The betrayed generation
Iain Duncan Smith deserves the credit for exposing the way the education system has failed working-class boys.
Last November's report by his Social Justice Policy Group revealed that just 17 per cent of poor white boys gained five or more A to C grades at GCSE, while the equivalent figure for black boys from poor backgrounds (traditionally seen as the lowest academic achievers) was 19 per cent. For Indian boys, it was 40 per cent; for Chinese, 70 per cent.
These left-behind boys are an underclass in the making. However, it was this very group - "our people" - that New Labour came to power to help. A decade on, their position has, incredibly, worsened.
Let down by the school system, they are ill-equipped for adult life. Too many of them drift into lives of low-level criminality, drug abuse and fecklessness. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary - the man who an awestruck Tony Blair said was "really working-class" because he fathered three children in his teens - has finally addressed the issue. His speech to the Fabian Society yesterday sought to put the problem of low achievement by working-class schoolboys in the wider social context of the collapse of traditional industries that in the past have given poorly educated school leavers work, training and - crucially - discipline.
Yet what was absent from the Johnson analysis was the fact that this betrayal of a generation of poorer schoolboys has happened under New Labour.
It is no good blaming the closure of the steel mills, Hollywood films or the parents - the blame lies squarely with the education system. It is not fit for purpose, and as long as schools are controlled by government and teacher unions it never will be. Even the most feckless parent wants better for their child, give the power back to the parents and it will be sorted.