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It’s time we had a national education initiative for Black African and Caribbean students

It’s time we had a national education initiative for Black African and Caribbean students
4 min read

We are calling on the Department for Education to tackle anti-Black racism at its core. This goes beyond what students are being taught in the classroom to the way the institution functions.

The Department for Education recently announced a £1 million education programme for Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller children. I warmly welcome this endeavour to support a disadvantaged minority group. But many of us believe that the government should also have an initiative to support students, educators, and parents of African and Caribbean descent.

As chair of the APPG for Race Equality in Education and a lifelong race equalities campaigner, I have seen how certain issues, from school exclusions to low attainment, are disproportionately experienced by Black African and Caribbean children.

This government needs to take seriously the UN International Day for People of African Descent and commit to a national education initiative for Black African and Caribbean pupils in England. It’s vital we think about the next generation as a whole, including Black children.

Black history needs to be embedded in the national curriculum and taught all year round rather than in just one month

There’s an abundance of evidence showing how Black students continue to be let down. The exclusion rate for Black Caribbean students is up to six times higher than the rate for white British pupils in some local authorities. Black students have the lowest pass rate for GCSE English and Maths combined out of all major ethnic groups.

Additionally, a YMCA focus group of young Black people revealed they felt teacher-student interaction is a major aspect of a young person’s experience at school, and that if teachers had a negative perception of them it impacted their time in education. 

The Department for Education urgently needs to do more to make all schools racially inclusive. This needs to start with the curriculum. Black history needs to be embedded in the national curriculum and taught all year round rather than in just one month.

As my fellow MP and member of the APPG for Race Equality in Education, Afzal Khan, notes:“The current curriculum too often eliminates or misrepresents the contributions of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in Britain. We gloss over colonialism and depict racism as a historical artefact, rather than a current and lived reality. In so doing, we fail our young people.” 

I also believe students who have been the target of racism and discrimination need to be supported. That is why the APPG recently hosted a public event standing in solidarity with students across London schools who have been unfairly targeted through curriculum, disciplinary, or uniform changes. Black African and Caribbean students should feel able to embrace their identity. 

We are calling on the Department for Education to tackle anti-Black racism at its core. This goes beyond what students are being taught in the classroom to the way the institution functions.

The government needs a specific strategy to address the low numbers of Black teachers, the lack of ethnic minorities in senior leadership positions, the disproportionate rate of exclusions amongst Black students, the attitude of some educationalists, and extreme disciplinary and uniform policies…to name a few. It’s imperative the government starts addressing these issues if parents and children are to be reassured that the government is committed to eliminating racial inequality in education.

The Department for Education desperately needs to recognise these barriers to equality and establish a strategy to support Black African and Caribbean students, educators, and parents.

The government should embrace the UN International Decade for People of African Descent and harness the unprecedented opportunity to address educational injustice, whilst appreciating the gains to the entire education family of a more racially inclusive system.

This must start with a national education initiative for our Black African and Caribbean children. 

 

Diane Abbott is the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and chair of the APPG for Race Equality in Education.

If you would like to engage with the work of the APPG for Race Equality in Education, please follow the Group on Twitter or Instagram @appg_reie, or email our Chief Coordinator, L’myah Sherae at [email protected] 

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