Report Claims Poor White Pupils Failed By Education System

Report Claims Poor White Pupils Failed By Education System

28th Jun 2021

A new parliamentary report has said the system has failed white pupils from poor backgrounds, highlighting the stark levels of underachievement in this demographic.

The Education Committee report found that white British pupils eligible for free school meals consistently fell short in educational attainment levels compared with their peers in other ethnic groups.

It added that this trend will need specific targeting by policymakers to reverse the poor performance of “this long-forgotten disadvantaged group”.

Among the findings were that, in 2019, only 18 per cent of white pupils on free school meals achieved Grade 5 in English and Maths, compared with 23 per cent of children of all groups combined who were on free meals.

The university figures were worse, with just 16 per cent of white children on free meals getting into higher education, half the number of black Caribbean pupils.

Committee chair Robert Halfon MP said: “For decades now white working-class pupils have been let down and neglected by an education system that condemns them to falling behind their peers every step of the way.”

He added that the problem has not been addressed yet due to “muddled thinking from all governments and a lack of attention and care to help these disadvantaged white pupils in towns across our country”.

Arguing that the report shows these issues can “no longer be swept under the carpet”, he said the findings show nobody can “lazily” say that poverty is the only factor at play, “given that we know free school meal eligible pupils from other ethnic groups consistently out-perform their white British peers”.

However, the report saw a major split down party lines over the use of the term ‘white privilege’. Commonly deployed by proponents of critical race theory, it make assumptions that white people have inherent advantages over people of minority ethnic groups, a view the report said was divisive and also an impediment to action to tackle the real disadvantages working class white pupils face.

While Mr Halfon and other Conservatives on the committee backed this view and called for government funding to be withheld from organisations using the term ‘white privilege’, Labour members claimed this was a “culture war” move aimed at shoring up Conservative support among white working class voters in former ‘red wall’ seats that have switched allegiance.

Instead, Labour members argued, the real problems were caused by “lack of investment” in schools and communities by Conservative governments.

However, the report also focused on other underlying causes of poor white pupil underachievement. These included generational issues of parents with poor achievement and levels of educational understanding themselves, a lack of jobs and a shortage of community assets such as public facilities and transport.

Aside from questions about how racial disparities are discussed, the report suggested family hubs to get parents more involved in teaching their children, using the pupil premium to direct more support, and increased vocational education.

The concept of ‘white privilege’ was first devised by American academic Peggy McIntosh in 1988, who argued there were numerous advantages she enjoyed as a direct result of her skin colour.

Her ideas have been backed by many racial justice campaigners, but critics have argued the concept is flawed, regarding the notion as oversimplified and inaccurate.

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Skipton Railway Station Set For £7.8m Access Upgrade

Skipton Railway Station Set For £7.8m Access Upgrade

25th Jun 2021

Plans to improve access to Skipton Railway Station in North Yorkshire have taken a step closer to going ahead, after more funding was promised. The Craven Herald reports that the £7.8m scheme aims to encourage commuters to walk and cycle to the station, rather than drive.

The plans are part of £31m of proposals to transform access to three North Yorkshire towns, also including Harrogate and Selby. In Skipton, high-quality walking and cycling routes will be created to boost connectivity between the bus and railway stations and the town centre. Existing provisions along Broughton Road will be upgraded, alongside the canal footpath.

The bulk of the funding will come from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, which was set up in 2018 with a total of £2.45bn. Its purpose was to improve transport infrastructure in English urban regions, tackle air pollution by encouraging alternative modes of transport, and generate jobs and economic growth.

A further £934,000 of funding was agreed at a recent meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority to take the Skipton Railway proposals to the stage of a full business case.

A submitted report said that Skipton was the second busiest rail station in North Yorkshire with 1.2 million passenger journeys each year, but the facility was currently hostile to foot and cycle traffic.

The report stated: “The proposed scheme will transform Skipton Rail Station into a multi-modal, sustainable travel hub improving the town and district’s connectivity with Leeds, Bradford and the wider Leeds City Region.”

“The small, compact nature of Skipton and the location of future developments demonstrate the scheme’s potential to encourage behaviour change and stimulate a shift from car to walking, cycling, rail, and bus.”

The revamped Skipton Station is expected to have a new public plaza with lighting, seating, and planting; new cycle storage facilities, widened footpaths, new cycle and pedestrian lanes and crossings, and five electric vehicle charging points.

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How Cranes Led To The Invention Of Modern Construction

How Cranes Led To The Invention Of Modern Construction

15th Jun 2021

The crane is one of the most important inventions in the history of construction as it allows us to build higher and lift more than we could through manpower alone, and have given us the ability to create monuments and buildings that reach the clouds.

As well as this, however, it led to a dramatic transformation in how construction was undertaken and a move away from gigantic groups of workers towards a smaller group of skilled contractors.

In a world before crane hire and where relatively small groups of skilled contractors would take advantage of advanced technology, construction looked very different.


Ancient Construction

Most of the secrets of ancient construction and our earliest buildings have been lost to time, not helped by the fact that Neolithic structures tended to be tents and other simple structures that leave no trace and therefore no clue of how they were made.

Larger structures such as megaliths and tombs were not so much constructed but instead quarried and hollowed out of naturally existing stone or were simple structures made of huge pieces of stone arranged into place.

This would, in combination with the development of mud bricks (in Ancient Mesopotamia) and adobe and stonework (in Ancient Egypt) lead to the construction of ever more ambitious structures.

