Separation only adds to a sense of difference

11th March 2005 at 00:00
St Bonaventure's, the east London boys' school where Sir Michael Wilshaw was headteacher for 18 years, did not separate pupils by colour, but it did have strategies for boosting the performance of black youngsters.

Sir Michael said: "You have to identify what issues contribute to black boys not doing as well as other groups, and address them systematically."

A senior member of staff tracked the performance of black boys, and reported regularly to the school leaders.

There were also strategies at the school to identify at an early age those boys who were underachieving, and action was taken to address that - for example, by providing study support.

Sir Michael was knighted after transforming exam results among ethnic minority pupils. He said the school recognised that black boys were more likely to be influenced by an anti-learning "street culture", and had tried to counter this by providing role models.

He said: "For example, you employ staff who understand what it takes to teach black youngsters. If they are black staff, so much the better."

Another significant factor was providing role models in the home by encouraging fathers to support their child's learning.

"Pupils are not different. Every pupil has potential - this is about realising that potential," he said.

11-14: The Difficult years, free supplement in this week's tes

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