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Experience of 11-16 Year Old African-Caribbean Boys and Their Achievement in Compulsory Education in England

Info: 7413 words (30 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Nov 2021

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Tagged: EducationEquality


This dissertation aims to discuss the experiences of African-Caribbean boys between the ages of 11-16 within compulsory education in the UK, and how these experiences have impacted on their achievements. The dissertation is based on pre-existing literature, sourced from books, journals, articles, reports and government publications. The impact of government agenda’s and policies, racism, social and economic trends and patterns will be examined tin order to discuss why this particular group of students continue to underachieve.

Finally, recommendations are offered to assist in improvement of the experience of African-Caribbean boys within compulsory education in the UK.


1. Introduction

1.2 Background of the underachievement of the African-Caribbean Child

1.3 Culture in Context – Definition of Culture and Sub-Cultures

1.4 Definition of African-Caribbean

2. Methodology

3. Literature Review

4. The Black boy White Working Class boy Factor

4.1 The effect of racism and the overshadowing of the underachieving African-Caribbean boy

5. Education Vs Politics

5.1 The effects of government agenda and national policy initiatives on black Caribbean boys.

6. Whose culture our culture?

6.1 The effects of culture, masculinity and expectations on the African-Caribbean boy

7. Conclusion

8. Recommendations


1. Introduction

This research project aims to discuss the experience and contributing factors to why African-Caribbean boys continue to underachieve within compulsory secondary education in England.

The research for this project has involved a thorough review of existing literature, including information sourced from journal articles, text books, government and think tank reports.

The inspiration for this project has stemmed from an article written by Bernard Coard, taken from The Guardian Newspaper titled ‘Why I wrote the ‘ESN book’ based on his 1971 book ‘How the West Indian Child is made Educational Subnormal’. Further inspiration has come from supporting my young son in navigating the education system in 2017, ensuring that he is supported to gain a positive experience.

There has been extensive research into the underachievement and experience of African-Caribbean children, specifically African-Caribbean boys over the past 30 years, and there has been much change within the education system since Coard’s publication.

The effects of government and national policy implementation on the achievement levels and experience, and institutional racism will be examined, giving particular attention to outcomes and agenda shifts.

One of the arguments of this research project is that African-Caribbean boys are now at risk of once again becoming hidden within other sub-groups within schools as the focus has now shifted towards the underachievement of the working class white boys.

Finally, recommendations are offered to invested parties in ensuring that the focus on and support for underachieving African-Caribbean boys are kept at the forefront of government, policy makers and educational establishments agenda’s, and more importantly as a cornerstone within African-Caribbean families.

1.2 Background of the underachievement of the African-Caribbean Child

This dissertation is set within a national context where African-Caribbean children are one of the lowest achieving minority ethnic groups in the UK, and they are one of the highest ethnic groups of children excluded from school. (Gillborn & Gipps 1996; Gillborn & Mirza 2000).

The National Curriculum was introduced as the result of the Education Act of 1988. The Act was supported by a consultation that set out the rationale behind the idea for the introduction of the National Curriculum. The rationale identified a set of standards that were to be achieved by schools, establishing a core set of standards- to introduce an entitlement for students to a broad and balanced curriculum and to improve continuity and coherence, to set a standard for pupil attainment, and in supporting the public in gaining an understanding about how schools are run. (CSFC 2009).

The Education Act went on to build upon the standards identified by the consultation and went on to establish key principles with the National Curriculum. One of the key principles identified and outlined the need to, “promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical developments of pupils.”  (CSFC 2009).  For many African Caribbean children, especially boys, it can be argued that despite the decades of education reform, this particular key principle, on the whole has not been provided to meet their needs. Although the National Curriculum provides an entitlement, over the decades it has become clear that over the decades since implementation it has not been able to cater for diversity very well.

