Family, community involvement and resilience are keys to success at school for black children
New research by the University of Southampton throws light on the educational experience of African Caribbean children in the UK.
Statistics confirm that African Caribbean pupils' attainment in examinations is low and their exclusion rates and statements of special educational needs high. However, many black children do very well at school and many others achieve academic success later on in life.
University of Southampton lecturer in primary education Dr Jasmine Rhamie has examined the differences in the experiences of young people who did well at school and those who did not and identified key factors necessary for academic success.
The influence of family, friends and the community are all revealed as important in helping to break destructive patterns and overcome challenges to succeed.
Her research is based on in-depth interviews with people with a range of academic achievements from London, the Midlands and the south east of England about their school experiences.
High-achieving black children typically came from homes where education was valued. Parents were described as giving explicit verbal messages to their children about the importance of education.
Successful children are those who develop resilience which is strengthened by a strong, supportive home environment, as well as involvement in challenging, supportive community activities. This resilience is key to overcoming challenges such as low social class status, economic problems faced by their parents, families and communities, and negative encounters with teachers and other pupils.
Trent's story is one of the individual case studies highlighted in Dr Rhamie's research. His mother was a single parent and worked in a menial job, but she valued education and was determined that her children would get a good education. While he attended a state primary school, she worked hard to pay for him to attend a private Christian secondary school where the teachers were positive and encouraging. As with other high fliers, the positive influence of church, home and school enabled Trent to develop the necessary resilience to go on to university and attain a science degree.
Marcus recounts growing up in a large family where his father worked long hours and his mother had to look after 8 children. However, both parents made it clear that homework was to be completed. Marcus got involved in setting up a community club for young people in his area when he was 15 and, despite experiencing low teacher expectations, a lack of encouragement at school and negative reactions when he was placed in the top stream in school, he went on later in life to succeed academically, becoming a chartered certified accountant.
"It appears that the positive influence of parents and the support of the community - particularly the black church - engenders resilience in young African Caribbean people which helps them to counteract the impact of negative school experiences," comments Dr Rhamie.
"This interaction between the home and community provides children with what they need to succeed in school. If the school also provides a supportive, achievement-oriented environment, success is even more likely."
She adds: "These findings highlight the importance of developing resilience in African Caribbean children to enable them to cope with the challenges they face in school and wider life. The school system must continue to work towards providing safe, secure, accepting, achievement-focused learning environments that will ensure all pupils have optimal opportunities to succeed."
Dr Rhamie's research is published in a book entitled 'Eagles who Soar - how African Caribbeans achieve academic success' which will be launched at the University of Southampton on Thursday 19 June.
Notes for editors
'Eagles Who Soar - how African Caribbeans achieve academic success' by Dr Jasmine Rhamie is published by Trentham Books. www.trentham-books.co.uk
Dr Jasmine Rhamie lectures in primary education at the University of Southampton. She has worked as an educator, researcher, and educational and community consultant. Her research interests are in academic achievement within underperforming ethnic minority groups, home-school relationships and emotional literacy.
As part of one of the UK's leading research universities, the School of Education offers a wide range of Masters, PhD, UG, Certificate and Foundation level programmes in a wide range of areas including initial teacher training; institutional and higher education management and leadership; educational practice and innovation; post compulsory education; dyslexia; science; computer-based learning and training; continuing professional development; sport studies; sports management and leadership, and others. Research specialisms include centres in Institutional & professional development, pedagogy and curriculum, and post compulsory education and training. With more than 1100 students including over 100 research students we are one of the largest and most active centres of educational research in the UK. In the most recent government Research Assessment Exercises the SoE was awarded a grade 4, demonstrating our research to be of international and national excellence and inspections by OFSTED and the Higher Education Quality Assurance Agency have identified our teaching, support and QA systems as being of the highest quality. Full details can be found on our website www.education.soton.ac.uk
The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.
This is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.
We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.
As one of the UK's top 10 research universities, we offer first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering.
We have over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover in the region of £325 million.
For further information
Jeanne Jackman, School of Education,
Tel. 023 8059 2758, email: email@example.com
Sue Wilson, Communications, University of Southampton,
Tel. 023 8059 5457, email: firstname.lastname@example.org