It’s the day before GCSE results day in the United Kingdom. Sixteen year olds and their parents around the country await the grade awarded for educational achievement, since the start of secondary education aged eleven. High grades will be the key sixteen year olds need, to open doors to successful futures. Each child’s results dictate what colleges they can apply for, what further educational courses they will or will not be accepted for, there’s a lot riding on the 24th August 2017.
At the time of writing in just forty five minutes, it will officially be judgement day. According to much research in the United Kingdom, achievement within black and ethnic groups as a whole, has been a cause for concern for many years. The media would have you believe it is also an issue across the Atlantic in the USA.
In 2013, it was reported in a well know ethnic newspaper in the United Kingdom, that just 54.6 % of black and ethnic minority children managed to gain a grade A-C, within their GCSE results. This included core subjects such as maths and English. It was reported three years later after results day, in a well known liberal newspaper in the United Kingdom, that white boys from poorer backgrounds, were falling behind in their achievement and results. It appeared that black and ethnic groups were no longer as much of a concern, as they were no longer lagging as far behind.
With the recent changes to the GCSE grade boundaries, and increased use of exams as opposed to coursework, the goalpost for what is deemed a “good” pass grade has shifted upwards. Students now need to work even harder. But what does this mean for black and ethnic minority children? Some may argue it will still mean black and ethnic children will face a struggle, if barriers to achievement are not broken down.
Whatever the results are tomorrow, whatever the statistics for black and ethnic children’s achievement shows, there are some key things parents can do, to help increase inclusion, participation and ultimately achievement of black and ethnic minority children. Also reduce the high levels of school exclusion this group face.
Take an interest: This is more than asking “how was your day today?” Parents need to be actively involved in their children’s education. Seven years of parent’s evenings in state schools have shown me, that black and ethnic minority parents are underrepresented at parent’s evenings. There is low engagement with teachers to take the opportunity to meet them one on one, to discuss a child’s progress or lack of. This is a parent’s one opportunity to pin teachers down, and really get a good understanding of what is happening during lessons, see examples of work, hear about future predicted grades, what support can be given to secure good grades. No parent should miss this. Increasing the level of interest in a child’s progress at school, and engagement with teachers will allow parents to see any gaps that will need to be filled, regarding learning and achievement.
Have high expectations: It has been suggested and also statistics support the theory, that within ethnic groups some ethnic groups have higher expectations than others and tend to do better. For example, Black-African groups of students tend to perform better than Black-Caribbean students. Asian students tend to perform the highest of the three. Why is this? Could it be that it’s down to what happens at home with regards to expectations? If parents expect good grades, and set a tone that this is what is expected, this may translate into what children produce academically. In some countries, and cultures regarding educational achievement it is the culture and norm to perform well academically. Anything else is not considered the norm or acceptable. It could be suggested that this culture change could empower black and ethnic students. However, it will need to start at home. The same can be said to teachers, it has been reported on widely that in some inner-city areas in the United Kingdom, teachers do not have high expectations of black and ethnic students. The Voice Newspaper commented on this in a report here. The report mentions that black and ethnic children are not expected to achieve highly, the attitude of teachers damages students’ motivation. First hand experience of this point of view myself within schools would support this theory. If expectation levels are low from teachers, the only way to combat this is to set expectations at home, this will translate into the classroom when black and ethnic children are applying themselves, at the same time change the perception that a small proportion of teachers may have of this group.
Engage with school work and projects: If parents take an interest, set high expectations and actively engage in their child’s school work, ultimately the result should be increased achievement. Engaging with school work can be nerve racking, especially if a parent is not familiar with the topics their child is learning about. This is no excuse, there are websites to help aid understanding and learning you and your child can sit down and look at together. For example, the BBC Bitesize website covers every GCSE topic. The site is being updated to reflect recent GCSE changes in the United Kingdom. However, much of the content should still be helpful for increasing basic knowledge. At A-level there is also Tutor2u which covers a range of subjects. The point here is to sit down with your child, see what topics they are covering at school, what homework they have, find out what exams or assessments whether formative or summative they need to prepare for? Once you are aware of this, oversee actively their preparation for assessment and completion of homework. Help them with (and check) their homework regularly. If you show an interest you might be surprised at how much harder they try to do well, which in turn will increase participation and achievement.
As we await the results for GCSE grades in the United Kingdom, let’s all as parents, regardless of what the statistics show regarding black and ethnic children’s achievement follow through with playing an active role within their educational achievement. With an aim to help increase their achievement. Encouragement in this direction starts at home. No matter how busy you are or what bill is overdue. Sadly, teachers can and will only do so much, especially if some have a low expectation of black and ethnic children already. Parents take charge of the direction your child goes academically, don’t wait for the system to see them through.