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Education: Black British Students

Volume 753: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to raise the academic attainment levels of black British students, and especially those of Caribbean descent.

My Lords, the Government aim to improve education for all and our policies to achieve this are working. Attainment for black pupils is increasing strongly while performance gaps have closed and are narrowing substantially. In the past five years, we have seen a 17% increase in black Caribbean pupils attaining five GCSEs, including English and maths; it has gone up from 36% to 53%. For black African pupils the achievement rate now stands at 61.2%, which is above the national average of 60.6%.

My Lords, students of Caribbean heritage are at the very bottom of the attainment league table. Chinese and Indian students are at the top yet they are always lumped together as if they are one group, giving the impression that ethnic minority students are outperforming white students. Can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what is being done to ensure that Caribbean-heritage students are attaining the Government’s GCSE benchmark and going on to further and higher education? How is the Education Endowment Foundation being encouraged to use its substantial government funds to address this problem?

I assure my noble friend that we publish detailed attainment data by specific ethnic category and that schools and Ofsted study their internal data on this carefully to ensure that all pupils are making good progress. Sponsored academies have substantially higher intakes of black pupils than the rest of the state sector, and those pupils are significantly outperforming pupils from similar backgrounds in maintained schools. Sponsored secondary academies have 79% more black Caribbean pupils and are increasing their performance at double that of other state schools, while sponsored primary academies have 38% more black Caribbean pupils and are increasing their performance at three times that of other state schools. Disadvantaged black Caribbean pupils are also outperforming the disadvantaged group as a whole: 45% are achieving the GCSE measure compared to the national average of 41%, while it is 33% for white disadvantaged pupils. Through the pupil premium we are providing £2.5 billion this year, which will benefit more than half of black pupils, while the EEF is funding a number of projects including an increasing pupil motivation project to help black pupils.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that teacher expectation is one of the things that has the greatest impact on pupil achievement? Apart from what is going on in schools, does he also agree that mentoring schemes such as those of the Amos Bursary or ASCL can have a huge impact on the achievement of pupils through their one-to-one programmes?

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness on both points. I like to think that low teacher expectations, particularly for black pupils, are a thing of the past; that is certainly proven in sponsored academies. I agree entirely with her about mentoring schemes. My own school participates in the mayor’s mentoring programme, which provides mentoring relationships for 1,000 black boys across the capital. Chance UK is an excellent charity providing mentoring, while Think Forward, which was founded by the Private Equity Foundation and funded by the EEF, provides highly trained coaches to work with disadvantaged 14 year-olds in schools in east London.

My Lords, what assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of the impact on educational attainment of the absorption of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Awards into the dedicated schools grant, which was done some months ago?

The impact was substantial. I will have to write to the right reverend Prelate to give him more details.

My Lords, what happens after school and university is equally important. The latest figures show that 45% of young black people in the UK are unemployed. What steps are the Government taking to stop the overrepresentation of young black African and Caribbean people among the unemployed?

Our apprenticeships programme is very much aimed at this. We have also reformed vocational qualifications. In the past, too many of these qualifications had no real job value but were overpromoted in equivalence tables. Alison Wolf did a study on this, and we have dramatically reduced the number of equivalent vocational qualifications that count, which will be of much more value to all pupils and I think will particularly help black pupils.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that a recent study by the Institute of Education found that one of the major concerns of black parents was that teachers generally predetermined the kind of pupils—

—who were capable of academic success, that some teachers had lower expectations of black and minority ethnic students and that black pupils were more likely to be entered for lower-tier exams, meaning that these students were able to achieve only a C or D grade as a maximum?

As I say, I would like to think that this was a thing of the past. However, in order to improve teaching leaders—

One could say that was a fair cop, but I think I am entitled to. The Teach First programme, which we have quadrupled, the Teaching Leaders scheme and the Future Leaders scheme, along with the Talented Leaders programme that we are shortly to introduce, should all ensure that we raise the standard of teaching and that any prejudice in this regard is a thing of the past.