Posted on April 9, 2007

Plan To Help Black Boys Achieve

Gary Eason, BBC News, April 9, 2007

Schools, parents and pupils must do more to improve the attainment of black Caribbean boys, a union has said.

A charter on the issue published by the National Union of Teachers stresses the responsibilities they all have.

It says the boys themselves must develop their own learning and parents must support them and their schools.

Schools must encourage them to have high expectations and have “a moral commitment” to raise and promote their achievements, the NUT added.

The charter, published at the union’s annual conference, in Harrogate, was compiled with the collaboration of groups of black boys in London, Birmingham and Manchester.


One of them, 16-year-old Dillon Max-Grant, who is taking his AS-levels, said he got involved because he knew people who were not achieving as well as they should be.

He said the often quoted issue of family breakdown and absentee fathers in black communities was “not really the issue”.

“It’s up to them to try to succeed,” he said, but added that parental expectations were important.

Sometimes, because of their social circumstances, their expectations did not match the abilities of the students and the capabilities of the schools that taught them.

A co-author of the charter, education expert Gus John, said: “If there is a theme that runs through the report, the theme is let us all live up to our responsibilities.”

That applied to everyonebut youngsters themselves had to be responsible for their own learning along with “their mums and dads and their schools”.

“I think it’s nothing short of a national scandal that, 60 years after the Empire Windrush brought some 300 people from the Caribbean to these shores, young black boys, Afro-Caribbean boys, are still underachieving at the rate at which they are,” Mr John said.


That culture contributed to “the sort of mayhem in our communities that we have seen in the past weeks”with black boys being stabbed to death.

“In some parts of the country the life expectancy of young Afro-Caribbean males is 25,” he saidsuch as in his home city of Manchester.

There was a culture of low expectations on the part of the boys themselves and those who taught them, he said.

“Many of the parents themselves who have children in schools now have been schooled in a culture of low expectations.

“They need to organise themselves to demand much more of the school system.”

NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: “We won’t get the changes that are required unless everybody does their part.

“That includes the youngsters. They can’t turn round and point the finger and blame everybody else.”

‘Unwitting racism’

Kay Hampton, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the NUT should not focus solely on underachievement among black boys.

“The issue of underachievement is not restricted to African-Caribbean boys as such but to a wide range of people, including for example Gypsy traveller communities and other minority communities for example females within certain communities as well.

“So the idea is a good one, but we would urge that the bigger picture of underachievement in education is taken into consideration as well.”

Recently the Department for Education and Skills published a report which said black pupils were routinely punished more harshly, praised less and told off more often in English schools than other pupils.

It said staff in many schools were “unwittingly” racist.

A spokesperson for the department said: “Black pupils demonstrated nationally the greatest progress in GCSE results of any ethnic group, improving more than twice as fast as the average, with promising results for 11 and 14-year-olds boding well for the future.

“However, we fully recognise that there’s more to do.

“That’s why we are working even harder to remove the barriers to their learning, engage with these children and give them an extra push they needparticularly in deprived areas where many ethnic minority children live.”