Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

17.  Memorandum submitted by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES)


1.  What does the DfES Black Pupils' Achievement Programme involve and how successful has it been to date in reducing exclusions and raising the attainment of black pupils?

  A.  The Black Pupils' Achievement Programme has been in operation in its current form since October 2005. It is therefore too early to assess the impact of the Programme on raising attainment and reducing exclusions. The Programme was not, however, designed to reduce exclusions. The Black Pupils' Achievement Programme was developed following the success of the African-Caribbean Achievement Project which was piloted in 30 secondary schools across 20 local authorities in England in 2003. The Project's aim was to work with school leaders to develop a whole-school approach to raising the achievement of African Caribbean pupils. The 30 schools involved in the Project were each given extra resources for leadership on the project, consultant support, training from the National College for School Leadership and a grant of up to £10,000 a year. When the Project was rolled out in 2005 it became known as The Black Pupils' Achievement Programme and its focus remains raising the achievement of all Black groups (Black Caribbean, Black African and Mixed Heritage pupils) by spreading the good practice developed and tested through the pilots. There are now approximately100 schools participating in the Programme across 25 local authorities. The Project was evaluated by an independent consortium of researchers at the University of Bristol, the Institute of Education and Birmingham local authority. The researchers concluded that the Project has been effective in raising awareness of African Caribbean issues in schools, has helped schools to develop fairer and more systematic whole school processes and has provided quality academic and pastoral support to the target group of pupils

2.  How much ethnic data is available at each stage of the education system? Where are the key data gaps?

  A.  There is limited data available on pupils aged 0-5. The earliest universal measure of attainment is the Foundation Stage Profile, which usually takes place in the first year of primary school. DfES publishes statistics, based on a sample of this data and disaggregated by ethnicity every year.

3.  Does the DfES have any plans to routinely publish ethnic data at all stages of the education system?

  A.  Data relating to school-age pupils, including population, achievement, exclusions, Special Educational Needs and English as an additional language is routinely disaggregated by ethnicity and published on the DfES website. At ages 7 (end of Key Stage 1), 11 (end of Key Stage 2), and 14 (end of Key Stage 3) all pupils in maintained schools in England sit National Curriculum tests in the core subjects. Almost all pupils sit GCSE or equivalent examinations at age 16. Comprehensive data on attainment at each Key Stage and at GCSE is disaggregated by ethnicity and published annually.

  After age 16, young people are free to pursue a number of routes for further study. Many study for GCE/VCE A-Levels, the results of which are disaggregated by ethnicity and published with the GCSE results. The diverse nature of the Further Education and Higher Education sectors makes it very difficult to compare attainment of students between courses and institutions. However, statistics on higher Education participation are disaggregated by ethnicity and published annually on the Higher Education Statistics Agency website.

  DfES also publishes a number of longitudinal studies such as the Youth Cohort Survey, which contain data by ethnicity.

4.  How is data on the experiences of different ethnic groups used to monitor equality of treatment and inform education policy?

  A.  DfES believes that a sophisticated understanding of the data, both quantitative and qualitative, is crucial in the development of effective policy to tackle inequalities. We routinely use data to inform policy. For example, the Aiming High initiative targets support to raise the attainment of a number of groups, based on our analysis of the attainment data.


Unauthorised absences

  The permanent and fixed period exclusions rates for Gypsy/Roma, Traveller of Irish Heritage, Black Caribbean, Mixed White/Black Caribbean and Black Other are significantly above average. The permanent and fixed period exclusions rates for Indian and Chinese pupils were significantly below average.

  Based on the evaluation of the Excellence in Cities initiative, White Other and Black Other pupils had the highest rates of unauthorised absence.

  Full data on attendance and exclusions are set out on pages 85-91 of the attached paper.[149]


  The extent and causes of educational disaffection, in general and for specific groups, has been widely discussed by academic commentators, and there are many different schools of thought. The DfES's Longitudinal Study of Young People in Education allows an analysis of young people's attitudes towards school by ethnicity. Initial results of this study are set out on pages 77-83 of the attached paper.[150]

5.  What evidence is there for ethnic differences with regard to:

    1.  Educational attainment.

    2.  Educational welfare needs and access to support services.

    3.  Short term and permanent exclusions.

    4.  Unauthorised absences.

    5.  Other indicators of educational disaffection.

    6.  Participation in further/higher education?

  A.  The reasons for differences in levels of achievements, and for other inequalities, are extremely complex. Data tells us that the biggest determinant of educational achievement is socio-economic background. However, socio-economic deprivation appears to impact differently on different ethnic groups. For example, a greater proportion Bangladeshi pupils are entitled to free schools meals (a key measure of deprivation) than Black Caribbean pupils, but a lower proportion of Black Caribbean pupils achieve five good passes at GCSE than Bangladeshi pupils.