In Professor Gus John’s 2006 book titled, Taking a Stand, he argues that did not do enough to address school’s responsibilities surrounding anti-discrimination and human rights legislation, arguing that schools are not and had not addressed the role that they play within combating racism and supporting their pupils with living and growing up within an ever changing multicultural society. John’s book also focused on the White Paper’s section on black and ethnic minority (BME) pupils, the paper highlights, “whilst many black and ethnic young people achieve well, a significant number fail to achieve their potential.” (John, 2006 pg 2). At the time of the publication of the White Paper, African-Caribbean boys, along with children from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds were amongst the lowest achieving pupils.

Coard’s1971 book, ‘How the West Indian Child is Made Educational Subnormal in the British School System,’ raised the phenomenon of West Indian children being labelled with special needs, and being placed in special schools.  Coard argued that this phenomenon was a clear indictment of the British education system, fuelled by the underlying drive of racism.

Empirical evidence has suggested a range of explanations for some of the disadvantageous outcomes for African-Caribbean boys, including a Eurocentric and alienating National Curriculum, socio-economic disadvantages, racist attitudes from teachers, poorly resourced schools, lack of engagement from parents with schools and the lack of positive black male models. (Gillborn 1998; Sewell 1997, Abbas 2002; Tomlinson 2001)

1.3 Culture in Context- African- Caribbean Culture and Sub-Cultures

Throughout this the dissertation, the reference to culture in relation to African-Caribbean boys will be used often and widely. The usage of the term within this context refers to the way in which they dress, use of Caribbean dialect, the music that they listen to, their social norms and traditions, and the behaviours that they display inside and outside of schools.

According to Boldey(1994), culture is a pattern of human behaviour, that has the ability to transcend generations. It is a pattern of human behaviour, rituals, language, beliefs, roles and expected behaviours relating to specific faiths, racial and ethnic social groups.

The Caribbean is made up of various islands stretching from North America to South America. Each of these islands comes with unique traditions, accents and beliefs. With that being said, many of these unique identifying features have striking similarities that link peoples from the islands together. The collective experience of slavery, colonialism and empire has solidified this underlying collective experience.

African-Caribbean culture has played an important role in forming sub-cultures in the England, and especially in large inner cities such as London.

1.4 Definition of the term African-Caribbean

The term African-Caribbean relates to any persons of descent or by birth originating from the Caribbean.

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests a definition of Afro-Caribbean/African Caribbean as; “A person of African ancestral origins whose family settled in the Caribbean before emigrating and who self identifies, or is identified, as Afro-Caribbean.”

The term is often interchangeable with other terminology to describe that particular ethnic group, which is seen throughout this dissertation.

The terms “black,” West Indian and/or Caribbean are used to describe those of African-Caribbean descent throughout this dissertation and the term will be used interchangeably.

It is important that the term is defined as to make a clear distinction between other ethnicities that are of the same race. African-Caribbean children, like any other group of peoples, have specific cultural and educational needs within the UK education system which has continued since the mass immigration of West Indian people to the UK in the 1950s.

2. Methodology

According to Bryman (2008), methodology is about the set of rules that direct the way in which a set of research is facilitated. The method is the way in which the data is collected. The purpose of methods is to provide an underpinning to the studies aims and objectives. The methodology explores how the research was conducted and why the chosen methods and techniques were identified and utilities.

This dissertation is based on secondary research material, and is literature based. Reviews of journals, government, policy, think tank reports, newspaper articles and textbooks were carried out regarding the underachievement of African- Caribbean boys within compulsory education in the UK and the contributing factors.

Data was gathered from the Internet and libraries, which provided access to the most current information and data on the subject. Support was provided by specialist librarians to accesses relevant and reputable data, using keywords such as underachievement, education, African Caribbean boys and United Kingdom. The keywords used provided hundreds of sources covering various aspects of the topic, in order to save time and to be concise, the reading of abstracts were carried out to provide a shortlist of sources for review, as opposed to reading the whole document. Babbie, (2007 pg 507) highlights that by using abstracts, the reader is able to identify if the article is of significance or relevance; and can also create structure to introduce the rest of the article.

