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Raising hope

Finding ways to improve the results of black and Asian pupils is difficult. Birmingham City Council believes there are answers to be found, however, and that many of them lie in the day-to-day work of its own schools.

For three years now, its Raising African-Caribbean Achievement (RACA) project has worked with primaries to see how they managed to buck the national trend. Cherry Orchard primary school in Handsworth Wood is one of them. Nearly all of its 420 children are from Caribbean or Indian families, Sikh and Hindu.

And the best-performing children are black. At key stage 2, 90 per cent of black boys reached level 4 or above in 2001(and 100 per cent of girls). A healthy proportion from all backgrounds go onto the city's grammar schools.

As both the school and the RACA project insist, there are no radical or dramatic steps involved, just hard work across a range of issues. The school has insisted that the basic conditions are right: there are many black and Asian teachers - and governors.

There are black and Asian teaching assistants, clerical staff and parent-liaison workers. The school ensures that it has good, face-to-face relationships with all the parents, who are free to visit headteacher Sue Robinson at any time of the school day. There are no permanent exclusions.

The school uses any flexibility in the national curriculum to include material about the Caribbean, Africa or Asia. And it is clear to all pupils and parents what is expected: targets for each child are sent to their families.

Researchers are now moving on to discover what becomes of black pupils in secondary school.

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