As young people head off to university, the question raises its head once again. Why, when more than half of young people go on to Higher Education, do only 13% of white working class boys make it there?
For context, that's far lower than girls from the same backgrounds (26% is the total for those on Free School Meals overall), and in fact it's lower even than for kids in care. They are just about the only group where HE attendance hasn't really expanded over the last decade or so. As far as race is concerned, that 13% figure compares with around 60% of black or Asian students.
Now University is not the be all and end all, and I'm the first to say that there are plenty of other great - arguably better - routes through education and in to work... but clearly the OPPORTUNITY to go needs to be fair for all who are capable. These lads are not incapable.
Last week I hosted a debate with Mansfield education stakeholders on exactly this subject, education and aspiration for disadvantaged kids in places like Mansfield. We talked about broadening horizons, about having clear choices and the 'cultural capital' to go out and compete with more affluent peers. It was a really interesting discussion, and you can see it as part of the Blue Collar Conservatism conference, which starts on Monday.
For the Mansfield episode, tune in to https://www.bluecollarconservatism.co.uk/live on Monday at 6:30pm.