Data using both qualitative and quantitive research methods were used to inform this dissertation. By using data from using both of these method types has enabled a larger scope for gathering the views, opinions and supporting statistics.

3. Literature Review

This chapter will review the research and literature that has been carried out which highlights the underachievement of African-Caribbean boys’ within the education system. It will provide a critical review of the literature giving particular focus on the effects of globalisation, national policy and government intervention. Any trends or patterns that may explain the reasons for African-Caribbean boys’ underachievement; and the data relating to their underachievement in relation to other boys.

Defining underachievement and placing it within context in this study is essential to provide the reader with a starting point in understanding the position where many African-Caribbean boys find themselves in within the education system.

According to the House of Commons Education Committee 2014 report, “Underachievement can be defined as relative to what a pupil could be predicted to achieve based on prior achievement, or could be thought in terms of a comparison with another group.” (House of Commons Education Committee, 2014. p11)

Hunt (2004) explains the hopes and aspirations of immigrants that came from the Caribbean during the 1950’s. These immigrants to England with their own cultures and way of life, however due to the legacy of Great British Imperialism and continuing British Commonwealth influences, immigrants from the Caribbean considered themselves to have common attributes to the native British population. One of these common attributes was language, education and labour market skills; and by virtue of this, many immigrants were recruited from the Caribbean to immigrate to the UK for fill gaps within the labour market in industries such as the NHS and London Transport. The author goes on to explain that the aspirations and hopes of improving their lives soon began to dissipate once their children entered the school system. Parents soon discovered that the experience that their children were having at school were negative, and often their children were subject to being placed within lower educational streaming groups- labelling many of them as educationally subnormal (Conrad 1971).

By the 1960s, it was widely agreed that the education system was in “crisis,” as it was not able to meet the cultural needs of the African-Caribbean child within a Eurocentric curriculum. Coard (1971) details that many teachers did not understand their new students cultures or accents, nor did they make the link with behaviour to their recent relocation to the UK.

Coard’s publication set out to inform the black community of the racist policies and practices within the education system, signalling the growth of underachievement and marginalisation of African-Caribbean children within the UK education system.

Many of these issues many no longer be so overt, however they have had a legacy into the new millennium. John (2006) argues that African-Caribbean boys’ needs are still not being met with the school system, and that there is still a negative perception of them (Blair 2001). Sewell (1997) and Richardson (2005) build upon the lack of issue of the lack of understanding of culture and the subsequent development of sub-cultures, street culture, peer pressure and issues around perceptions of masculinity for African-Caribbean boys.

Hunte (2004) supports this research, and she argues that issues that had been identified by Coard needs to be addressed, and are to do with a variety of factors including those aforementioned. Hunte (2004)

These are all contributing factors that have had an effect on underachievement.

In light of the above phenomenon, Tomilinson (2008) writes about the lack of anti-racist training for trainee teachers within the 1990’s.

Coard’s 1971 publication was of significance because he was able to identify five main points that supported these contributing factors for the underachievement of the black child. The five points identified were:

  • Many children were wrongly placed in special schools;
  • Large amounts of children were being placed in special schools for the educationally subnormal;
  • Students found it difficult to return to mainstream schooling;
  • These students suffered academically, and therefore lacked the qualifications to access the Labour Market or had poor job prospects;
  • Authorities did not intervene to reduce the phenomenon

Richardson’s (2005) review of Coard’s work holds the view that black children, and especially African-Caribbean boys are still underachieving. Richardson concurs with Coard’s suggestion that the lack of understanding by teacher’s, educationalist and policy makers surrounding the culture and expectations of the African-Caribbean boy.

Richardson (2005) goes further and is of the opinion that another contribution to the lack of understanding is due to the socio-economic backgrounds of many teachers, educationalist and policy makers. He argues that these professions are historically and still are lead by the middle classes, and therefore have found it difficult to relate with the experience and expectations of the African-Caribbean boy.

