Ethnic groups to some extent do have their own subcultures, own norms and values. Language differences do affect educational attainment. Bangladeshis are less likely to be familiar with the English language. However, for Indian pupils attainment is frequently high because a second language barrier is not a problem.  The value placed on education by parents and pupil motivation can effect attainment. For example, black students are more motivated and committed to education then white students of the same gender and age.


Ethnicity, schools and attainment:


Some schools are better at getting exam results than others. For their book ‘The School Effect’ by David Smith and Sally Tomlinson, the authors conducted research of over 2400 pupils and found that exam results were different in every school even though the schools involved had intakes from the same ethnic background. 


Racism in schools:


The Commission for Racial Equality has found that proportionately more white pupils are put in for their GCSE’s when compared to Asian pupils. In some schools, CRE found that the difference could be high citing one school where 71% of white pupils were entered for GCSE exams while only 41% of the Asian children were. CRE stated that it did not believe that there was an intentional policy to discriminate but that is how some might decide to interpret such statistics.


Classroom interaction at primary schools:


Cecil Wrights conducted an observational study (1998/9) in an inner city primary school. What he found was that teachers perceived and treated ethnic minority children different from white children.


Why do some ethnic minorities fail education? First and second generation immigrants find the education system very hard to succeed in. The fact that their parents have a limited range of the language will affect the children. Students who struggle with the language will have a very short attention span in lessons as they won’t understand what is being taught. This is no fault of their own, however. The ethnic minorities who suffer from this are Pakistani, Bangladeshis and Black students. The majority of these students will find language the biggest barrier to break in order to achieve success. The fact that their parents are in the same position as them in terms of the language means the students have to pick up what they can from school friends and general conversation. First and second generation immigrants housing may well be poor. This will also mean they won’t have the facilities at home to provide them with adequate learning resources. School equipment will also be a struggle to get hold of. Bangladeshi and Pakistani families (who are mainly first or second generation immigrants) have the largest proportion of pupils from a working class background. This will mean they will be economically challenged and won’t receive the support from their parents as they have pressure on themselves to support other factors of the family such as money and food. All these factors affect how well they will do in education.


In April 2007 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found poverty twice as likely for minority ethnic groups and that education fails to close the gap. The poverty rate for Britain’s minority ethnic groups stands at 40%, double the 20% found amongst white British people, according to new research published in April 2007 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Minority ethnic groups are also being overlooked for jobs and are being paid lower wages, despite improvements in education and qualifications. The research highlights the differences between minority ethnic groups with 65% of Bangladeshis living in poverty compared to 55% of Pakistanis, 45% of Black Africans and 30% of Indians and Black Caribbeans. Over half of Pakistani and Black African children in the UK are growing up in poverty with 70% of Bangladeshi children growing up poor.


Ofsted Report on Deprived Schools:


Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert warned that poorer children still had “odds stacked against them” – achieving lower results than wealthier children. Despite a series of government initiatives to tackle social inequality in schools, the report from Ofsted concludes that “the relationship between poverty and outcomes for young people is stark”. Schools in deprived areas are more likely to be inadequate than those serving more affluent areas.” 33% of pupils who are eligible for free school meals achieved five or more good GCSEs, compared to 61% of other pupils. 200,000 teenagers remain outside of education, training or employment.


But the link between low family income and low achievement in school is “not straightforward”, says the report, with gender and ethnicity also playing a part – with white, working-class boys making less progress than other groups. “It cannot be right that 20% of pupils leave primary school without a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy,” she said. “I see no reason why every school should not now aspire to be a ‘good’ school.”


The then Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said: “We know that we must do more to help the poorest, the most disadvantaged and the vulnerable to prosper and succeed. These are harder nuts to crack.”


The Commons Home Affairs Committee states that the number of black people in the criminal justice system is unacceptable and blames social exclusion, absent fathers, lack of positive role models and real or perceived racial discrimination by the authorities. Black people make up 2.7% of the UK population aged 10 to 17, but represent 8.5% of those in that age group arrested in England and Wales, the report said. Black people are more likely to be stopped by the police. The government wants to tackle father abandonment and help family upbringing. The committee also suggested that “internal exclusion” for disruptive schools pupils be developed. “Internal exclusion” involves allowing disruptive pupils to remain in school, but separated from other pupils during lessons and breaks. “It’s a crying shame that a whole generation of young black men is being criminalised, written off regardless of whether or not they’ve ever been involved in crime. This is not only a crisis for the black community; it’s a crisis for the whole of society.” (Campaign for Racial Equality)



Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex