Job description

18th May 2001 at 01:00
Gilroy Brown is a former primary headteacher who now works as an adviser in Birmingham.

WI was the first male Afro-Caribbean head the city had known. I had been involved in raising achievement in primary schools and, following the success of that project, I was asked to look at Afro-Caribbean achievement at key stage 3.

Prejudice is such a difficult area to tackle - explicit racism is easier to deal with. An offence has been committed; an individual can be identified, but prejudice is like an iceberg: nine-tenths underwater.

We are looking at what strategies schools have for Afro-Caribbean pupils, to see if we can identify factors that raise achievement. An important point is to evaluate the impact that strategies have on learning.

From 10 primary schools we selected 30 Year 6 children to track them through the key stage. The study has been discussed with the children, their parents and the schools.

One factor already apparent is the positive and supportive home atmosphere, which dispels the myth of the dsfunctional Afro-Caribbean family.

The 30 children have ended up going to 16 different secondary schools. They are writing a diary and we have regular meetings to monitor their experiences.

We have seen some good practice in one school, in relation to mixed-age tutor groups. Afro-Caribbean kids tend to congregate in mixed-age groups and, in the past, this has caused some concern for teachers. In this school, Year 8 and 9 pupils have stuck to their Year 7 peers and encouraged positive attitudes. It's like a buddy system.

Another school organised a social evening for parents - an informal discussion and a focus on the parent-teacher relationship. And one school used a questionnaire to gauge what Year 10s thought about the school. Different ethnic groups have different expectations, which could help them focus their provision for those groups.

This is a three-year project, but it would be good if we could keep it going and track the young people throughout their education.

Interview by Phil Revell

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