The impact of globalisation, war and the free movement of people within the European Union on the United Kingdom have brought its own challenges for the already struggling black boy. Thus changing their academic landscape from being a visible minority to increasingly becoming a hidden minority.

With the growth of globalisation and a transient population, policy makers and especially the New Labour government acknowledged and incorporated issues around inequality and cultural diversity into the education agenda, but the main focus turned towards the impact of globalisation on the economy (Tomlinson 2005). The view of Ainley and Allen (2010) is that the New Labour government’s agenda was to concentrate on raising standards across the board and this was to be the answer to educational issues.

Opposing the agenda of just focusing on raising standards generally, Hunte (2004) is of the view that a sophisticated support package is needed to address the issues of the underachievement of black boys within schools.

Moreover, the influx of new immigrants brought with them new languages into the educational arena, again shifting the focus on providing English an Additional Language to these new students. This had lead to many African-Caribbean boys (whose first language is English) being placed in groups with students with EAL needs, showing that their needs are not being identified and therefore not being met. Should the needs of black boys be recognised as being different, these boys would be separated from these groups and their need catered for.

Arnot, David and Weinern (2001 p146) argue that, ‘it is hardly surprising that African-Caribbean boys fail to achieve educational qualifications in GCSE since schools often mark them down as having learning and behavioural difficulties and as being in need of specialist help”.

The impact of underachievement and permanent expulsion of black boys within the education system continues well after they have reached school leaving age. However, issues to do with social class background, masculinity, stereotyping and gender should not be over looked when addressing the contributing factors to the reasons for underachievement.

Whilst it is evident that African-Caribbean boys have been the focus of underachievement, boys from other ethnicities have also been flagged up for underachieving- white working class and Bangladeshi boys. More than a decade ago, it was identified that white working class boys were underachieving at an alarming rate. Explanations for their underachievement are very different from those of African-Caribbean backgrounds. Research into the participation of the white working class boy in schools was highlights by Willis (1977) ethnographic study of boys in Hammertown. He concluded that because working class white boys used their fathers and relatives as role models, that they usually followed them into working class and industrial professions that did not require high levels of qualifications. This research was carried out in the 1970s and the reasons for underachievement of white working class boys may now be different to those boys in Willis (1977) study, especially for those boys living in large inner cities.

Ahmed and Townsend (2003) argue that white working class boys are in danger of becoming the worst educated children.

According to the Department of Education 2015-16 statistics on the achievements of young people by the end of Key Stage 4. Both black white student achievements were below the national average; but the progress of black students was above the national average.

Moreover, with further breakdown, the data shows that White boys in receipt of free school meals was 33.7%, whereas black Caribbean boys in receipt of free schools meals achievement levels were at 36.0%, with the national average being 49.9% by the end of Key Stage 4. (Gov.UK, 2017)

What these statistics show is that although there has been some improvement and progress on average in both achievements and progress, African-Caribbean boys’ achievements are not far off of the levels of white working class boys and there is indeed very much work to be done to address the their persistent underachievement

The literature suggests that the stereotyping of African-Caribbean by teachers and educationalist from a very early age poses a very particular disadvantage to them. Ainsworth,(2006 p33) states that from Key Stage 1 black boys are in in decline academically. According to the DCSF (2009) African-Caribbean boys start school level to their peers but begin to fall behind from Key Stage 1. The gap becomes wider in secondary school.

Social class background is considered by Lupton (2005) to be a key reason why children underachieve at school. Thus adding to the idea that the underachievement of black boys is not just because of their race and educational policies. Socio-economic status affects the life chances regardless to race. Sewell (2009) is of the opinion that child poverty is a cause for underachievement. He stresses that also this is a contributing cause it does not make it an excuse for underachieving. Most African-Caribbean boys live in inner cities, exposing them to higher levels of deprivation, high crime rates, inadequate and poor housing. However, children from other ethnic minorities are socially disadvantaged and manage to achieve at school, therefore social class does not fully explain the phenomenon of the underachievement of African-Caribbean boys. Bracy (2005) argues that there is sole factor that contributes to the underachievement of ethnic minority children.

