Minister David Willetts has called on universities to treat white working-class boys as a disadvantaged group when it comes to recruitment in an attempt to overcome a slump in applications from men.

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In Norfolk and Suffolk, where there is a legacy of low participation in higher education and young people across the board have been accused of a lack of ambition, education leaders say news of their under-performance is nothing new.

But, while they welcome the ministers’ calls to focus more on attracting white, working-class boys onto degree courses, they question whether putting such a big job entirely at the feet of universities is properly addressing the issue.

Mr Willetts’s comments came yesterday as he revealed there were now “more women who enter university each year than there are men who submit a Ucas [university application] form”.

Just 30pc of male school-leavers applied to university in 2012, compared to 40pc of female school-leavers, according to Ucas.

The universities minister believes white, working-class boys should now be added to the range of disadvantaged groups specifically targeted by admissions departments to encourage more of them to enter higher education.

He has called on higher education institutions to stage “real” summer schools that give pupils from schools with a poor record of getting students to university a chance to get a feel for campus life.

And he will consider adding white working-class boys as an official target group in university access agreements – something they must adhere to if they want to charge annual tuition fees of more than £6,000.

Last night, headteachers and university officials in Norfolk and Suffolk agreed there was a problem when it came to encouraging boys from poorer backgrounds into higher education.

Rob Anthony, associate headteacher at the Hewett School in Norwich, said: “Look at most schools in the Norwich area and look at which groups aren’t doing as well as they should be doing – it tends to be white, working class boys.

“That’s one of the challenges facing schools.”

Peter Whear, headteacher at Old Buckenham High, in South Norfolk, agreed, saying they had been recognised as an under-performing group for many years.

He said: “I don’t think this is a new story.

“Successive governments have tried to do something about raising aspirations among white working class boys.”

At the region’s universities, admissions groups have long been working on encouraging more boys on to their courses.

At the University of East Anglia, 42pc of its UK and EU undergraduates are male, although only 23pc of students – male and female – are from working-class backgrounds.

Louise Bohn, head of outreach, said the UEA ran a number of programmes targeting hard-to-reach groups with one called Sports for Boys specifically aimed at year seven schoolchildren.

She added: “Last year we worked with nine schools and 236 boys.

“The number seriously thinking about university doubled from the time they first arrived to the time they left.”

University Campus Suffolk, which has a base at Lowestoft, said the type of courses it offered were traditionally female-dominated and 80pc of applications for next year’s intake were currently from women.

But Katie Jackson, student recruitment and widening participation officer, said: “We actively market our courses to male students and our access agreement and outreach activity will continue to target working-class male students, from white, ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds.”

And Neil Powell, pro vice-chancellor at the Norwich University of the Arts, said it was already exceeding its target of admitting 35pc of students from poorer backgrounds.

But with education leaders here so used to working in an environment where encouraging participation in higher education is an uphill battle, they recognise the problem is likely to be too deep-rooted for universities to address on their own.

Jason Morrow, headmaster at the independent Norwich High School for Girls, who described himself as a “white working-class boy who was given access to a university education”, said: “Trying to put all the pressure on universities is the government yet again ignoring that the root cause is about a lack of opportunity much further down the education system.”

Mr Anthony, of the Hewett School, said it needed to begin while youngsters were at primary school. He added: “It’s not something we specifically target at working-class boys, but it’s something we do with every student. We speak to them about what it’s like to be at university. We encourage them to go for a career rather than a job.”

Dr Bohn said the wider issue of poor exam performance by those boys was also something that needed to be addressed if real changes were to be made.

She said: “The main factor that will influence someone’s likelihood of going to university is attainment.

“This is much more about us working with other organisations. We can give our expertise in terms of widening aspirations. It isn’t an issue that universities can fix but we can work with others on it.”

•What do you think? Do working class white boys need special treatment from universities? Leave your comments below.

22 comments

  • Peter Watson You are just repeating the myth about the tuition fees. Lets not forget though that it was the Labour party who introduced tuition fees when they specifically said they wouldn`t. Nothing is paid up front. You now have to earn more than £21K before you start paying anything back. It used to be £15,795. Monthly repayments are dependent on earnings so it doesn’t matter whether the tuition fees are £6K or £9K. The loan is wiped out after 30 years so if you never earn over £21K you will never ever have to pay back a penny

    Report this comment

    BG

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • The P.C. Bigade go overboard to protect Black Interests,lets have equality for white people ! and equal with blacks

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • KJ what you may be missing is that even working class non white parents may have higher aspirations for their children and encourage them more than working class white British parents . Although I concede that reports available on line reveal that there is designated spending on ensuring attendance and compliance in the Afro Caribbean British male and African British male school population, especially in the Midlands and Yorkshire.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Frank Young is quite correct. UK needs look no further than Germany for example where people with non university vocational skills are viewed as useful to society as the people who have been to University. As someone who went to University I can state for most people it is a complete waste of time. universities mainly provide the fodder for the useless parasite professions of banking accountants journalists, politicians and lawyers and add nothing to society. Universities should be dramatically reduced, and resources devoted to more vocational training and if charging fees achieves this then great.

    Report this comment

    Canaryinslovenia

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • I suppose it is an aspect of our so called civilization that one needs to pass a test to drive a car, but there is no qualification at all required to breed babies. And I'm not sure that farmers aren't required to have some kind of license or permit to breed farm animals. It's all upside down. No wonder we are in the mess we are, with illiterate and benefit ridden people having babies that they can't afford to support or which they are unable or unwilling to prepare for a useful life.

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Just treat white boys the same way as non-white boys. It's a level playing field we are looking for. Whites are becoming an unwonted species in this new 'multi-cultured garbage land of ours. It's a shame, since we pay most of the taxes.

