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‘Britain is still not a truly colour blind society’

MICHAEL GOVE: Wants to give children from all backgrounds the chance to achieve

EDUCATION SECRETARY Michael Gove has suggested a change of attitude for teachers in tackling the underachievement of children from black and minority backgrounds.

During the mayor of London’s education conference at City Hall on Friday, November 22, Gove said his priority was to ensure that every child, regardless of their background, was given an equal opportunity to succeed.

He said: “Twenty years ago, Stephen Lawrence was brutally murdered by a gang of racist thugs – one of the darkest episodes in the history of race relations in this country.

“Two decades on we have to ask, have we created a truly colour-blind society in which every single child in this country, no matter what their background, no matter what their ethnicity, is given an equal opportunity to succeed? I don’t believe we have yet.”

Gove highlighted that black children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, faced tougher challenges than others and were more likely to suffer from hard times.

This is backed up by evidence from the National Literacy Trust published last year, which revealed that stage 2 English pupils from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were less likely to be working at Level 4 or above when compared to young pupils from white, mixed, Asian and Chinese backgrounds.

Gove asserted that the UK must reject “the soft bigotry of low expectations which has governed education for too long – by refusing to accept that children from poorer homes can’t be expected to do just as well, to achieve just as highly, as their wealthier peers.”

Beanstalk, a national literacy charity in north London, has since launched an appeal for volunteers to help with children who were faced with this difficulty, after it emerged that one in seven pupils moving from primary to secondary school in Enfield could not read to the required standard.

TOUGH TIME: BME pupils less likely to be working at level 4 or above

Magic FM radio presenter Angie Greaves, is supporting the charity to raise literacy standards, and is also encouraging the community to come forward and give their time.

The radio DJ and mother-of-two visited Churchfield Primary School in Enfield last month to read The Butterfly Lion by Michael Murpugo to an audience of year 5 and year 6 pupils.


She said: “Good literacy skills allow children to progress through their secondary education and ultimately gain employment and or training later in life.”

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington founded the London Schools and the Black Child initiative in 1999 in an attempt to tackle the problem of educational under-attainment among BME youth.

She said: “It is still going strong and to date has had many pleasing successes. Perhaps the biggest of these being the 2003 launch of the Aiming High programme, the first ever government programme for supporting educational achievement among Afro-Caribbean pupils.”

Gove said he remained positive and believed progress has already been made and expressed confidence that it would continue.

He said: “Since this government came to power, we have seen the achievements of black and minority ethnic children improve. At primary school, the proportion of black children achieving level 4 in maths has risen from 75 per cent in 2010 to 80 per cent in 2012. We are committed heart and soul to the civil rights battle of our time – the fight to give every child a great school.”

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