Black Students Improving Faster Than Any Other Group

Black Students Improving Faster Than Any Other Group
GCSE Students

AFRICANGLOBE – Under- performance in education has been one of the stubborn problems facing Britain’s Black community.

Year after year, statistics have painted a damning picture of low attainment among African and Black Caribbean students who have consistently lingered at the bottom of education league tables.

The 2011/12 statistics revealed that only 54.6 per cent of Black children achieved five or more A to C GCSEs including maths and English, falling way below the national average of 58.8 per cent.

But according to recent Department for Education (DfE) figures, the fortune of Black students has taken a turn for the better with a 3.5 per cent rise in passes to 58.1 per cent for the 2012/13 academic year.

The increase, the biggest of any ethnic group, took Black pupils to just under the national average of 60.6 per cent, which also improved.


The DfE has credited the improvement to reforms such as the introduction of more academies, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) programme to encourage schools to promote core subjects, and the pupil premium – which gives schools extra money to support disadvantaged students. The DfE has also pointed out that the number of Black teachers has risen by 200 since 2011.

Schools Minister Lord Nash said: “For years Black pupils’ results have lagged behind their peers’ but that gap is being eroded at all levels – the Government’s school reforms are helping thousands more Black pupils, including the poorest, to do well at primary school, thrive in their GCSEs, and then succeed in life. It is particularly through sponsored academies, where long-term underperforming local authority-run schools are being turned around by brilliant sponsors that Black pupils are benefiting.”

But some education experts are sceptical about the figures.

Professor David Gillborn, director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) in Birmingham, said while it is “good that the government is interested in the attainment of Black students”, he is “surprised” that measures that do not have a dedicated race equality aspect are hailed as the reason for the improvements.

“Indeed since the coalition came to power there have been several education reforms that have reduced support for ethnic diversity in education,” Gillborn said.

He pointed out that there have been cuts to funding for programmes which encourage the recruitment of Black and other ethnic minority (BME) teachers, for example. He added: “Ring-fenced protection of funding to aid BME achievement has ended. The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant support has been scaled back in many authorities and even ended entirely in others.”

Gillborn also raised concerns about using the performance of a single year to define a trend and referring to Black pupils as one group, as opposed to a more nuanced approach.

He said: “The DfE is focused on ‘Black’ students, combining the results for students categorised as Black African, Black Caribbean, and Black Other, but [GCSE results for] Black Caribbean students was 53.3 per cent – almost five percentage points lower [than the combined average].”


Head teacher David Ainsworth of Black majority Trinity High School in Manchester, where 68 per cent of students achieved 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths, agreed that government reforms were not responsible for the improvements.

He insisted that parent involvement, the commitment to treating children as individuals, good facilities and high quality teachers were behind his school’s success.

According to the most recent Ofsted report, which rated the school ‘outstanding’, Trinity was also found to have redoubled its efforts to improve boys’ progress who were being out-performed by their female counterparts.
Ainsworth pointed out that an academy near Trinity, which takes pupils from the same area, does not enjoy the same success Trinity has seen.

He added: “The pupil premium is not new money it’s just existing money with a different title. The key for Trinity is that it is faith-based with strong traditional values. Every child has a place of worship whether it is a mosque, a church or a temple. I often refer to three factors that are very important: good quality teaching, children who value education and want to do well and parents, whether they are a single parent or whether it is mum and dad, who are willing to show support. As long as you have those three factors then a lot of things are possible and we are pleased to say that we do have them.”


By: Natricia Duncan