Social Mobility: Research Shows Class Is As Big An Issue As Race

Social Mobility: Research Shows Class Is As Big An Issue As Race

The Government reiterated its commitment to tackle racism and race inequality
this week.  And Communities Secretary John Denham said yesterday a real
commitment to challenging inequality and disadvantage also means tackling the
problems faced by white working class young people.

Since the watershed  was published ten years ago, the Government has introduced a number
of measures to improve race equality:  the extended laws against
discrimination; over 43,000 public bodies were charged with promoting race
equality (which has led to a more representative police force and a halving of
racially motivated incidents since 1995); in addition, there has been a 20%
increase in the number of pupils of Black Caribbean heritage gaining five GCSEs
of grade “C” and above.

But John Denham said more needs to be done: “We know that in education, for
example, there are greater similarities between black and white working class
children than between working class children and their middle class

Mr. Denham said that this research highlights the need to continue the
progress in education which has seen all disadvantaged children improve their
education results above the national average and young Black and Minority Ethnic
(BME) children make an even faster improvement.

At the same, entrenched discrimination still remains a real issue, including
for BME middle classes.  Research from Manchester University carried out amongst
teachers from a BME background shows that half of those interviewed (including
70% from an African background) felt they had been victims of institutional
racism in the schools system which had prevented them from winning promotion to
leadership roles.

Mr. Denham said:

“The picture may be more complex than ten years ago.  But that does not mean
we should reduce our efforts to tackle racism and race equality.  Rather we must
recognise that we will not succeed in addressing racism without tackling all
forms of prejudice and disadvantage.”

Research from Bristol University shows people born into poverty in certain
areas are likely to spend their lives suffering from the same levels of poverty,
with no notable levels of improvement – literally from cradle to grave.  This
affects ‘social mobility’ at all levels and is not just affected by issues of
race, but by class.  In short, achieving ‘equality of opportunity’ is as
difficult for white working class communities as it is for other minority

Mr. Denham gave a commitment to tackling racism and race inequality, adding:

“We must redouble our efforts to promote greater equality for all.  And
combine that with efforts to target the specific problems faced by particular
communities such as tackling social exclusion, child poverty, poor housing and
raising standards in schools.  This is not a job for one public service, or one
Government department, but for us all.”

Mr. Denham said that the forthcoming race equality strategy will be broader
to meet these challenges and to reflect that class is as important a factor in
social mobility as race and will set out a three pronged approach:

  • effective enforcement;

  • a strong legal framework to challenge all forms of inequality, set out by
    the Equalities Bill; &

  • targeted action for particular problems and disadvantaged groups such as the
    for young Black men and , designed to reassure White
    working class communities.