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Extra help for ethnic pupils

A scheme to improve minority groups' examination results will be launched next month. Michael Shaw reports

Black pupils in more than 100 schools will receive extra support to improve their exam results as part of a new government project that will also involve their teachers and parents.

The Department for Education and Skills is due to launch the Black Pupils'

Achievement Project next month, ahead of Black History Month in October.

The scheme will target black Caribbean, black African and mixed heritage children.

It follows long-running debates over whether black pupils should be educated separately and whether social class, "gangster culture" or racism in schools are to blame for black boys' seemingly poor test results.

Only 27 per cent of black Caribbean boys achieved five A*-C GCSE grades last year, compared with the national average for boys of 47 per cent. But the improvement in grades for black Caribbean boys since 2002 has been twice that for white boys.

The project will cover at least 100 schools, many more than Aiming High, the existing scheme for boosting ethnic minority pupils' results, which focuses on 30 schools, half of them in London.

Schools are likely to be selected for the new scheme if at least a tenth of their pupils are black or if they have low test scores for students in that group.

Each local education authority involved will employ a dedicated project leader, who will co-ordinate work and share ideas with project leaders across England.

Various approaches are expected to be used, including intensive coaching and mentoring.

Schools will have to carry out rigorous self-evaluation and senior staff in each authority will meet each term to discuss progress. Teachers and non-teaching staff will be invited on special training courses being developed by the National College for School Leadership.

The scheme is expected to place strong emphasis on involving black parents in their children's education. Project leaders will also work closely with supplementary schools set up by the community.

Early indications suggest that direct funding for the project will not be substantial, at around pound;3,500 per school, but councils will be able to channel money into the scheme from other sources.

The initiative has been applauded by Lorna Cork, an education adviser in Birmingham who has set up a series of community-based organisations to support black pupils. She said: "Parents are an underused resource, so I am quite excited about all this."

Her new book, Supporting Black Pupils and Parents, recommends that the Government set up dedicated teams of "knowledgeable people" to work with schools and black parents, who can sometimes feel suspicious of teachers.

The book, which was published this month, also suggests councils should make better use of data to identify schools where black pupils need support.


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