For ARE, having a more equal society means young people will be able to believe that their race, ethnicity or faith will not limit what they can achieve in life. Yet the educational attainment of young people of colour is a measure of much that has yet to change in the English education system.
In 1991 when ARE began, 37% of all pupils attained 5 or more GCSEs at C grade or higher. Only 12% of Bangladeshi pupils, 22% of Black pupils and 25% of Pakistani pupils achieved the same standard.
Comparisons may look slightly different, however in 2020/2021, across the main Black ethnic groups, 48.9% of pupils attained a standard pass in English and maths GCSE (grades 9 to 5, broadly equivalent to the old A* to C grading). This is the lowest rate for any major ethnic group, barring Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnicities.
Cancellation of exams during lockdown makes 2021 statistics more difficult to assess. Schools Week, in its reporting on Ofqual figures, said:
Longstanding attainment gaps for both black and poorer students have widened, but Ofqual is unable to untangle whether this is down to Covid lost learning or the use of teacher grades this year.Ofqual
Researchers found that the attainment gap between black and white pupils widened by 1.43 percentage points over the same period.
The Schools Week report went on to say that: “Ofqual …. compared the performance of black African, black Caribbean, mixed white and black Caribbean and mixed other students with that of white British students, and found the gaps had widened by between 1.88 and 2.04 percentage points over the last two years.”
The data continues to tell us that across the education system pupils of Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage face barriers to reaching their full potential. We also know, that despite the impact of Brexit in creating significant recruitment gaps in sectors such as construction, young Black men, in particular, still face major challenges in securing meaningful work.
Working with teaching and learning
ARE has a long record of working closely with teaching and learning professionals in educational places such as schools, colleges and youth spaces, providing interventions tailored to address the factors we know can impede the development of a young person’s self-esteem and aspirations. Our workshops are informed by research and proven positive outcomes.
Alongside initiatives focusing on education, mentoring or role models are also part of the tools, so that a young woman will know that wearing a headscarf will not impede her path to becoming a marine biologist or a Black teenager will be able to fulfil his ambition of working in motor sport.
Evidence of the effectiveness of our workshop approach and delivery can be seen in the Routes2Success programme, where we regularly deliver workshops in schools.
Access to apprenticeships at all levels and in all sectors should be accessible and open to all. We continue to believe that the numbers of young people of Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage in particular, who access apprenticeships is too low, and that more need to be done to draw attention to opportunities. Our research report, Ethnic Minority Young People and Apprenticeships in England, reveals the racial disparity in the the take up of apprenticeships as a route for earning while training.
ARE argues that the reasons for under-representation on apprenticeships do not primarily lie with lack of awareness among young people, or a reluctance from parents for their children to take the vocational rather than academic route to employment.
There is a mismatch between the geographic regions where Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage young people live, and the regions where apprenticeship places are available. Apprenticeship places are lowest in the geographic areas, like London, where young ethnic minority populations are highest.
Far too many young people are being encouraged to participate in programmes that are promoted as ‘apprenticeships’, that can push them further away from the labour market than those able to access genuine apprenticeships. They need information on the range of apprenticeships now available, both in traditional trades and those which are an alternative to university, in fields such as human resources, finance or IT in the retail sector.
ARE has produced an employer recruitment toolkit to help improve employer practices and many employers welcome such tools but very few are prepared to implement them in practice. It is time for government to require employers to show they mean business.
- The government should lead action with employers to tackle the continued under-representation of ethnic minority young people on apprenticeships in higher value sectors such as construction and engineering.
- A renewed drive is needed to create more apprenticeships in higher value sectors in London, along with pilot initiatives to test ways of supporting young Londoners to take up apprenticeship opportunities in high value sectors in other regions.
- In order that disparities in apprenticeship application success rates can be tracked, the government should require all employers with 50+ employees to monitor and publish information about apprenticeship applications and appointments by age, gender and ethnicity.
- A national review of take up of Jobcentre Plus services by ethnic minority young people is urgently needed, with action to address barriers deterring some communities from accessing employment support and opportunities only available through Jobcentre Plus.
- The government should publish data on degree-level apprenticeships, with breakdowns in application, start and completion rates by gender, age and ethnicity.
Working with parents
Parents are crucial partners in helping young people realise their full potential. We encourage and support conversations between parents, teaching and learning organisations and community organisations who work with them. We know that many Black or Asian parents and those of Mixed Heritage, have high aspirations for their children but may lack the knowledge of the education system to support them.