Robin Richardson: There is a way to help black boys perform better at school

In the fight for real race equality, a multi-pronged attack is needed

Share

In summer 2005, only 21 per cent of African-Caribbean boys in England obtained five GCSE passes at grades A*-C including maths and English. The percentage for all pupils was double that. The figures revealed by The Independent on Sunday tell a similar story, and heighten concerns that have been around for at least 40 years.

Reporting in 1969, E J B Rose and his co-authors in their magisterial study Colour and Citizenship wrote: "Children of West Indian parents have been a source of bafflement, embarrassment and despair in the education system ... They have often presented problems which the average teacher is not equipped to understand, let alone overcome." More recently Ofsted referred in 1999 to "a worrying ignorance, generally, about how to raise the attainment of Black Caribbean boys".

In the late 1970s, Shirley Williams, as Secretary of State for Education, set up a committee of inquiry on this topic, chaired by the businessman Anthony Rampton. When Rampton declared, in an interim report in 1981, that the essential problem is the low expectations of black pupils among teachers, Williams was no longer in power and Margaret Thatcher moved swiftly to shoot the messenger: Rampton was removed from his position; neither the Thatcher government nor the teacher unions wanted to hear what he had to say.

Around 2001, the Government began to switch financial resources towards improving education for African-Caribbean pupils. In autumn 2003, it launched the African-Caribbean Achievement Project, based on sound academic research, and led and co-ordinated by people with substantial practical experience. Nevertheless, the appalling 21 per cent figure mentioned above shows the enormous mountain left to climb.

The good news in today's revelation is that the civil servants at the Department for Education and Skills accept what campaigners and academics have been saying for the past 40 years - that most key factors affecting African-Caribbean achievement are "in-school", not in families and communities. This is a sensitive area. The right-wing press will seek to make capital, which runs the danger of alienating and demotivating teachers, and making change all the harder to achieve. But knowing how much goodwill exists in the teaching profession, I believe most will welcome a courageous show of leadership from Government.

I suggest six crucial steps. Underlying them are four principles: the need for a multi-pronged, joined-up approach; the avoidance of teacher-bashing and finger-pointing in any direction; the admission by Government that it needs to put its own house in order; modest pride in the African-Caribbean Achievement Project.

My six practical stepsare these: (1) consult informally a few sympathetic academics, community activists and educational opinion formers about how best to finalise and publish the report that has been prepared; (2) convene some regional conferences or seminars, each chaired or introduced by a minister, to disseminate the insights derived from recent successful projects; (3) start designing and constructing a new, or developing an existing, website for teachers that focuses on practical ideas and theoretical matters; (4) promote closer contacts between mainstream schools and black-led supplementary schools; (5) fund some professional development courses on the power and nature of teacher expectations; and (6) promote far more vigorously than hitherto the development of both multicultural and anti-racist curricula.

Two hundred years ago, the Atlantic slave trade was abolished. It was a multi-pronged but joined-up campaign that did the trick. In the long fight for real race equality, such an approach is needed still.

The writer is a former director of the Runnymede Trust

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Graphic Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An In-house Graphic Designer is required to wo...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Service Engineer - Vehicles

£25000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's premier supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Read Next
epa04832814 Supporters of the 'No' campaign wave flags and react after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma Square, in Athens, Greece, 05 July 2015. Greek voters in the referendum were asked whether the country should accept reform proposals made by its creditors. 10367444  

Greek referendum: As Greece spirals towards disaster, a new era of extremist politics begins

Daphne Halikiopoulou
Separate lives: Boston’s streets illustrate the divide between the town’s communities  

Migrants have far more to offer than hard work and wealth creation, yet too many exist in isolation from the rest of society

Emily Dugan
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate