Extra Help for Black Pupils Urged

BBC News, April 16, 2008

Black pupils should get extra help so they progress faster than their classmates, a government report says.

The strategy paper says all schools have a duty to narrow the achievement gap under the Race Relations Act.

Black pupils do worse than white ones even when class is accounted for—25% of black Caribbean boys got five good GCSEs, compared to 43.5% of white boys.

Institutional racism, the report claims, is the most destructive element in the education of black children.

The report: Ensuring the Attainment of Black Pupils: Management guide, was produced for the Department for Children, Schools and Families by Capita Strategic Children’s Services.

It offers support and advice to secondary school heads wishing to improve the achievements of their black pupils.

Racial inequalities among pupils who do not get free school meals are “stark”, it says, and argues that there may be an “ethnic penalty” in the education system.

It says the fact that black Caribbean boys are 18.5 percentage points behind white boys at GCSE but acknowledges some progress has been made.

It also highlights the high exclusion rate among black pupils and how many more are classed as having emotional and behavioural difficulties.

“Closing the gap—in terms of both exclusions and attainment—is a question of changing attitudes and values,” it says.

It urges head teachers to debate and challenge how institutional racism has an impact on the attainment of black pupils.

But it also says that as “black pupils need to make faster rates of progress” than their peers to narrow the attainment gap, “additional support” is needed.

Black culture

This can be either in small groups or whole class lessons.

Black pupils should also receive intensive mentoring to help them become effective and independent learners.

Head teachers and department heads should monitor the progress of black pupils very closely and identify those that are not making the expected advances.

They should keep a close watch on how many black pupils are on their gifted and talented registers

Teachers also need to ensure black culture, history and experience is reflected in what is taught in schools, the report said.

And schools should look at the ethnicity of their governing body.

Kate Daly of the National Strategies Programme said the materials were developed with considerable input from school leaders, teachers and local authority advisers

“They provide a comprehensive set of Continuous Professional Development modules which schools can use to enhance their training programmes with a focus on raising achievement of underperforming groups,” she added.

A DCSF spokeswoman said: “Since 2003, the percentage increase in the number of Black Caribbean pupils achieving five good GCSEs has been almost double the national average, meaning that the gap has narrowed by eight percentage points in four years.

“But we know there is more to do and our targeted programmes like Aiming High and London Challenge are helping pupils make significant progress.

“Our new focus on the progression of individuals, with tailored support for children’s specific needs, will help every pupil to reach their full potential. This is all about closing the attainment gap.”

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