

93.There is also a debate around the role of aspirations, or culture, in the gap between disadvantaged White pupils and their peers. We heard from headteachers who reflected on “ingrained attitudes” to education in some disadvantaged White families.172 Professor Steve Strand referred to an “immigrant paradigm” in his research as part of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.173 Professor Strand suggested that this paradigm may explain why some ethnic minorities with a recent history of immigration to the UK “devote themselves more to education … because they lack financial capital and see education as a way out of poverty”. This may take the form of higher aspirations from students and parents. Teach First suggested that in families of “first or second-generation immigrants” education is “considered a valuable asset”.174 Professor Diane Reay, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Cambridge, said that:

Black Caribbean British young people … have had quite a number of generations in this country and have become quite like the White working class in the extent they have experienced a lot of failure through the system, and in their case that is compounded by racism.175

94.As Sammy Wright, a Social Mobility Commissioner, said care should be taken not to imply that “working-class parents do not care about their kid’s futures”.176 Instead, evidence suggests that some disadvantaged White parents are disillusioned with education or value achievements outside of formal education.177 Sometimes this is due to their own experiences in school.178 It is important that families receive the support that they need, through effective parental engagement strategies.

95.Many schools already go to great lengths to build relationships with families. Reach Academy Feltham said that:

… the only way to develop the academic potential of all who come into the school is to broaden what the school provides: if it is to achieve the best possible results, the school has to support its students and its families through the complexities and difficulties of life, as much as through the curriculum, because the former can prove a formidable barrier to the latter.179

96.Teach First highlighted a growing need for schools to provide this support, and called on the Government to “make additional funding available for schools that want to employ additional staff trained to run family support services or integrate services between schools and local authorities”.180

97.Schools working closely with a Family Hub model have the potential to build strong relationships with families, including disadvantaged White families, from birth to age 19, or from “cradle to career”. Reach Academy Feltham are developing one such “cradle to career” approach through Reach Children’s Hub and the schools work on parental engagement. Reach Academy Feltham explained how this helps the organisation build “deep, trusting relationships with students and families, which are consistent throughout the school”, adding that the academy’s leadership team “draw a direct line of causation from the depth of relationships developed with students and families to the results achieved by the students”.181 Ed Vainker told us that teachers and parents “sign a pledge”, so parents know what they can expect from the school, and that the school carries out home visits where staff “sit and have a cup of tea” to help build relationships with families.182

98.Reach Academy called on the Government to “explore the most effective forms of support it could offer to (Children’s Zone/Hub initiatives)”.183 Vainker said that they “would love to grow this model … I have my fingers crossed that at some point there will be another free school round and we will be able to explore how that could have an impact in other communities”.184 The New Schools Network also made recommendations about how future free school “waves” could incentivise schools to do something similar and “address many of the challenges faced by left behind white pupils”. They call for waves to:

99.Dr Javed Khan, Chief Executive Officer of Barnardo’s, also linked the work of Family Hubs with better outcomes for disadvantaged White pupils, saying that they should be “universal and non-stigmatising at the point of access, so that anyone can ask for support, including those not known to statutory services”. He added that they should be a “hybrid model of physical as well as digital”, and “well integrated with other local services, including children’s social care, health, education, the local jobcentre and the police”.186

100.We know that parents who are willing and able to engage with their children’s education have a positive influence on it. But we must not assume that all parents have the knowledge and skills to do so. We also know that the potential of Family Hubs to deliver “universal and non-stigmatising” access to services is clear. Disadvantaged White children are falling behind in their early years and throughout education, and Family Hubs are well placed to provide wraparound help for families to prevent those gaps emerging

101.Schools are well placed to be trusted institutions that can support and work with Family Hubs to build strong relationships and help disadvantaged White parents and carers help their children. Organisations like Reach Academy Feltham demonstrate the potential of this model, providing support “from cradle to career”.

102.The Department must ensure that disadvantaged White communities are a priority for support. Schools should be an important part of the work of developing Family Hub models, following the example of the Reach Children’s Hub. The Department must help schools emulate this model by inviting applications to open free schools from organisations interested in creating their own ‘cradle to career’ pathway. The Department should explore what support will effectively help existing schools to build local partnerships in this way, as well as what resources schools need to build their own versions of parental engagement strategies such as those at Reach Academy Feltham, including parent-school pledges and home visits. Schools must have autonomy over the form of these parental engagement strategies, to take account of their local area’s cultural nuances.

103.For many pupils, schools are not the only organisations that deliver enrichment and education, as well as chances to socialise with peers. We believe that there is a role for civil society organisations and youth groups with regard to providing positive role models and social capital for disadvantaged young White people. Katie Sullivan of Regenerate UK (a youth organisation in South London), said that youth organisations form part of a “triangle” with families and schools to ensure that no young person is “falling through the cracks”. She called for schools to have the capacity for a member of staff with a specific role to build connections with local youth services, which help develop disadvantaged young people’s awareness of the “world of work and industries”.187 In left-behind areas, including those with high proportions of disadvantaged White young people, it may be challenging to provide positive role models,188 and the “power of role models in our youth services is absolutely huge”.189 This may be particularly true for those young White men who lack positive male role models. Community organisations like Lads Need Dads use volunteers to create a “good, economical” model to support young boys who have absent fathers or limited access to male role models in Essex.190

104.There is an important role for civil society organisations, such as youth clubs and youth services, working with schools and families to build social capital and provide positive role models for disadvantaged young White people. We were concerned to hear that funding pressures are having an impact on how well young people in some areas of the country are able to access these opportunities.

