Black-British youth in education
There is little to no representation of black children in elite educational positions at top universities but have failed to pinpoint the reasons why. In 2016, only 22% of boys of Caribbean descent and 34% of girls achieved 5 or more A*-C grades at GSCE level. Figures from the Independent Newspaper also reveal that black children had the lowest proportion reaching the required standard in reading, writing, mathematics and science aged seven.
I spoke with Mikai McDermott founder of CariConnect, an organisation set up by students of Caribbean descent who also study at Russell Group universities.
She tells us why her organisation is so important for the black community.
So, what is the driving force behind CariConnect?
We aim to encourage more children of Caribbean descent to enter into prestigious institutions. We offer one-to-one educational mentoring sessions and workshops to potentially high-achieving students who will benefit from our guidance. The Russell group list includes top ranking universities, with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge. These institutions share a strong reputation for teaching and learning and attract staff and students from around the world.
Russell Group universities play an important part in the intellectual life of the UK and have huge social, economic and cultural impacts locally and around the globe. Between them, they produce more than two-thirds of the world-leading research produced in UK universities and support over 300,000 jobs across the country every year.
Why are Black-Caribbean youth not being represented enough in Russell Group universities?
‘It’s not just one factor’
When I normally get asked this question, it’s really hard to answer it because of this, but I would draw it towards racism within external communities and prejudice among the black community. Caribbean’s have had a long history of being denied education since the ‘Windrush’ period in 1948. When they arrived in the UK, they were denied the same rights to education as white British people and were given schooling that led into vocational routes as opposed to academic routes.
‘I think these systematic injustices still remain’
There are low expectations of Caribbean students in general, it’s important to educate yourself on the reasons why Caribbean’s aren’t succeeding, not to just assume that its because we’re dumber or that we don’t care.
I also talked with Janet Mitchell who works for an inner city council in London. She tells us why she thinks so many black students are failing the educational system in this borough.
What does your job involve day-to-day?
I look after the educational side for children in care, travelling to various locations to visit them in schools or social care placements and ensuring that their educational progression is sub-standard. I also make provisions for supplementary tuition in order to boost their grades’.
Do you see a number of black youth underperforming?
Yes. There are a large amount of black and minority children as well as children from mixed backgrounds who are currently in care and are not working to national expectations due to significant gaps in their learning.
When your education is interrupted at any point, reintegrating back into a learning environment is difficult, as many topics are not retaught especially at secondary level, unless given extra tuition. In the lead up to exams, many cannot answer questions as fully… and so they often underachieve massively.
Can more be done to encourage these students to apply for high performing positions?
‘The real barrier is achievement’.
Schools and universities are now based on performance… without reaching the basic entry requirements of 5 A*-C or English and Maths at a grade C or above, it’s very unlikely that they will carry on to further education.
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