Tomlinson (2005) suggests that children from families from a lower socio-economic background are at a disadvantage because their families are unable to relocate to areas with better schools. Tomlinson (2005) argues that the equality within the accessing of education is not equal among the different social backgrounds, and children who go to better schools on average get better grades.

Sewell (2007) argues that schools in Britain are too feminised both in staffing and expectations for boys, and thus unable to meet the needs of boys. He argues that schools should focus on more “traditional” male traits which has been side lined due to pressures to provide non-sexist, “equal-opportunities,” and more consideration should be placed on trying to eliminate the idea that many African-Caribbean boys have that it is not cool to learn.

Added to this is the “laddish” behaviour, displayed by boys, showing that they are ‘hard and cool,’ further perpetuating the anti-learning culture. Sukhanadan, Lee and Kelleher (2000).

The view of Sewell (1997) argues that with the combination of these factors often leads to misunderstanding, and teaching seeing that African-Caribbean boys’ behaviour as acts of defiance or rebellion. With teachers simply not being able to relate to or understand the displays of masculinity or subcultures by these boys within a school setting.

4. The Black boy White Working Class boy Factor

4.1 The effect of racism and the overshadowing the underachieving African-Caribbean boy

The review of the literature commenced with the experience of the newly arrived immigrant, their children and the way that the education system failed to meet their needs (Coard 1971).

The literature review also raised the impact of globalisation on the African- Caribbean boy; resulting in the shift from them being a very visible minority to an increasing “hidden” minority.

The literature shows that African-Caribbean boys are still behind many of their peers and the reasons for their underachievement is complex and multifaceted.

What has been very apparent whilst reviewing the literature is the lack of new research into the underachievement of black boys once the Coalition government came into power. Education policy has moved further away from nationally targeting specific groups, to one of school and head teacher leadership. As previously raised with the literature review, the impact of institutional racism on the African-Caribbean boys and the backgrounds of those who make policy and take up positions such as head teachers (which have traditionally been from the middle classes) can be a signal to many of a return to the past whereby African-Caribbean boys and other ethnic minorities cultural and educational needs have not been identified and or catered for as they have not been seen has been a contributing factor for their underachievement. Crozier (2005 p 596) argues that exact point, emphasising that underachievement does not start with the African-Caribbean boy, but it is of the view of them, these views are so embedded within the school institution that it conspires against their success. Crozier suggests that until institutional racism is tackled and taken seriously, any changes socially and politically will have little impact on the experience of the black boy.

This is echoed by from Doreen Lawrence (mother of Stephen Lawrence) where she states:

“I frequently get asked whether life has improved for black Londoner over the 20 years I have been campaigning… the straight answer is no, not really… there are still more likely to be marginalised from society, to be stopped and searched, to be excluded, to earn less or to be unemployed than their white counterparts.” (Evening Standard, 2013)

Furthermore, because the educational political discourse has turned to the attention of the achievements of the white working class boy, schools, head teachers and policy makers focus has naturally shifted to addressing them. More recently there has been more weight placed on the benchmarking of poverty against students who are in receipt of free school meals. For African-Caribbean boys, this may cause a grey area, because although evidence proves that the socio-economic background of a student has a great impact on their outcomes, as many of them may not be entitled to free school meals, it does not fully shield them from their experiences, stereotyping and expectations from teachers once at school.

It can be confidently said that the underachievement’s of the African-Caribbean boy has been one that has continued over the decades. Statistics and empirical evidence support this trend and up until more recently the cultural and educational needs of the African-Caribbean boy have been on the political and educational agenda.

