News & Insights 20 October 2021

Why is Black History Month important for Action Tutoring and its supporters?

Action Tutoring supports disadvantaged pupils to reach their potential. Across the country, in the cities and regions in which the charity works, there is a higher percentage of Black and mixed heritage pupils classified as disadvantaged compared to their White peers.

Government data from 2020 shows the percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (the Government’s indicator of disadvantage) by ethnic group. In the table we can see 24% of Black African pupils and 28% of Black Caribbean pupils were eligible for Free School Meals compared to 14% of White British pupils, of those receiving their GCSEs in 2020.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t less able, but they have less access to the tools that support them to progress in school. This means they are not able to reach their full academic potential, significantly impacting their future prospects.

Disadvantaged pupils are, on average, 18 months behind their non-disadvantaged peers by the end of secondary school (EPI report, 2020). In fact, in the 2019 GCSE exams, only 25% of disadvantaged pupils achieved a grade 5 or above in English and maths, compared to 50% of all other pupils (DfE report).

In the Government’s household income data, published in 2021, Black households were most likely out of all ethnic groups to have a weekly income under £600 and as indicated above, children facing socio-economic disadvantage are less likely to achieve meaningful grades in their exams.

Tragically, the data above indicates that our education system is not able to guarantee all pupils the same outcomes and opportunities, regardless of their background or ethnicity, which is simply not fair.

Action Tutoring focuses on reducing the academic attainment gap at the end of primary and secondary school, so that young people’s circumstances don’t limit how much they can achieve academically.

Why history?

At primary school level, 6 out of 8 history topics in the Key Stage 2 curriculum focus on British history and at GCSE level a minimum of 40% of the course must be British history. These topics, recommended by the Department of Education, predominantly focus on White British history, often neglecting other perspectives and contributions which create so much of the diversity and richness in our country’s history.

The curriculum should put more emphasis on the negative legacy of the British Empire and explore much further how the British Empire created a cycle of exploitation which oppressed the Black, Asian and minority ethnic people under its rule.

Dominant narratives in the curriculum of the Industrial Revolution ignore that England ruled over 25% of the world in mid-late 1800s and early 1900s and exploited the natural resources in these territories to fund economic growth in England, whilst simultaneously taking over developing countries’ systems of governance.

The curriculum also doesn’t critique England’s continuing participation in the slave trade after they officially ruled it illegal in 1807, or how England exploited its empire for soldiers during WWI and WWII without guaranteeing them the same rights as White English soldiers.

The curriculum does makes references to the slave trade and civil rights movements in the USA. This is limited as it does not give an accurate picture of England’s involvement in the slave trade, and does not convey similar Black Power movements taking place in Britain.

“If you’re omitting different histories and narratives, you’re saying that these people aren’t part of this country, this nation, this heritage – or they’re not important enough to be taught as common knowledge,” says Melody Triumph, policy specialist at The Black Curriculum – a social enterprise that seeks to redress this imbalance by delivering programmes, training and campaigns about Black British history.

British children from minority ethnic backgrounds deserve to be taught about their history as much as White pupils. Expanding young people’s awareness of the rich history of our multicultural society will help to foster an accepting and less racialised nation. In our English tutoring resources, we have included Black British authors and have referenced the work of the Black Curriculum when reviewing and improving our workbooks because we believe this is essential to a fair and well-rounded education.

History is an important tool we can all use to make sense of our society today. It can help inform, empower and educate. If you want to find out more about Black British history, from the Black Tudors to Black Power movements in the 1980s, take a look at our resource list here and the Black Curriculum’s resources.)

© 2021 Action Tutoring. All rights reserved.