  Other factors that are associated with differences in achievement, such as gender and whether pupils speak English as a first language, also seem to impact differently on different groups. For example, the percentage point gap between girls and boys achieving five good passes at GCSE is generally higher in underachieving ethnic groups (girls do better in all groups).

  It would seem, therefore, that there are factors associated with ethnicity that impact on the performance of pupils in different ethnic groups. The academic literature identifies a range of institutional factors, such as lower or higher teacher expectations for some groups, as contributing to differences in achievement. Some commentators also cite cultural differences and attitudes to education as having an impact.

6.  What are the reasons for ethnic differences with regards to the above? To what extent does the DfES see the reasons for differences as specific to individual ethnic groups or related to factors which may cut across all groups?

  A.  The DfES believes that, whatever the causes of underachievement, all pupils should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We promote effective use of data at a national, local and individual school level to develop a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the issues, against a background of high expectations for all. Evidence of best practice in schools proves that this approach works.

7.  How much variation is there by gender in the above data?

  A.  There is a gap between all boys and girls at GCSE 5+A*-C of around 10 percentage points. The size of this gap varies by ethnic group. The largest difference between the attainment of girls and the attainment of boys is for the Black Other and Black Caribbean groups. In these groups there is a 17 and 16 point difference between the percentage of girls achieving 5+A*-C and the percentage of boys achieving 5+A*-C. Larger than average gaps are also observed for the Mixed White and Black groups and to a lesser extent the Bangladeshi pupils

8.  What research has been carried out on the impact of educational disaffection, underachievement and school exclusion on involvement of young black people in the criminal justice process? What are the results of this research and how have they fed into policy development?

  A.  Numerous studies have identified a link between underachievement at school and exclusion from school and involvement in the criminal justice system. For this and other reasons:

    —  we have targeted support to raise the attainment of Black pupils through the Black Pupils Achievement Programme; and

    —  closing the "exclusions gap" between Black pupils and the average is a priority for the DfES; we are undertaking a priority review of the problem and will develop polices to tackle this inequality.

9.  What research and policy initiatives have been undertaken within education locally or nationally relating to young black people?

  A.  In October 2003,following a national consultation exercise, "Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Minority Ethnic Pupils" the Department for Education and Skills launched the first national strategy aimed at raising the attainment of under performing Black and minority ethnic young people.

  The strategy has introduced a range of targeted support to address the needs of underperforming Black and minority ethnic pupils. These initiatives include:

    —  The development of accredited specialist training for teaching staff working with bilingual learners and pupils whose first language is other than English.

    —  The Black Pupils' Achievement Programme working with 100 schools (approximately) in 25 local authorities to support the teaching and learning of African Caribbean, Black African and Mixed heritage pupils.

    —  Excellence in Cities (EiC) was launched in 1999 with the aim of improving the attainment of pupils in disadvantaged urban areas through targeted support to meet the needs of all pupils. Given that 60% of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds attended schools in EiC areas the DfES commissioned an analysis of the impact of EiC on minority ethnic pupils.

    —  The DfES topic paper "Ethnicity and Education: The Evidence on Minority Ethnic pupils aged 5-16" presents the latest statistics and research on minority ethnic pupils in the education system and covers details on the minority ethnic school population, attainment and progress on minority ethnic pupils (compared to previous years), exclusions and attendance data and ethnic background of teachers. The topic paper also includes research evidence from various strategies aimed at raising the attainment and inclusion of minority ethnic pupils. The current (2006 edition) includes previously unpublished findings from an early analysis of provisional data from wave one of the Department's Longitudinal Study of Young People in Education

10.  How is the DfES cooperating with other key partners eg LEAs, individual schools and Ofsted as well as the police and YOTs on issues affecting young black people in particular?

  A.  The Department works very closely with its external partners on a range of issues affecting young Black people in schools. For example we are working with Ofsted and local authorities to support schools in taking forward specific duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. Schools have a general duty to give due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity.

July 2006

149   Not printed. Available from: Back

150   ibid. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 15 June 2007