An equality pledge for all Lewisham schools, along with other measures to tackle racial inequality, has been recommended by the council. The move comes after a report showed Black Caribbean students underachieve at key stages.
A race equality steering group of headteachers, representatives from teaching school alliances, governors and council members, established in June is now developing a three-year approach.
The plan, presented by the council’s director of children and young people Pinaki Ghoshal at the last Children and Young People Committee meeting will involve all Lewisham schools publicly signing up to the pledge to embed race equality and address Black Caribbean and BAME underachievement.
Pinaki Ghosal, Lewisham’s executive director for children and young people, said: “Once a school puts up the pledge in their building, they have to do something. It becomes a concrete commitment.”
The pledge – and other recommendations – followed a report which concluded that Black students, particularly Black Caribbean students, were underachieving. It found that primary school children between ages 7 to 11 and secondary school pupils aged 14 to 16 had fallen behind the most.
The report, commissioned by Lewisham Learning – a school-led partnership between local authority and school leaders – included interviews with dozens of parents who expressed their concerns about the lack of Black staff in schools, especially in senior positions. Parents also wanted to see better communication from the school and believe the curriculum currently does not represent the local community.
Ghoshal said: “We want to set up groups for each school to look at opportunities to do things differently and make the curriculum more relevant for the children at their school.”
Councillor Caroline Kalu was concerned about the three-year timeline for the recommendations and said: “We have made a point of this for a long time in the committee, and so far nothing is happening. Kids and parents are stressed and teachers need help. How can we, as a committee, get involved and make sure it’s actually happening now?”
The committee members will arrange visits to schools in 2020 to talk directly to them about how they are responding to the 3-year action plan.
Lewisham council and Lewisham Learning plan on actively supporting this work over the next years. A budget of £100000, funded by the council and schools, has already been set aside for the work.
These plans come amid wider discussions about decolonising the curriculum, with the issue being raised nationally by groups such as The Black Curriculum.