Although the discourse has now changed to addressing the underachievement of white working class boys, statistics and empirical research have indeed confirmed that a large percentage of white working class boys are not meeting the benchmark of 5 good GCSEs. Statistics also show that achievement rates for working class white boys have increased over the past decade- In 2008 15% of white working class pupils receiving free school meals received the benchmarked 5 good GCSEs, this has now doubled. However, what has also changed is that white pupils from more affluent backgrounds have also improved, which has maintained the achievement gap between the two socio-economic groups.

One of the major pieces of research that has been undertaken by the government was the House of Commons Committee into  *******

5. Education Vs Politics

5.1 The effects of government agenda and national policy initiatives on black Caribbean boys.

The effects of the Stephen Lawrence case and the legislative consequences resulting from it has had a long lasting effect on the education system in England. With each successive government came changes to the education system, and by virtue of these changes to the qualification benchmarking and measuring of achievement. This has resulted in difficulty when comparing patterns of achievement between different ethnic groups, as it creates a lack of consistency. This lack of consistency has had a negative impact on the achievement statistics published for African- Caribbean boys.

In 2006 the New Labour Government adopted the Gold Standard benchmarking measurement. This measured achievements for school leavers at gaining 5 or more A-C GCSE grades inclusive of mathematics and English. Prior to this, the benchmark for measuring achievement was gaining 5 or more A-C GCSE grades in any subjects. By 2011, the Coalition government had established the English Bacculerate, which required higher pass grades and the passing of mandatory subjects. (DfE 2010 pg 11).

The New Labour government Gold Standard benchmarking measurement guidelines allowed for black boys to close the gap with their white counterparts

The challenges that affect the African-Caribbean boy in schools now are very different to those challenges to those West Indian children who settled here as immigrants.

The policies of the New Labour government in the 1990’s and early 2000s brought some refocus on race and education. Stephen Lawrence case and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, brought the impact of institutional racism to the fore. Macpherson (1999: para 34) defined institutional racism as:

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

According to Tomlinson (2005) the New Labour government was eager to show commitment and address issued surrounding social policy and racial equality. These commitments were made on the backdrop of the John Major Conservative government policies of ‘free market’ choices, encouraging choice and diversity with the education system. As previously stated, the view of Ainley and Allen (2010) is that the New Labour government’s agenda was to concentrate on raising standards across the board and this was to be the answer to educational issues.

New Labour’s social exclusion agenda was central to their aim to achieve “true equality: equal worth, an equal chance of fulfilment, equal access to knowledge and opportunity and not equality of income or outcome.” (1999 Labour Party Conference Speech). Offering a range of initiatives aimed at multiple disadvantaged groups, one of these initiatives was the introduction of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG), which was introduced in 2001-2. This provided funding to local authorities with high populations of ethnic minorities to provide support for things such as peer mentoring schemes, targeted literacy and numeracy lessons, behaviour management programmes and language development courses.

The appointed Minister for Education Michael Gove introduced a new agenda for education, changing the National Curriculum and giving more autonomy to head teachers (DfE 2010). The change in direction of the National Curriculum turned in the direction to make the curriculum more traditional as opposed to multicultural (Allen, 2010). Failing to reflect the cultural and educational needs of African-Caribbean boys.

6. Whose culture our culture?

6.1 The effects of culture, masculinity and expectations on the African-Caribbean boy

The Caribbean is made up of various islands stretching from North America to South America. Each of these islands comes with unique traditions, accents and beliefs. With that being said, many of these unique identifying features have striking similarities that link peoples from the islands together. The collective experience of slavery, colonialism and empire has solidified this underlying collective experience.

This collective experience has be magnified and consolidated with the mass immigration of West Indian people to the UK in the 1950s. Bringing with them a multifaceted, bold, colourful and layered culture.

Muhammad (2004) suggests that black people have a shared history, and permanent essential ingredients that shape and identify their cultural make up.

