‘Lack of commitment’ from school heads harming Brent project to improve outcomes for boys of black Caribbean heritage

Brent Civic Centre (Picture: Nathalie Raffray)

Brent Civic Centre (Picture: Nathalie Raffray) - Credit: Archant

A lack of commitment from some headteachers is proving a “major barrier” in a programme to improve the achievements of boys of black Caribbean heritage in Brent schools.

Brent Council launched a project last year to "raise the achievements of boys of black Caribbean heritage", which are consistently below national averages at the end of Key Stages 1, 2 and 4.

The £550,000, two-year project aims to reverse the trend, described by the town hall, the Brent Schools Partnership (BSP), the two local Teaching School Alliances and schools as "unacceptable".

It focuses on a "rigorous and robust analysis" of roughly 2,000 boys' performance. The money has also paid for "champions" in schools, staff and governor training, and online resources for parents.

There are a lot of positives so far, a progress report says, and 72 schools have signed up. Most champions say they are being well supported and the training programmes have had an "overwhelmingly positive" impact. There isn't enough data yet to judge the impact, but audits have found a "significant shift" in the focus of raising achievement of the boys, including regular progress reviews.

But 13 schools are "not engaging" - nine academies, two Catholic schools and two pupil referral units. Two of them have some of the highest numbers of pupils with black Caribbean heritage - 262 in total, 136 boys.

"In a number of schools there is insufficient commitment from headteachers," the report says. "The small cohort size is often given as the reason for minimal focus and limited action being taken. This is a major barrier to ensuring the achievement of boys of black Caribbean heritage improves and gaps are narrowed."

It adds some champions don't feel supported and most schools still have yet to include a focus on raising attainment and reducing exclusions of the boys.

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Boys of black Caribbean heritage remain overrepresented in exclusion figures, but there have been "significant improvements". In 2017/18 permanent exclusions fell overall and the drop was greater for boys of black Caribbean heritage. Last year none were excluded from primary schools and in secondaries the number was below the overall average. But fixed-term exclusions are still too high.