Link between social class and achievement in education

<span>Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA</span>
Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

In her otherwise excellent analysis (The phrase ‘white working class’ is a fiction, so why are the Tories obsessed with it?, 4 August), Zoe Williams makes the same mistake as the media and the Blair government of the noughties. The analysis of educational attainment data did not include an analysis by class per se, only of socio-economic status as measured using the extremely blunt tool of eligibility for free school meals. I was an adviser with the national strategies education programme at the time, and we did indeed find that white pupils on free school meals achieved well below many other groups, and this was something that required action on the part of the education world. However, “white working class” soon became shorthand for white pupils eligible for free school meals, when they are demonstrably two different categories.

We do not know how well white working class pupils are achieving (or the working class of any other ethnic group) because no one in education has defined “working class” for that purpose or collected the data.
Martyn Pendergast