Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that schools should be fair and there should be “no room” for them to show or advance political views.
Williamson was asked about the use of the term “white privilege” and whether the Department of Education (DFE) could intervene and tell a school that it was not an appropriate term for promotion or, if so, it Should be done in a fair way.
Appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee, he said schools “are not meant to be political places.”
He told lawmakers: “While we should always have tolerance and differing understanding, you know, logic and point of view and a good understanding of a situation, schools are there to make room for children to learn.
“They are not meant to be a political space.”
Asked specifically about his use of the term “white privilege”, Williamson said: “Schools are there and they have to be politically fair.
“You know, there’s no place for schools to show political views or try to push in any form or way and that’s something that needs to be remembered always.”
His remarks came after the committee submitted a report on Monday that claimed terminology such as “white privilege” may have contributed to the “systemic neglect” of white working class students.
The conservative-dominated committee said white working-class students have been “disappointed” for decades by England’s education system – and that “divisive” language could make the situation worse.
The report concluded that disadvantaged white students are deeply disenchanted with “fishy” policy thinking and that the DFE has failed to acknowledge the extent of the problem.
The government has come under criticism for its policies to support low-income families during the coronavirus pandemic and Tory lawmakers have been accused of fueling a “culture war” with reports.
Critics say it is the Conservative government – which has failed poor children – rather than terms like “white privilege”.
Media Minister John Whittingdale was forced to defend the government’s record on free school meals and to remove the £20 increase in Universal Credit.
Asked about the selection committee’s report on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, Whittingdale said he “cares about all the children.”
But he was questioned why he had voted “against free school meals” during the pandemic if he cared about white-working class pupils.
He said: “I voted in favor of what the government is doing to support the children.”
Last year’s campaign by England footballer Marcus Rashford led the government to make a U-turn, meaning eligible children continued to receive free school meals during the holidays.
Whittingdale said the premise of the question was “a complete distortion of the vote,” adding: “The government had a program under which we were supporting children during the holidays, etc., during the pandemic; our own way of helping those children. was – which we thought was a better approach and that’s what we put forward and continue to do.”
Asked whether the government would therefore keep a £20 increase for Universal Credit, which is due to expire in October, he said: “We will continue to support families in need; the way we do this is one such case Which is clearly … the Treasury and my colleagues in the DWP are under review.”
Fleur Anderson, Labor MP for Putney, Southfields and Roehampton and education committee member, had previously said: “I am concerned that this report will be used to fight a divisive culture war rather than to address it.[ing] Early years chronic under-funding, family centers, career advice and mentoring, and youth services.
Asked whether lawmakers were trying to create a culture war, committee chairman and Conservative MP Robert Halfon said earlier this week that members were addressing decades of neglect of people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The report called for the introduction of a network of family centers to promote parental engagement and reduce the effects of multi-generational loss.
It said funding is needed at the local level, initiatives should be focused on attracting good teachers to challenging areas, and vocational and apprenticeship opportunities should be promoted.
A DFE spokesman said: “This government is focused on leveling the opportunity so that no youth is left behind.
“That is why we are providing the biggest boost in school funding in a decade – £14 billion over three years – investing in early years education and £3 so far to support disadvantaged students aged two to 19 Targeting our ambitious recovery funding of billions with their achievement.”