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Performance drives 'failing black pupils' Either we are saying black kids are thick or there is something preventing them from achieving in the education system Joy Warmington.

Byline: Shahid Naqvi Education Correspondent

Black pupils in Birmingham under-achieve compared to their white counterparts because initiatives to improve performance in schools are failing them, a new report has claimed.

The study, which was commissioned by Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Race Action Partnership (B:RAP), also highlighted a lack of co-ordination in race equality within the local education authority.

It claimed complex multiagency delivery of school improvement drives at grassroots level often failed to make much difference to the achievement of ethnic pupils.

The study also attacked 'crude performance tables' for forcing schools to teach to Governmentled 'national priorities' that conflicted with the LEAs efforts toclose the attainment gap.

The findings are likely to be taken as further evidence to strengthen the case for a black-only school to be established in the city, currently being promoted by the Council for Black Led Churches.

However, the study, called Race Equality and Education in Birmingham stressed Birmingham had an 'enviable reputation' in its committment to promoting greater equity and social inclusion.

Key findings include:

African Caribbeans are the least likely to attain the benchmark five GCSEs graded A* to C

Inequality in attainment between black pupils and their white peers increases significantly at secondary school

Black boys experience the greatest inequality but black girls also experience significant inequalities as they move through school

Minority ethnic groups are significantly more likely to be permanently excluded

Parents of black children believe their investment in education services is not returned

Parents regard the LEA as 'distant' and 'unresponsive' Last year, only 25 per cent of the city's African Caribbean boys gained the benchmark five GCSEs graded A* to C, compared to a city average of 45 per cent. Figures are not yet available for this year.

Black students enter school among the top performers, but decline relative to other groups so that by the age of 16 they are the lowest.

Joy Warmington, director of B:RAP, said: 'The worrying issue is that the black/white gap is still there. As much as the LEA pushes up the attainment for all groups, it still means that black kids lag behind.

'The report is asking the question as to why does this gap continue to re-occur.

'What sorts of strategies are the LEA engaged in that may be colluding to the underachievement and what is the LEA doing about those issues. Either we are saying black kids are thick or there is something preventing them from achieving in the education system.'

Ms Warmington said there may be an element of 'institutionalised racism' that held children from some ethnic groups back.

The report recommended a single named officer was appointed with responsibility for co-ordinating all race equality work within the LEA. It also called for greater dissemination of good practice across the city and a repeat review of progress in four years time.

Birmingham's chief education officer Tony Howell welcomed the report, but stressed the study was based on research carried out more than two years ago, since when improvements had been made.

'Closing the equality gap continued to be a key priority of the LEA,' he said.

'We have an ongoing commitment to raising the achievement of pupils from ethnic minority communities, hence our involvement in commissioning this report. External evaluation is always useful when planning how to move forward and we have recently welcomed an Ofsted visit specifically looking at our work in raising ethnic minority achievement.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 18, 2003
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