The by-product of the well-established “collective culture,” has been the growth of what many describe as “urban” or “black” sub-cultures within the UK and globally. This sub-culture has been developed on the back of the need for African-Caribbean youth to forge a unique identity. According to Byfield (2008) children, and in particular adolescents seek to form an identity, whether that be individually or collectively. For African-Caribbean children growing up within a white dominated society, it was particularly difficult to maintain their black identity whilst assimilating into the mainstream society.

It is often theorised that the growth of youth sub-cultures are to be a ‘counter- culture’ against the established values and social practices of the community (Nayak 2004). This assertion is of course relevant, especially in relation to youth sub-cultures, however, when discussing the development of the black sub-culture, not only was the ‘counter culture’ against the values and social practices of their community, but also against what can be considered to be the powers that be and the establishment.

Throughout the decades, it can be argued that “black” culture has become somewhat fetishized leading to cultural appropriation by other groups.

Naturally, trends and attitudes of youth are displayed whilst within school settings.  Sewell (2007) argues that black boys are often seen as ‘Angels and Devils’ within British schools, and that along with the fetishism of “black” culture, the angelic side has been seen as positive by others, whereas the sinner side has brought negative behaviours, many that are displayed within the classroom.

According to Little (1983), there is an overrepresentation of the black community within the most disadvantaged groups in society. Added to this, is the over-portrayal of black boys and men as being violent, hypersexual and unintelligent in the media (Martino and Mayenn, 2011). This has not helped the cause of the African-Caribbean boy in navigating the school system, as these stereotypes are often carried over into schools as being the norm and as such expected behaviours.

7. Conclusion

This dissertation has explored the experience of the African-Caribbean boy aged between 11-16 within the education system in the UK. Much has been said about this group of boys and their continued underachievement in schools.

It is evident that from the research that the changes within the political agenda relating to education has over time resulted in a shift of focus away from the African-Caribbean boys’ consistent levels of underachievement. In addition the constant changing political agenda, there has been a lasting impact of globalisation, which has meant that these boys are being grouped with other minority groups who may have specific needs. For example, those children with English as and Additional Language. Again, this has shifted the focus away from the African-Caribbean boy, as schools are not meeting their educational and cultural needs.

Furthermore, the increasing levels of underachievement of the white working class boy has been a growing problem, with researchers, educators and policy makers turning their attention to that group.

Resulting in African-Caribbean boys’ underachievement being a very visible problem to it becoming an increasingly hidden problem within schools.

The legacy of racism towards black people in general has been a large contributing factor towards the underachievement of African-Caribbean boys at school. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry placed institutional racism highly on the agenda, with recommendations that lead amendments being made to the Race Relations Act (2000). There have been marked changes from when Coard (1971) argued that part of British education system were systematically and overtly racist. My argument is that I do agree that racism still exists in schools, but it is not as overt and is perpetuated through institutional racism.

For some, the changes to policies and behaviours, and the initiatives introduced to reduced the levels of underachievement, could be argued to have been a pivotal point for the education of black boys, and other underachieving groups. This has not been the case, as with the differences in political agendas the impact and changes that they have made to education have resulted in dis-jointed and inconsistent support being provided.

The black community must work together, not only in times of adversity, to address, focus upon and “fight” for the educational rights of their children, especially for their boys. The “fight” to keep them from increasingly becoming a “hidden” group at school, fuelling generations of hardship, unemployment, high levels of crime and disadvantage.

8. Recommendations

Throughout this dissertation it has been apparent that there has not been, nor will there be a quick fix solution to the improvement of underachievement and experience for the African-Caribbean boy.

What also has been apparent is the lack of “attention” and continuing research in relation to the persistent underachievement of African-Caribbean boys over the past 9 years since the election of the Coalition Government and the now elected Conservative led Government.

In this chapter, key recommendations are aimed to address some of the issues arising from this dissertation. With the aim of refocusing professionals, parents and stakeholders attention of the importance of providing continuity of support that particular group of boys.

