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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Bangladeshi pupils can improve
Ofsted chief David Bell met pupils at Sir John Cass school
Ofsted chief David Bell met pupils at one of the schools doing well
Targeted support by schools can help raise the attainment of Bangladeshi teenagers in England, inspectors say.

As a group, children from Bangladeshi families perform relatively poorly.

But a new Ofsted report gives examples of schools where they are making significantly better progress than all other groups.

It shows how they are tackling problems related to family and community expectations about such things as extended holidays.

Learning English

Ofsted visited nine secondary schools, in different education authorities, with relatively high numbers of Bangladeshi pupils (between 12% and 60%).

SCHOOLS IN THE STUDY (% of pupils Bangladeshi)
Challney High School for Girls, Luton (12%)
Denbigh High School, Luton (35%)
Falinge Park High School, Rochdale (13%)
The Hathershaw Technology College, Oldham (19%)
Holyhead School, Birmingham (12%)
Little Ilford School, Newham (27%)
Oaklands School, Tower Hamlets (50%)
Primrose High School, Leeds (19%)
Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat CofE School, Tower Hamlets (60%)
The sort of things the schools have been doing include helping pupils learn and use English, adapting the curriculum to make it more relevant to their heritage, and involving their parents in school life.

In general, Bangladeshi pupils achieve "considerably below" the national average in exams.

Yet in the schools visited, they did better than all other pupils by the equivalent of four GCSE points.

Having English as a second language was a hindrance. But in the London borough of Tower Hamlets - where more than half the pupils are of Bangladeshi heritage - they do better than the average for the capital as a whole.

Ofsted said the schools in its small study were praised by Bangladeshi parents for their sensitivity to cultural issues and their "scrupulous" handling of any racist incidents on the premises.

"Pupils had great confidence in their teachers and were sure that teachers would deal with any racist incidents in an impartial and sensitive way," said the report.


Some pupils - mostly boys - had suffered serious racial abuse outside school.

What you hear from the students just reinforces my convictions that schools must be multicultural to succeed
Head teacher Haydn Evans

"Bangladeshi parents and teachers also raised concerns that some teenage Bangladeshi boys were getting into trouble outside school, which occasionally brought them into conflict with the law."

Ofsted also found that parental and community assumptions could hinder progress.

Its inspectors noted some differences between youngsters' aspirations - especially girls' - and adults' concerns.

"Extended holidays in Bangladesh, running into the school term, can pose a particular problem," it said.

In a group of sixth formers who were re-taking GCSE English, some had missed months at a time and one had missed the whole of Years 7 and 8 (first two years of secondary school).

The most effective approach to this combined discussions with community leaders about the importance of continuity, information to parents, perhaps providing school work for children to do while away, and supporting them when they returned.

Out-of-school classes

Out-of-school classes were important and in some schools, participation was high. In others, it was poor.

British Muslims at prayer
Religious demands can make it difficult to do homework - report
"Many find completing homework difficult as they have long days arising from the expectation that they attend a mosque for several hours in the evenings," the report said.

Commenting on the report, the chief inspector of schools, David Bell, said: "Schools can often offer a safe and steadying influence to counteract difficulties Bangladeshi pupils may face outside school, by creating an ethos which respects diversity and supports ambition for high achievement.

"Achievement by pupils of Bangladeshi heritage is improving but is not yet fulfilling their potential.

"I would urge more schools to follow the positive examples set out in today's report in order to help pupils of Bangladeshi heritage achieve more educational success in the future."

Ministers welcomed the report but said there was still more to do.

Ofsted said it had timed its report to coincide with one of the UK's foremost Asian festivals, the Baishaki Mela, which this weekend celebrates the Bengali New Year in London's "Banglatown", centred on the Spitalfields area.

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