Liverpool MP Kim Johnson: “It’s not a race issue, it’s an issue about poverty, underinvestment and class” - The Guide Liverpool

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Liverpool MP Kim Johnson: “It’s not a race issue, it’s an issue about poverty, underinvestment and class”


Picture by David Woolfall

Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool, Riverside, has slammed claims made in a predominantly Conservative-led report on ‘white working-class education’.

The report, titled “‘Forgotten’ White working-class pupils let down by decades of neglect” was published earlier this week.

It received National attention after Kim spoke out about the inclusion of the chapter on ‘white privilege’.

In an interview with The Guide, she said: “I totally disagreed with the whole chapter that they have on white privilege.

“I didn’t agree with it going in the report and I disagree with how they believe it [creates] disadvantages.”

The report concludes that the term ‘white privilege’ is ‘politically controversial terminology’ and questions whether it should be used by schools.

It said the department should: “ensure that young people are not inadvertently being inducted into political movements when what is required is balanced, age-appropriate discussion.”

The term ‘white privilege’ is used to describe the inherent privilege a white person gains simply for the colour of their skin, in comparison to those in ethnic minorities, who are often subject to racial injustice.

Kim Johnson said she felt that including this chapter in the report was a deliberate attempt to distract from the real issues.

She said: “Using these terms and weaponizing it does not help the situation.

“We need to be realistic about the issues that we are facing.

“I would say that lots of children in our disadvantaged communities are suffering as a result of Covid and as a result of 11 years of austerity imposed by the Tory government.”

The report states that White British pupils are less likely to be eligible for free school meals compared to pupils from ethnic minorities.

However, it also states that White British pupils as a whole are the largest disadvantaged ethnic group.

The report also claims to be: “aware of a pressing need to tackle social injustices for pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds, from school exclusions, to degree classifications, to disparities in the workplace, healthcare and justice systems.”

However, it said the ‘the size of the White majority’ means that addressing this issue could create a bigger shift in the attainment gap.

Kim, however, said: “There’s lots of evidence that supports the disproportionate impact on black people.”

She said: “It’s not a race issue.

“We don’t want this government pitting black against white, it is an issue about poverty and underinvestment and class.”

The report goes on to state that funding should be ‘micro-targeted’, to level up educational opportunities in specific areas of the country.

Kim Johnson believes this funding will not end up in Merseyside, which was the 3rd most deprived local authority in England according to a 2019 report.

She said: “I think the Tories do suffer from selective amnesia, they weren’t only elected in 2019.

“They have been in power for 11 years and during those 11 years a lot of cities like Liverpool and other Northern cities have suffered as a result of austerity measures, reduction in central grant funding from the Tory government.”

Instead, she believes that funding will go to newly Conservative constituencies to help keep them on-side.

Kim said: “I would imagine what the Tories are planning to do is to focus their attention on those areas where they have recently got an MP in what they would refer to as a ‘red wall’ constituency.”

In her protest against the report, Kim included her own report, within the formal minutes.

Kim Johnson’s report is titled, ‘Facing the facts: how the systemic underinvestment in de-industrialised communities in ‘left behind’ regions is bringing down the educational attainment of working-class pupils.’

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