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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 15:00 GMT
Black pupils 'under-achieving'
Wolmer's Boys' School, Jamaica
Some children are even sent to Caribbean schools
Black children are being treated unfairly in schools, with higher levels of expulsion and poor exam grades, a special conference in London is being told.

The event, aimed at finding ways to improve the performance of black pupils, is being organised and chaired by Labour MP Diane Abbott.

As it got under way on Saturday, she said the "massive turnout" showed how concerned black parents were at the way schools were "failing" their children.

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott: Reflecting community concerns
There are concerns that children from certain ethnic groups are falling behind in the transition from primary to secondary education.

Ms Abbott says parents, teachers and government must all play their part in the solution, and has called for more government funding for Saturday schools set up by black people.

The schools are popular with African-Caribbean parents in Britain concerned that their children are not doing as well as they might in state schools.

Ms Abbott said in a BBC News Online forum that people often struggled to keep supplementary schools going, and should be supported financially.

We have too many black role models of the wrong sort

William Atkinson

The Department for Education does have a support service to help such "supplementary schools" - of which there are known to be 1,200.

She also called for more male teachers and more black teachers in classrooms.

That solution was echoed by headteacher William Atkinson at Phoenix High School in White City, London.

Role models

He said: "Black role models of the right sort are important.

"We have too many black role models of the wrong sort - often seen gyrating on MTV, making obscene references to women and the police."

Mr Atkinson called on the government to address why in schools with the best exam results, there was a "dramatic under-representation" of black children.

Schools minister Catherine Ashton said the government "recognised the challenge".

By the time these same children are in secondary school it is as if a light has gone out inside them

Diane Abbott MP

She said there were no "quick fixes" but the government was aiming to identify successful ideas and build on them.

"For instance, getting more parents to become governors is something we would aim for," she said.

Ms Abbott told News Online's users that when children from her Hackney constituency visited the House of Commons they were bright, sharp, eager, and full of interest.

"And somehow by the time these same children are in secondary school it is as if a light has gone out inside them," she said.

"And I want to find out what is happening to them so that those children could continue to be as eager and willing to learn as they are when they come into schools aged five and six."

She said the turning point of puberty raised a number of issues.

"The boys are reaching adolescence, they look quite big - literally quite big and threatening - and I think some teachers do have a problem with this."

The James Westhead
"A growing number of black parents are prepared to pay"
Teacher Tayo Matti
"The moment these children reach secondary school they are totally different"
Labour MP Diane Abbott
"We need more black teachers and to support the black teachers we have"

Are black pupils being failed by Britain's schools?Black education
Are black pupils getting a raw deal in schools?
See also:

16 Mar 02 | Mike Baker
Analysis: Raising black performance
07 Jan 02 | Education
Male black teachers needed
27 Oct 00 | Education
Minority pupils 'failed by system'
22 Dec 00 | Education
Black schools 'booming'
10 Mar 99 | Education
Schools 'failing ethnic minorities'
12 Nov 98 | Education
430m for ethnic minority education
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