Flash cars give black boys spur to learning

Sue Learner

Under-achieving black boys get lessons in Caribbean cuisine and confidence-building. Sue Learner reports

BLACK boys in inner cities could soon be going to school six days a week in a bid to tackle under-achievement.

Saturday will be designated a school day from September with the Black Boys Can project teaching the key national curriculum subjects of English and maths.

The Birmingham-based project is running a summer school, now in its second year. It is hoped to set up similar schemes nationally.

Saturday teach-ins will be funded by The National Organisation for Adult Learning and Birmingham City Council. Organisers are developing a lesson pack to repeat the project throughout the country.

Designed for nine to 16-year-olds, it covers subjects such as confidence-building, black history, Caribbean cooking, career planning and also Shakespeare.

Henroy Green, project spokesman, said: "We looked at what the boys wanted out of life like a nice house and flash car and went through how much it would cost. They realised how much they would need to earn.

"The boys were quite shocked but it was good because they realised that education is a key requirement for them. But we do need to have more black teachers in schools to act as positive role models.

"Black people do very well in sport. They see a lot of black figures high up in sport earning a lot of money. So they aspire to that. But we don't really see black people in public life."

Sandra Oliver whose son Simon attends Black Boys Can is full of praise for the project. "He is a black boy in a predominantly white school and I wanted to get him up to scratch for his GCSEs.

"He came back this week saying he did Shakespeare and it was 'heavy' which means brilliant. They were acting out Othello and he found it very dramatic and exciting.

"He is much more confident after doing the course last year and is more motivated to do his schoolwork. Simon initially thought it was going to be like school where he has had some problems but now he is smitten."

Simon, 14, said: "It's really good as you get to learn things about yourself."

Dr Richard Majors, a Harvard fellow who has just written a book called Educating Black Children, said "The UK tends to mirror the US where black boys do well until the age of 10 or 11 and then their grades plummet and they have behavioural problems.

"A big problem is teachers do not understand the culture of black boys. In London, black boys are excluded up to 15 times more than white boys. It is good to have these projects where they look at self-esteem but in some ways we should move away from focusing on pupil problems and look at teacher training."

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