105.The Department must ensure that schools have the capacity to build a triangle of support for disadvantaged young people between schools, youth organisations and families, and consider introducing guidance for a designated extra-curricular co-ordinator in all schools.

Breaking cycles of disengagement with education for disadvantaged White adults

106.Some parents in disadvantaged White communities may lack the skills and confidence they need to support their children’s education. Claire-Marie Cuthbert, Chief Executive Officer of the Evolve Academy Trust, told us that her multi-academy trust is encountering “third generation unemployment” and “adult illiteracy and numeracy”. She added that the “vast majority of our parents want to be able to help their children. They absolutely do. The problem is that for some of them they just do not know how to”.191 Problems with adult education create a vicious cycle for many disadvantaged White communities. Dr Sam Baars, Director of Research and Operations, Centre for Education and Youth, said that adult education is “crucial” and that “part of the solution is to focus on the adults, not the kids”.192

107.In December 2020 we published our report, A plan for an adult skills and lifelong learning revolution.193 We found that poor access to lifelong learning is a “great social injustice” and that around nine million adults in England have low literacy or numeracy skills. We found that adult community learning providers “bring learning to disadvantaged communities, providing a lifeline for adults furthest from qualifications and employment”. We recommended that the “Department must set out an ambitious plan for a community learning centre in every town”. We also recommended that the Government should introduce a skills tax credit for employers who invest in training for their workforce.

108.We were disappointed that the Government’s response to our report did not take up our recommendations.194 We do not believe that the Department has a levelling up programme for community learning. We will monitor the Department’s work with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to “rejuvenate town centres and high streets”, including its work on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which we hope will help more people in disadvantaged White communities back to learning. We need more ambition for community learning centres to give all adults, including disadvantaged White parents, a point of access for learning to help them help their children.

109.Given the number of disadvantaged White pupils leaving education every year without a strong pass in English and Maths GCSE, it seems that the impact of parental lack of confidence in learning will continue. Helping disadvantaged White parents with their learning could benefit disadvantaged White pupils.

110.Our report on adult skills highlighted the decline in support for adult learners. Evidence suggested to us that disadvantaged White parents may particularly struggle with their own levels of education, which may impact on their children’s learning. The Department must give more serious thought to how it may implement our previous report’s recommendations to break the cycle of disengagement in some disadvantaged White communities by:

i)Ensuring there is a community learning centre in every town

ii)Incentivising employers to train their staff by introducing a skills tax credit.

142 CfEY (LBP0002)

143 Education Committee, Ninth report of Session 2017–19, Tackling disadvantage in the early years, HC 1006, January 2019, p3

145 House of Commons Library, Early years funding (England), Number 8052, November 2020

146 PQ119183, [on Nurseries: Finance] 26 November 2020

148 House of Commons Library, Early Years Funding (England), 9 June 2021, p25

150 Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (LBP0057)

151 PQ 153130, [on Department for Education: Coronavirus] answered 3 March 2021

152 Family Hub Network, accessed 31 March 2021

153 Family Hub Network, Introducing Family Hubs, accessed 31 March 2021

154 Family Hubs Network, Antenatal and postnatal services, accessed 10 June 2021

156 Q388 Vicky Ford

157 HM Treasury, Budget 2020, 12 March 2020

158 Department for Education, Education Secretary addresses Centre for Social Justice, 20 May 2021

159 Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (LBP0057)

160 Education Committee, Ninth report of session 2017–19, Tackling disadvantage in the early years, HC 1006, 29 January 2019

161 Blackpool Better Start, Centre for Early Child Development

162 Q305 Merle Davies

163 Q314 Merle Davies

164 Q323 Merle Davies

165 Q324 Merle Davies

166 Q327 Merle Davies

167 The Early Intervention Foundation, part of the What Works network, published a research briefing last year that found while there is no definitive research on the impact of initiatives such as Family Hubs, “there is a logical case for more holistic and joined-up approaches to delivering area-based family services which responds to concerns about a lack of service integration” (see: Early Intervention Foundation, Planning early childhood services in 2020: Learning from practice and research on children’s centres and family hubs, 19 November 2020)

168 HM Government, The Best Start for Life, 25 March 2021

169 Q24 Professor Matthew Goodwin

170 Q343 Sonia Shaljean

171 Q208 Edward Davies

172 Q158 Nick Hurn OBE

174 Teach First (LBP0055)

175 Q5 Professor Diane Reay

176 Q102 Sammy Wright

177 Written evidence, see for example: the National Education Opportunities Network (LBP0005)

178 Clementine Stewart (LBP0054)

179 Reach Academy Feltham and Reach Children’s Hub (LBP0023)

180 Teach First (LBP0055)

181 Reach Academy Feltham and Reach Children’s Hub (LBP0023)

182 Qq 141 - 142 Ed Vainker

183 Reach Academy Feltham and Reach Children’s Hub (LBP0023)

184 Q156 Ed Vainker

185 The New Schools Network (LBP0047)

186 Q321 Dr Javed Khan

187 Qq215 - 223 Katie Sullivan

188 Q214 Matt Leach

189 Q225 Edward Davies

190 Q339 Sonia Shaljean

191 Q182 Claire-Marie Cuthbert

192 Q63 Dr Sam Baars

193 Education Committee, Third report of Session 2019–21, A plan for an adult skills and lifelong learning revolution, HC278, 16 December 2020

194 Education Committee, Third special report of session 2019–21, A plan for an adult skills and lifelong learning revolution: Government Response to the Committee’s Third Report, HC 1310, 10 March 2021

Published: 22 June 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement