From Phillips's alma mater, a lesson in teaching black boys: Don't segregate

At Trevor Phillips's old school, a group of Caribbean pupils were taking part in a motivational class. It was designed to build their confidence and switch them back on to learning - and reject the notion that it is "uncool" to enjoy school.

The lesson was one of two special sessions laid on for the 200 Caribbean pupils at the 1,220-pupil White Hart Lane School in Tottenham, north London. But its head teacher, David Daniels, was at pains to point out that the special class was a far cry from the suggestion by Mr Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, that black students could be taken out of class and taught separately for some subjects to overcome years of underperformance.

"We couldn't do that," he said. "We have pupils with 60 different languages at the school. Once you started down that road where would you stop? He's looking for a single solution - segregated education - for a complex problem. We've tried it for girls - for some it worked beautifully, for others it didn't. Pupils are individuals."

The special sessions for the Caribbean pupils do appear to work, however. Firstly, the school puts on mentoring sessions in which specially selected older black pupils act as mentors to those approaching their GCSE years and encourage them to start taking their education seriously.

The older pupils have to apply for the mentoring posts and be interviewed. They are given special uniforms, maroon jumpers, which they forfeit if they fail to take the task seriously.

One 15-year-old in the mentoring class said: "They tell you the consequences of what would happen if you don't decide to take education seriously - and there are consequences but you have the choice to avoid them. It's helped me to concentrate and given me more confidence."

Martin Johnson, the school's deputy head, added: "There is this focus on the street culture and on the school culture. The idea that learning is not cool is one that we have to address. We work with the students and change their perception."

The classes are organised by Delroy Rhoden, who was hired by the school as a mentor under the "excellence in cities" scheme. One member of staff said: "He can communicate with the youngsters in a way that others can't."

In addition to the mentoring sessions, there are special classes aimed at raising the boys' self-esteem. Staff have arranged for role models from the black community - including David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham who became the youngest MP to serve as a parliamentary private secretary in the Blair Government.

Since the sessions started, there has been a remarkable improvement in the standards of English of the Caribbean pupils. In 2003 only 11 per cent reached the required standard in English national curriculum tests for 14-year-olds. Last year this rose to 45 per cent.

The school is also looking at which other groups of pupils need help. Mr Daniels said there were two other areas of concern: white working-class boys and Turkish-speaking pupils.

Similar mentoring and self-confidence sessions are laid on for the Turkish pupils - the biggest ethnic group in school. They are also taught science in Turkish until they have mastered English.

So far there has been no special provision for the white working-class boys - they are a much smaller minority in the school - but it is an area that Mr Daniels is seeking to address.

One of the pupils in the mentoring session did think that Mr Phillips was right to suggest that Caribbean children should be taught separately: "Other guys discourage us from working," he said. "We tend to play around in bigger classes."

But Mr Daniels was adamant. "It's not a viable solution in a school like this," he said. "You can put on limited activities to solve limited issues for different groups but segregation is the wrong road to go down."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Nursery Manager is required t...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk