Report focuses on black success stories

Thousands of black pupils of Caribbean origin are being failed by schools, say Ofsted inspectors in a new report. Fifty years after their grandparents first came to Britain, with high hopes of a prosperous future and good schooling for their children, "it would be natural I to assume that the majority of Black Caribbean children in schools in England are now sharing the higher educational standards attained by the most successful pupils in our schools," says the report. "This is not the case."

Local authority data shows that although the relative performance of black Caribbean pupils is high when they start school, it begins to decline in key stage 2, tails off badly in KS3, and is below most other ethnic groups in KS4. Black Caribbean primary pupils are still three times more likely to be excluded than other groups.

But rather than focusing on reasons for this failure, the report, Achievement of Black Caribbean Pupils: Three Successful Primary Schools, looks instead at schools where black Caribbean pupils are performing well.

The schools, in Wandsworth, Lambeth and Sandwell, are all beacon schools with significant numbers of black Caribbean pupils. They share common features in their approach, but none has a "recipe" for this group that is different from the way they teach the rest of their pupils.

"These schools have not invented anything new," says Ofsted. "Black Caribbean pupils are valued as others are, teachers have high expectations of them and they, and their parents, are treated with respect. They achieve well as a result."

The schools have policies against racism that are "unambiguous and direct", and any signs of racist attitudes are dealt with swiftly and decisively.

They are strongly led by head teachers with "a clear and uncompromising vision", and staffed by teachers who adopt and share consistent approaches to pupils' work and behaviour. As one Sandwell teacher puts it: "Whatever you are demanding in your classroom, everybody else is demanding exactly the same of their class, and the head is backing you up."

Within the schools, the sense of community is strong, so that pupils support one another. Outside school, good contacts with parents are actively sought - even when this does not come easily - and potential problems are quickly followed up.

"I think sometimes they put kids in detention too quickly," says the mother of a 10-year-old black Caribbean boy, who was continually in trouble at his previous school but is now doing much better. "But they are ever so goodI The kids behave well, and when you look at other schools you realise why they have to be so strict, so I'm behind them all the way."'

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