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'British schools still fail black kids'

TROUBLE: Black students plagued with problems at Year 7

Dear Mr Cameron,

I was sad to see that your Education Bill, as delivered in the recent Queen's Speech, makes no provision to take into consideration the specific problem of black pupils and particularly black boys in secondary education and what can be done to improve things.

I am sure you are aware that black boys are gifted at primary school. According to your own government stats, black pupils perform above the national average up to year seven. And then something happens. What, we just don't know because there has been a lack, or more accurately, a dearth of research on the subject, which is worrying for us ‘hard working' middle-class black families who you say repeatedly your government will represent and reward.

For me and many middle-class black parents, we have been left with a dilemma of what to do to avert the dreaded Year 7 academic collapse of our children. You will know that many black parents simply choose to send their children overseas during those crucial secondary school years to avoid whatever plague it is that afflicts our children.


Even the Rt Hon member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, Diane Abbott, sent her son to Ghana and thereby managed to avoid the eleven plus decimation of his educational ability. Her son subsequently went on to study at Cambridge.

Many of us don't have that option. I for one couldn't bear to send my children to board in this country let alone another country. I would miss them too much. And we shouldn't have to. Many, many more of us still put our trust in this country to educate our children fairly and squarely. In Britain we trust. And so we should. But the statistics don't lie and the starker that dramatic shift from gifted to failing is, the more fool it makes of us for trusting blindly in the educational system that failed a lot of us parents when we were at school.

Have we forgotten what happened between the ages of 10 and 11? No. For we didn't even know it was happening. It is only a generation later that we look back at our school years and realise that the exact same thing happened to us without us realising. You see, prime minister, whatever sinister phantom awaits black children at their secondary school gates on that first day of their Year 7 life is so subtle it is imperceptible. Is it the teachers, the system, the parents or the culture? How can we be sure? That is why the research is needed sooner rather than later.

I know in my own instance I started getting more and more conscious at secondary school. Whether it was because of the cosmopolitan gathering of black pupils at secondary school from which I was shielded in primary school, I just don't know. But it is quite something when a young black boy starts reading up about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the Black Panthers and Bobby Seale and enslavement. The struggle becomes our lives and it is hard to concentrate on Henry VIII and the Battle of Waterloo when you're thinking of Sharpeville and Soweto.

The fact that most of the teachers don't get it and don't understand what you're going through doesn't help either. No other children in Britain have to deal with the identity crisis that an 11-year-old black pupil has to deal with when they realise that they can't sing Rule Britannia along with their classmates. Sometimes, Mr Cameron, it would be appreciated if there was someone there who could catch us when we're falling.


The parents you say? But we are too busy being ‘hard working' parents, the kind that you yourself say you're fighting for every day in government. And, like I said, most of us black parents aren't even aware that it's happening to our kids because when it happened to us we were oblivious of it. The government could do well to spend millions on advertising campaigns to pick up the signs and with a guide on how to keep your children gifted.

For my part I would say the solution is to encourage the reading of black philosophical thought from Aristotle to Mandela. It should be on the school curriculum so that at the age of 12 or 13, when some black pupils have all but given up on their studies with demoralisation at the system that oppresses them, the school engages their brain in more critical thinking about who they are and where they fit into this great society of ours in which they should all be playing a crucial role.

That's what's missing from the Education Bill, prime minister, and I know you can rectify it with a wave of your Parker.