The pyramid, for example, was constructed without using wheels, pulleys or cranes, leading to wide speculation as to how exactly the gigantic blocks used in the pyramids were constructed, although one suggested method involved huge numbers of people, ramps and wet sand.


The First Cranes

Whilst Mesopotamia and Egypt had used cranes as part of water irrigation, the first cranes used for lifting ever-heavier loads were developed around 515BC.

Early cranes used chains and lifting tongs to heave stone blocks, and evidence of this usage has been found in Ancient Greek temples around this time.

There has been some speculation as to the exact use of the cranes, whether it took the form of one large crane above the block, or in pairs, but regardless of this they point to the earliest known use of cranes in construction.

The winch and pulley were developed around 480BC, as they are referenced in accounts of the Persian Wars and by the philosopher Aristotle as a common part of architecture by 322 BC.

This new lifting technique allowed for weights to be lifted by much fewer people but also changed what kinds of construction materials were used.

Unlike Ancient Egypt, with ever bigger stones being used, smaller stones were used, including in the construction of columns.

Part of the reason for this is due to societal changes. Assyria and Egypt were huge singular entities with a single leader that would gather huge numbers of unskilled labourers to move vast quantities of material.

Ancient Greece, especially in its earliest days was exceedingly volatile, so hiring a small team of construction contractors was far more feasible and preferred in Greek cities.

This principle was evolved by the Roman Empire into the treadwheel crane, a system that largely remained until the Industrial Revolution and the first water-powered hydraulic cranes in the 19th century.


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Flooded School Library Finally Replaced

Flooded School Library Finally Replaced

25th May 2021
Pupils at Eton Park Junior School in Burton upon Trent have been able to enjoy their new London-themed library after a flood over the Christmas holidays destroyed the last one.

Staffordshire Live reports that a burst pipe in the girls’ toilets caused flooding over the Christmas break, with students and staff finding corridors, classrooms, and the library knee-deep in water when they returned on 4 January.

Executive Principal Helen Phillips said: “Our concourse carpet had to be replaced as we couldn't get the damp out, the storage cupboards were replaced and a small reading nook was ruined.

We managed to claim on the furniture but we fund-raised for the books from PTA money and we have local friends, Rick and Jane Nuth, who have been gifting us what they can when they can.”

The new London-themed library allows pupils to continue developing their reading skills either individually or in small groups, and a ‘Tower of London’ provides a comfy seating area for the children to take time out from their studies to relax and get stuck into a good book.

Ms Phillips said that the decision to create a London theme for the library was due to that some of the children have not travelled very far, and many have never been to London, and the library aims to broaden their horizons, helped by a book called the London Eye Mystery.

She added that reading is at the heart of everything at Eton Park, and the school aims to develop a love of reading in every child.

“We recognise the importance of this and its impact on future success. Put very simply we believe that having access to and knowing more words makes you smarter and our children deserve the very best start in life,” she said.

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Sustainable Concrete Poured Commercially For The First Time

Sustainable Concrete Poured Commercially For The First Time

21st May 2021

The world’s first graphene concrete slab has been laid commercially, a milestone that helps significantly reduce the environmental cost of concrete.

The new hybrid material is 30 per cent stronger than standard concrete, which significantly reduces the amount required for building projects and surfacing contractors.

This breakthrough was the result of a joint project between the University of Manchester and Nationwide Engineering, who laid the slab down at the Southern Quarter Gym in Solstice Park in Amesbury, a few miles east of Stonehenge.

The single floor slab was made by what the team have called concretene, which removed much of the building material and all of the steel rebar that is standard with concrete construction projects.

A representative of the University of Manchester called the project a breakthrough that could revolutionise the concrete industry and reduce its significant effect on the environment.

According to their data, if concretene is used worldwide, it could on its own reduce carbon emissions globally by 2 per cent, a reduction equal to the entirety of the shipping industry.


Why Is Concrete An Environmental Issue

The production of concrete is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions, behind only the overall emissions generated by China and the United States of America.

Part of this is a result of the chemical process used to make cement, which releases carbon dioxide and lime when calcium carbonate is heated. The other part is the energy required to heat the cement to form clinker, often to temperatures above 1500 degrees Celcius.

As well as this, concrete production requires a lot of water, currently amounting to 1.7 per cent of all water use.

Finally, most construction concrete is reinforced with steel rebar, which gives concrete tensile strength and reduces the risk of cracking. However, the steel required has its own carbon cost as well.

There have been other suggestions to reduce the effect of concrete on the environment, such as using fly ash, slag or bottom ash to replace clinker, as well as mixtures that can bond more effectively with less water.

The simplest way to reduce the impact concrete has on the environment is to require less of it. This would require less heat to create it, less carbon dioxide emitted during the process and less water needed to start the mixing process. This is where concretene comes in.


How Does Concretene Work?

Concrete sets through two chemical reactions known as hydration and gelation. Hydration is where the cement reacts to the water and gelation is where this paste mixture bonds and hardens. Once dry it becomes an exceptionally strong material.

Adding graphene helps in several ways. The first is that it acts as a mechanical support that increases the strength of the concrete. As well as this, it also serves as a catalyst surface, which makes the bonding process more effective.

The result is concrete that is stronger, more durable and more resistant to corrosion.

Whilst the process of creating concretene is different, the process of mixing it, laying it and letting it set has not changed, meaning that no extra training or equipment is needed on the part of the construction firm.


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