In order to provide further support, teachers will need to continue to develop their skills and build upon their knowledge about the sub-cultures of African-Caribbean boys. This can supported by the implementation of various methods both traditional and new “radical” methods. Of course these methods should be supported and underpinned by research and empirical evidence. Traditional methods delivered through teacher training and continuing professional development should continue, however, schools and teachers should look at introducing less traditional methods of support. It may be of some benefit to both stakeholders to introduce more informal methods of learning, with direct links to (1) improving and contributing to their academic journey; (2) source activities that teachers and students can both actively be involved in so that students do not just see their teachers as vessels of information; (3) this interaction will provide teachers and students with a better understanding of each other, and for teachers to gain a better understanding of the very often misinterpreted and misunderstood subcultures that African-Caribbean boys are a part of.

The delivery of any methods of intervention should begin earlier on in the school lives of African-Caribbean boys.

The ethnic, gender and socio-economic make up of the teaching profession should be addressed and improved. Incentivising graduates and professionals, both male and female, of African-Caribbean ethnicity to consider teaching as a profession- this is not to say that other of different ethnicities should not be encouraged to enter the teaching profession, to reflect the diversity of students. Giving African-Caribbean direct access to seeing professionals that they can relate to, and providing a message of positivity that it is “cool” to learn.

Understanding that cultural and educational needs of the African-Caribbean boys are not being met in schools and that they are increasingly becoming a “hidden” group as schools are becoming more culturally diverse. It is particularly important to remember that although there is great diversity within schools, that specific ethnicities still require specific and targeted support to address their needs, especially of groups that over the decades have had persistent underachievement- in this case African-Caribbean boys.

The separation of these boys from groups such as those with English as an Additional Language from earlier in their school life is another recommendation. Special educational needs greatly differs from those needs required by those with English as an Additional Language, they are two separate issues, and should be treated as such. As with the aforementioned recommendations, separation should happen early on in this groups’ education. Schools and teachers should be very conscious and cautious that these measures do not stigmatise or alienate this cohort of students, parents or communities.

For some boys, recommendation for them to be taught in separate spaces for some of their lessons to help to reinforce the importance of learning and education, building of their confidence and to support them to reach their full potential. This can be done with the aid of supplementary schools, classes and programmes outside of school hours.

The National Curriculum, like the “establishment,” should be more inclusive to reflect the diversity of the pupils who navigate it. The celebration of other cultures and traditions is a positive for all stakeholders in aiding the development of enrichment of learning and education.

The introduction of a positive behaviour support programme should be devised and introduced to help to combat the issue of anti-social and bad behaviour in schools, working on addressing exclusions. Earlier intervention of behavioural professionals, specialist educators and Social Workers should be introduced and easily accessible to schools and their teachers to carry out direct work and interventions with these groups of boys. This would needs to be addressed at National and Local Government levels and the increasing and redistribution of funds and resources be placed back on the agenda.

This recommendation would allow for teachers and schools to focus on educating their students, knowing that there is a team of appropriate professionals available to them to help to support and combat some of the social, economic and behavioural issues that these boys may have.

A higher importance of the usage and availability of mentors for all boys, and not just those of African-Caribbean ethnicity, would help within the over feminised school system. Making some adaptions to the implementation of the REACH (2007) programme, so that role models would be provided within the school setting allowing the boys to have easier more consistent access to them.

The involvement of African-Caribbean parents in their children’s education is one that is often seen as a process that happens once their children are in trouble, underachieving or are having a negative experience at school.

Like most parents, parents of African-Caribbean boys also want to see them achieve both academically and socially. Being involved and having a higher presence of African-Caribbean parents within schools, including sitting on school governing boards and actively participating in Parent Teacher Associations (PTA). This visibility provides direct access to teachers and parents alike, and is a forum where teachers and parents to address behaviour and/or underachievement issues can build relationships outside of the forum that is had. More importantly displaying to schools and teachers that parents of African Caribbean children, and more importantly their boys are willing, able and ready to be involved and active in the development, achievements and education of their boys.

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