Oxford University’s plans to launch a summer school for poor white children are to be applauded. Our best university is the latest to recognise that poor white children do worse than any other group in terms of education. They need help, and Oxford wants to provide it.
But for all its good intentions, Oxford can only do so much, because white working class kids are not going to get a look in at the best universities while they flounder at schools.
When I started there, my dad described Oxford as a university version of John Lewis. In a sense he was right: Oxford remains a very southern, very middle-class institution. 2015’s intake saw a decline in admissions from state schools and over 2,800 applications from London alone. This compares to just 211 from one of the poorest regions in the UK – the North East.
Here’s the thing then.
Are we just saying that it’s specifically poor white kids who cannot be helped by Oxford, because they flounder at school? Just like, say, black boys also do?
Or, while we’re admitting that affirmative action, special dispensations or otherwise giving poor white kids a leg-up will be of no help whatsoever, can we therefore agree that the same is true of similar initiatives that may exist for ethnic minorities, women, LGBTs, trans-dimensional cephalopods etc?