BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Education  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 21 August, 2000, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
School gap blamed on black culture
black youths
Youths are being persuaded they can succeed
Schoolboys' achievements can be raised by persuading them that they can overcome a street culture that is anti-achievement, researchers say.

The culture - black-dominated but cutting across ethnic groups - means they feel they cannot be good at school and keep in with their peers, according to Tony Sewell, a lecturer in education at Leeds University.

Dr Tony Sewell
Tony Sewell: "Black culture dominates"
But pilot projects have shown it is possible to overcome this, he said.

The research adds to the debate about the way boys' exam results have improved more slowly than those of girls - seen in girls now doing better at A-level as well as in earlier years.

Dr Sewell's work, so far involving only a few dozen children at two schools, was commissioned by the Children's Society and the teaching union the NASUWT.

False thinking

He said they wanted not just another review of why black children were more likely to be excluded from school, but some answers to the problem.

"The children themselves are saying that it's not just racism that is the issue here, but they're finding it incredibly difficult to deal with this new sub-culture, this peer group pressure," he said.

The culture was not exclusively Afro-Caribbean but was driven by a black orientation, he said.

"I put it down to false thinking almost - where it comes from I don't know - but the children feel they cannot resolve the issue of being good at school and also in with their peer group.

"That's basically the message. I find the mantra 'institutional racism' a hurdle because we are putting in the wrong interventions and missing an opportunity of dealing with the real needs of these children."

Critical thinking

Dr Sewell says the solution - "not rocket science" - involves pulling together a number of things that have been tried before.

  • conflict management
  • basic social skills
  • dealing with the peer group
  • 'deconstruction exercises' - getting the children to think critically about popular images of black culture and see them in a new light.
"Those four elements we have found have worked well, in fact so well that none of the children in the pilot project was excluded - and they were the ones who were earmarked for exclusion.

"Also their performance, their achievement rates, rose."

Yolanda Beckles
Yolanda Beckles: "White teachers not performing well"
Some are concerned that the message might be taken the wrong way.

"Music and sport all play a role in the life of the young black child - these celebrities are seen, these are the things that children want to aspire to - but it's not the only things that they know of," said Yoland Beckles of ethnic minority training and recruitment organisation, Global Graduates.

It comes back to education, she says.

"There is also an issue that needs to be discussed - and I think the government are trying to tackle that right now - in the way that white teachers are not performing well for our black children."

The Commission for Racial Equality said he was in danger of "letting the system off the hook".

Need to engage all

"Black 'culture' alone cannot be blamed for lower levels of achievement and higher exclusion rates amongst black African-Caribbean pupils," said the commission's chair, Gurbux Singh.

"Educationalists must find ways to make going to school an interesting, challenging and rewarding experience for all pupils.

"If this does not happen, Britain will have to deal with a generation of disaffected, uneducated young men with little to look forward to in terms of their employment and career prospects.

"Schools and teachers must find ways to engage all boys to tackle underachievement - black and white."

He was also concerned about the disproportionate number of black boys excluded from school.

"I will be raising these issues amongst others with the Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, in the next few weeks."

See also:

20 Aug 00 | UK Education
17 Aug 00 | UK Education
26 May 00 | UK Education
15 Aug 00 | UK Education
19 Jul 00 | UK Education
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Education stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |