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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 15:13 GMT
Male black teachers needed
Primary classroom
Primary schools need male role models, says MP
Black boys need more male role models in school, says a Labour MP.

Diane Abbott says that the underachievement of black boys at school could be more effectively tackled if there were more black and male teachers and mentors.

She suggested that primary schools, which often have a majority of female staff, provided too few examples of adult males involved in education.

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott says that too many black pupils are underachieving

And she said there had to be greater efforts to overcome a situation in which black pupils began school with a similar level of achievement to other ethnic groups, but by "aged 16 their achievement has collapsed, particularly black boys".

"The colour blind approach has meant that while other ethnic groups are moving ahead and narrowing the gap, black children, particularly black boys, are falling further behind."

"Work that I've seen in the United States shows that where you can have more male teachers, particularly at primary school level, and male mentors, that does help some of these boys, both black and white," said Ms Abbott, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Learning mentors

The School Standards Minister Stephen Timms said the government was seeking to tackle the underachievement of black pupils.

Stephen Timms
Stephen Timms says that learning mentors can provide role models

This included the use of "learning mentors" in which pupils are provided with individual advice and encouragement by adults from the local community.

At present there are 3,000 learning mentors in schools.

There is also 450m available in grants to raise ethnic minority achievement and a target to increase the proportion of male primary teachers to 15%.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that the number of black and Indian pupils gaining five or more good GCSEs had risen "by nearly three times" in the past two years.

And that closer monitoring of ethnic minority pupil achievement in the future would help to prevent black pupils from falling behind.

The former chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, rejected "generalisations" about the effectiveness of male and female staff.

"What we need are teachers in primary schools who can teach, which means, of course, keeping order. I can remember some women teachers who are remarkably good at keeping order ... and there are plenty of men who aren't."

And he said that the shortage of teachers meant that it is "difficult to get good teachers in inner city areas, let alone good black teachers".

Education Minister Stephen Timms
Learning mentors might help overcome underachievement
See also:

27 Oct 00 | Education
Ethnic pupils 'failed by system'
10 Mar 99 | Education
Schools 'failing ethnic minorities'
12 Nov 98 | Education
430m for ethnic minority education
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