Two top private schools turned down over £1 million in funding to help poor white boys gain a decent education, over fears they would fall foul of anti-discrimination laws.
Winchester College and Dulwich College rejected the offer from Sir Bryan Thwaites, a 96-year-old philanthropist, to assist the education of poor white boys. No other ethnic group performs worse than them at school, something that Sir Bryan wanted to rectify.
It follows a donation from the rapper Stormzy, who announced he would help two black British students pay their way through Cambridge University. Sir Bryan said that if Stormzy could do it, he should be able to help poor white boys as well:
If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of black students, why cannot I do the same for underprivileged white British? Winchester said it would harm its reputation by accepting my bequest, but in my opinion it would gain enormously by being seen to address what is the severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools.
“Positive action” is currently allowed under British law, but to allow a bursary for one of the protected classes, schools and universities “must be able to demonstrate that the group being helped suffers a disadvantage because of their protected characteristic.” Given that poor white boys are less likely to do well in exams or gain a place in university than their peers, it seems reasonable that they would pass this test.
A spokesman for Winchester College said that the school already has “outreach schemes aimed at carefully selected and under-represented communities”:
These schemes operate successfully and are regularly reviewed.The school will continue to discuss with benefactors the effective delivery of their intentions.But the trustees are clear, having consulted widely, that acceptance of a bequest of this nature would neither be in the interests of the school as a charity, nor the specific interests of those it aims to support through its work. Notwithstanding legal exceptions to the relevant legislation, the school does not see how discrimination on grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values.
A spokesman for Dulwich College said that the school community is “proudly diverse, both socio-economically and ethnically, reflecting our location,” adding that “bursaries are an engine of social mobility and they should be available to all who pass our entrance examinations, irrespective of their background.”
Writing in Standpoint, Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and one of those who helped write the 2010 Equality Act, said that poor white boys are “today’s educational left-behinds.”
Phillips blamed a “lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood and liberal guilt,” for the fact that people were refusing to help them:
I doubt that I’ll ever work out why the British appear untroubled that so many of their children emerge from over a decade of expensive, compulsory education with scarcely more in the way of literacy and numeracy than the average Neanderthal. On half a dozen occasions over the past five years I’ve been asked to advise on whether it is acceptable to offer bursaries or scholarships to one minority group or another. Invariably, I have said yes; but donors remain nervous, and beneficiary institutions are routinely discouraged by their lawyers. I have no idea how many such generous offers have been turned down, but I do know that in recent months two well-known fee-paying schools have lost bequests totalling over £1 million that might have supported some of our most disadvantaged children… In circumstances where the racial group that is disadvantaged is white, there should be no bar to doing for them exactly what we would do for so-called black and minority ethnic groups.