Please see my new website: www.blackeducation.info for more details on the LSBC initiative
London Schools and the Black Child is an initiative I started in the 1990s to deal with the increasing problem of educational underachievement in Black communities. Since its inception the initiative has had many important achievements to its credit. Perhaps one of the most important was the launch by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) of the 'Aiming High' programme. This was a pilot programme and the first ever targeted at specifically raising the educational achievements of Afro-Caribbean pupils.
Every year I co-host a London-wide conference with the Mayor of London. The conferences bring together teachers, children, parents, educators and groups who work with young people to discuss the issues surronding Black education and to share ideas. The conferences see leading Black faces speak about their successes, as well as representatives from government departments. In addition we always have a number of interesting workshops run by some of the country's top education specialists. The workshops are designed to get delegates thinking about what positive changes can be made.
In the seven years since the first London Schools and the Black Child Conference in 2002, the tide has begun to turn for African-Caribbean heritage children in London's schools. At last, there are indications that the achievement gap is narrowing and that black children are making progress. More black teachers are being recruited, helping London's teaching workforce to look more like the communities they are there to serve, while more resources than ever before are being allocated to raising African-Caribbean achievement in our schools.
A successful "Croydon Schools and the Black Child" conference was held in April 2003 and more Hackney conferences have been held. In June 2003, the inaugural meeting of the Greater London Black Parents and Governors Network was held, a direct result of recommendations made at the 2002 conference. After the 2002 conference, the Mayor and I agreed to initiate a major piece of research on the attainment of black boys in London's schools which was published in 2004. Further, and perhaps most important, immediately after the 2002 conference I organised a series of round table discussions between Department for Education and Skills ministers, black educationalists and community activists.
Following on from this, the DfES launched the consultation document 'Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Minority Ethnic Pupils'. This was the first of its kind, and in October 2003 the Department announced an increase in the ethnic minority achievement grant. For the first time ever, ministers have announced a project specifically aimed at raising African-Caribbean achievement. The Government gave £1.7million to 30 secondary schools as part of a pilot project in raising achievement. All of this is a direct result of the black community making its voice heard at the 2002 conference.
However there is still much to do. It is still the case that black boys are more likely to be excluded from school than their peers, while studies continue to highlight the disproportionate adverse treatment given to black children in the education system from pre-school assessment through to the crucial secondary years.
Since 2002 over 7,500 parents, students and teachers have attended London Schools and the Black Child. Government, trade unions, educational agencies, community organisations, supplementary schools, academics and others have also supported these events, sharing knowledge and developing strategies to make change a reality.