Hackney’s children of Caribbean origin achieving higher grades but still lagging behind, says report

pic: Our Lady's Convent High School

Children with Caribbean backgrounds are achieving higher GCSE grades in the borough than they are nationally. But their achievement level remains significantly lower than other ethnic groups, according to a report to Hackney Council.

The percentage of boys from a Caribbean background achieving five or more A* to C grades at GCSE has doubled since 2005, the Hackney Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Commission revealed this week.

In 2005, just 18 per cent achieved five or more pass grades, but this figure increased to 37 per cent in 2011. The percentage of  girls achieving these grades has also increased by 13 per cent in the last six years.

However, the attainment gap between all pupils of Caribbean origin and their non-Caribbean peers is 15 per cent, a gap that has significantly widened since 2005 when it was just 8 per cent.

The new figures were discussed at a council meeting with the Learning Trust on Wednesday. Councillors told the Trust, which is responsible for all education services in Hackney, that although some progress has been made, it has not been satisfactory.

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble said: “Although Caribbean heritage children in Hackney are not failing as badly as they are elsewhere, they are still failing.”

Another councillor added: “Hackney is consistently failing these children year after year after year.”

In 2011, 44 per cent of all such children attained five or more GCSE pass grades, compared to 59 per cent for all other children.

The Learning Trust noted that targeted support is needed for these minority groups to accelerate in Hackney schools, as these students will have to accelerate much faster than the national expectation in order to catch up.

A number of projects specifically targeted at the ethnic group, as well as Turkish students have been trialled this year and will continue into 2012.

The Trust also plans to be “more aggressive” in how government money is spent on education.

A free school meals project provides ethnic minority children with breakfast before school, both at primary and GCSE level. It was launched to combat the Trust’s belief that poverty, rather than ethnicity, is a barrier to learning in Hackney schools.

Berger and Grazebrook Primary Schools in Hackney will continue to pilot this scheme.

A family learning service also encourages schools to promote bilingualism among ethnic minority children, allowing students to read in both their home language and English.

A spokesperson for the Learning Trust said: “A student cannot be expected to excel at a second language if they are not allowed to grasp their first.

“Caribbean heritage groups are still a high priority for us”, she added.

The report was criticised by Hackney Council members for not providing the individual statistics for such children in each Hackney school, thus making it impossible to see which school is failing and which is improving.

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