This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and ParticipationIt kicks off perspectives from widening participation practitioners and showcases the idea from Anne-Marie Canning, Director of Social Mobility and Student Success at King’s College London.


White working-class boys are the most under-represented group in higher education. Their access to university – and the access of white working-class girls too – should be a top priority for the Office for Students.

A 2016 report by LKMco and King’s College London offered clear direction for supporting white working-class children into higher education. Attainment for this group is a significant barrier to progression and widening participation programmes must be targeted at Key Stage 4 or earlier. Parents need to be engaged in order to support post-16 progression and we should be wary of interventions that rely upon sport as an engagement tool. Finally, degree apprenticeships could be a powerful widening participation tool for white working-class young people too.

At King’s we have established the McFadzean Scholars programme for Year 10 low-income white boys and their parents. This has been positively received by schools. We are launching a new online website called www.borntobe.org.uk which targets parents and carers in white working-class communities. Through the website, families can order a home- learning pack, live chat with one of our parent leaders and connect with stories from similar families who have had a child go on to university.

The Director of Fair Access and Participation should set a high standard for initiatives focused on white working-class pupils and ensure they are integrated as a discrete target group in large-scale widening participation programmes. We should be resolute in taking a proactive approach to helping more white working-class children make it to higher education.