Diane Abbott: Black Child Achievement Awards


This year’s London Schools and Black Child Academic Achievement Awards will take place on 10 October at the House of Commons.

The event will be hosted by Diane Abbott, shadow minister and Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Amongst the celebrities confirmed to attend the event are legendary newscaster, Sir Trevor Macdonald, Olympic British silver-medallist Christine Ohuruogu, and chart topping rapper Wretch 32.

Twenty four candidates have been shortlisted in the categories: GCSE boy, GCSE girl, A’ Level boy, A’ Level girl, Higher Education boy and Higher Education girl. One girl and one boy will be selected as the winner in each category.

The London Schools and Black Child Achievement Awards has been running for the past ten years and aims to combat negative stereotypes about educational underachievement within black communities. While highlighting the outstanding academic attainment of ethnic minority students, the awards also serve as a reminder that equality of opportunity can only begin when institutional racism within the education system is stamped out.

According to the research findings published by the Department of Schools and Education (DFES) in 2006, the number of Black Caribbean pupils achieving five good GCSEs rose by 10 percentage points, compared to six percentage points nationally. Yet such good news is rarely reported.

In addition other initiatives such as Rare Rising Stars has created space for the recognition of those who are young, gifted and black.

Examples include: Chibundo Onuzo, the Nigerian author who was the youngest woman to secure a book deal with the esteemed publishing house Faber & Faber. Francis Goodburn, the Oxford university organ scholar who achieved six A*s and two As at A-level – four of which he'd taught himself. And the award-winning community poet, George Mpanga, who is now a student at Cambridge University.

There is a continuing need to highlight such successes and encourage young black people to work hard towards unlocking and maximising their academic potential.

But before this can happen the institutional barriers blighting ethnic minority achievement need to be urgently challenged and broken down.

Black pupils are three times more likely to be excluded than their White peers. In its 2006 report the DFES noted that 1000 Black pupils are permanently excluded and that nearly 30,000 receive a fixed period exclusion. Moreover, research has shown that pupils with ethnic sounding names are marked down by as much as 12%. Against this background -Abbott has announced her support for Liberal Democrat proposals to introduce colour-blind marking in schools. In the past similar measures were introduced to stamp out gender bias within higher education.

However in recognising the clear relationship between educational underachievement, social exclusion and underemployment among ethnic minority communities, Abbott says that a colour blind approach is not enough. She says:

With a colour-blind approach, ethnic minority children continue to slip under the radar and are palmed off with substandard qualifications, education and life chances. A colour-blind approach will not work.

Instead Abbott calls for comprehensive statistics and the recruitment of more black and male teachers. She highlights the importance of cultural literacy as a key component in teacher training and urges educational institutions to be more proactive in engaging with parents.

All this clearly highlights the pressing need for a holistic approach when it comes to tackling race inequality within education.

Chizom Ekeh