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Just treat white boys the same way as non-white boys. It's a level playing field we are looking for. Whites are becoming an unwonted species in this new 'multi-cultured garbage land of ours. It's a shame, since we pay most of the taxes.

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Rubbish BG When there was a bias in the 11 plus to make sure more boys than girls went to grammar schools people like you were not grumbling. Educatio is not feminised, it offers equal access to all. If girls are easier to teach than boys, there is only one reason and that is that there has been a serious shift in the way male children , especially working class white children, are brought up. Boys used to know when to knuckle down and work and to be able to concentrate., They used to be capable of reading and being neat and working hard. Now they are so spoiled, especially by their fathers, that they are inattentative boisterous little oiks. The lad culture which permeates mostly the non academic strata of society is responsible, the idea that it is natural for little boys to be pushy ,always on the go and not taught to sit down and behave is an entirely modern one and football and the media are to blame. The time when white working class boys need treating as special cases is when they enter nursery school , when they need a sharp lesson in behaving properly so they can learn and make the most of their talents. Also, there is a case for saying that fewer working class males eneter university because they are more likely to get apprenticeships or jobs which pay enough to make tuition fees and student loans look a bad risk.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Daisy, your arguments on bias might have greater validity if teaching wasn't becoming such a female dominated profession! There are behavioual problems, as you suggest, which need to be addressed but I am not sure that girls are that far behind and may be a little more subtle in their approach. I stick with my original comment, we need an education system that seeks to maximise the potential of everyone. Boys and girls do develop differently and at different rates at any given age and that needs to be recognised too in the way we teach.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Tory millionaires and their duplicitous friends in the Libdems increase tuition fees to £9,000 and then claim they want more working class people to apply.Grade A hypocrites.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • No more breeding of Slovenian canaries, we can't have Norwich canaries interbred with these verminous cousins now, can we? The continuous droning for more university education is being used to divert from the acute inability of our system to provide apprenticeships in sufficient numbers. Rather than providing cheap loans, businesses should get a scaled tax reward for the amount of apprentices they take on and educate to international standards.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • I suppose it is an aspect of our so called civilization that one needs to pass a test to drive a car, but there is no qualification at all required to breed babies. And I'm not sure that farmers aren't required to have some kind of license or permit to breed farm animals. It's all upside down. No wonder we are in the mess we are, with illiterate and benefit ridden people having babies that they can't afford to support or which they are unable or unwilling to prepare for a useful life.

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Quite agree with Frank, Universities are a total waste of time for 95% of people and just breeding grounds for the socially useless professions of lawyers, accountants, politicians, bankers and journalists. Look at Germany where decent vocational training is provided and do away with this university snobbery

    Report this comment

    Canaryinslovenia

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • Quite right, Frank. There is no need for everybody to go to college, trades schools are more than adequate and prepare a child much better to earn a living than a university degree ever will.

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • There can be no doubt that uncontrolled breeding by humans is weakening the human race. Breeding of humans should be licensed, as should parenting, and not necessarily linked to one another. gay sex should be the new normal with heterosexual activity restricted.

    Report this comment

    Canaryinslovenia

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • Could it possibly be that the the type of trades " white working class boys" actually aspire to don't warrant a university education in the first place and moreover they're perfectly happy with that? There's this rediculous attitude that has lingered in our our schools for too long that unless you aspire to go to university, you're an abject failure and should be ashamed of yourself for not towing the aspirational line. It stems from the patronising notion that the poor working classes need to be saved from themselves by svelte, middle-class, university educated pompous asses. We do not. UP the workers!

    Report this comment

    frank young

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Just walk around Lowestoft or Great Yarmouth and look at a great number of the parents of these children. No wonder they are not ready for education, or work. People should have to prove their fitness as parents before leaving hospital with their children. A great deal of them only learn to swear, smoke and laze about at a very early age, its hard for schools and teachers to overcome the damage done by parents before the children reach school age.

    Report this comment

    DaveG

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • They do not need special treatment, but an alarm clock and a jobschoolapprenticeship to go to, that would make a positive change. Forcing young underachievers into frames they could not possibly fill, is an expensive way to take them off the unemployment figures and it might end with youngsters in debt and dependency to banks, with no jobs to fill afterwards. Just sayin'.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Daisy Root - "that they are inattentative boisterous little oiks." You are not a teacher are you? I would point out that the majority children now come from homes where there is no father, (although there might be a transient male). So your alleged, “boisterous nature,” cannot be the result of being spoilt by ones father. It is more likely to be the result from the many variations of what passes as a family unit nowadays. It’s not their fault that their parents are living their lives in such a dysfunction way. Their children should be given as much help as possible and not treated as being too difficult to be bothered with. If we don’t bother, we will finish up with another generation of no hopers. The current bunch are causing us enough problems with the various political parties coming up with one hare brained scheme after another as to how to find work for long term unemployed, demotivated, poorly education individuals with a chip on their shoulder a mile high.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • I agree Ingo. We should stop this political correction and so called social engineering which is a throw back to the worst of New Labour. Too many schools still need to improve to help all students achieve their potential - what ever that may be - and not perpetuate dumbing down. Willetts should cross the floor of the house and take Cable with him.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • A lot of this can be traced back to the feminisation of our education system. Girls are easier to teach, female teachers don`t particularly like male teenagers etc etc. But I agree, governments should not engage in social engineering in our education system. Labour tired and made a pig`s ear of it and we don`t want to go down that road again thank you.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • And now I put on my reading glasses I can see the typos -ahem. But I stand by my point that working class boys are being failed by their parents and this is not being adequately addressed in infant and junior schools and society in general. We have taken the word of the psychologists of the men are from Mars trend too seriously.To know why working class boys who reach the required standard to go to university are not applying needs research into decisions made in Year 11 as well as year 13.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, January 4, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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