CEN releases its annual report

October 15, 2012 in Blog, Briefing note

Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has spent another year supporting vulnerable children and their often bewildered parents in the face of institutional practices in schooling that are often demeaning, unfair, discriminatory and damaging to the life chances and well-being of children and to the confidence of parents and families in the schooling system.

This year’s Annual Report (covering the period from April 2011 to May 2012) provides details both of the range and extent of the interventions CEN is called upon to make and of the disproportionality of exclusions involving African and African Caribbean school students. It is now an all too familiar story and one that has a history of which the entire nation should be ashamed. But, rather than looking at the systemic reasons for the continuing over-representation of African heritage students in exclusion statistics, the Government is hell bent on removing the only recourse they and their parents have to an independent scrutiny of headteachers’ exclusion decisions.

As the report points out, even under the former regime that pre-dated the Education Act 2011 which took effect in September 2012, only a very few exclusion decisions were overturned with a direction from the Independent Appeals Panel that the student be either reinstated within the excluding school or assisted by the school to find an alternative place elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry →

Should families take the blame for youth crime?

October 5, 2012 in Blog, Print

On the eve of a conference organised by the Seventh Day Adventist Church into parenting and last summer’s riots, the Lambeth Weekender asked professor Gus John: are families to blame for what children do

Lambeth Weekender: What impact did parenting have on the 2011 England riots?

Professor Gus John: This is a very broad and complex question and it needs to be much more nuanced. When do parents cease to have direct responsibility for their children’s conduct? At what age are children thought to be criminally responsible? How many young people below the age of 16 were involved in the riots? It seems to me that there are questions about parental responsibility in respect of children who were involved in the mayhem on the streets and who would not ordinarily be seen as old enough to be home alone.

There is a much wider question about whether or not some parents routinely let their young people who live at home go and come as they please and at whatever hour they please, without bothering to find out where their children are or who they are with. I do not have the statistics at hand, but there were many young people arrested for involvement in the mayhem who do not fit that profile but found themselves on the streets out of curiosity or because they saw an opportunity to get back at the police.

The broader question of why so many young (and older people of diverse ethnic backgrounds) clearly were not acting with moral purpose on those nights is one that concerns more than just parents. Young people acquire values and use them as a compass for their public and private conduct from parents, schools, the media, the conduct of public leaders and politicians, films and popular culture, etc. The majority of those taking part in the disturbances were from urban working class families, but not all.

The question as parental responsibility was not posed at all, or not put in quite the same way during the disturbances that accompanied the student fees protests. Was that because the majority of those protesting and confronting the police were white and middle class? Is parental failure deemed to be responsible for the widespread fraud committed by MPs in the recent expenses scandal, or the high level white collar crimes that are committed in this country every day, much of which goes unreported? Read the rest of this entry →

Gus John calls for regrading of 2012 GCSEs

September 20, 2012 in Blog

Professor Gus John joins a number of eminent academics and campaigners for children’s education rights in calling for a regrading of papers in this Summer’s examinations fiasco. Gus John says:

I believe that however much Michael Gove pleads ‘no interference’, he cannot dissociate himself from the political and policy context in which the examining boards shifted the goalposts and the time they chose to do so. It is devious, morally reprehensible and gruesomely demotivating to hardworking students and teachers to play such a nasty trick.

Last Thursday night, I attended a most uplifting awards ceremony at Featherstone High School in Southall and handed over awards and spoke to the school community. The high ambitions of the students, and of the staff for them, was so evident and so clearly reflected in their results and in the destinations of their Year 13 leavers, that it was heartbreaking to hear some of the personal stories both staff and students had to share.

I have said repeatedly that is my perennial regret that there is not a strong, organised and disciplined national school students movement and corresponding parents movement that could mobilise themselves and join forces with teachers in protesting such cynical abuse of power by the Executive and their satellites. Read the rest of this entry →

Born to be great: promoting the achievement of black Caribbean boys

April 9, 2007 in Gus talks, Speeches

The following speech was delivered on April 9th, 2007, during the National Union of Teachers‘ Conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

President, General Secretary, distinguished guests, comrades and friends.

It has been a privilege and an honour to work with the Union in bringing together students, teachers and parents to create this Charter. It has been a pleasure working with Steve Sinnott, John Bangs, Samidha Garg and other colleagues in the production of it.  It is a measure of Steve Sinnott’s personal commitment and responsible leadership that, despite his punishing schedule as General Secretary of the Union, he found the time to attend each of the round table sessions and share his vision, his experience and his aspirations with school students, parents, teachers and community activists.  For that, he has my personal thanks and admiration. Judy, your outgoing President and Baljeet, your new President, both made the space to attend Round Table sessions and show their respect and give their support for what students, parents and teachers were doing in partnership with theUnion, and for that I am grateful to them, also.  Thank you, therefore, for inviting me to help launch the Charter at your conference.

Next year, 2008, will be 60 years since the iconic Empire Windrush first brought several hundred descendants of enslaved Africans toEngland to join the ranks of those who had constituted the black presence in Britain for centuries before them. They had come from that huge reserve of labour in the colonies of the Caribbean that had been made surplus to the requirements of the plantations and of the merchant and trading classes.  They had come from a culture where schooling and education provided every child with the possibility of advancement out of poverty and ignorance, irrespective of background and social status; where everyone was entitled to have high aspirations and where there was ample evidence in our communities of those high aspirations being fulfilled; where children would willingly walk for miles to and from their primary and secondary schools; where teachers were respected personalities in their communities, had high expectations of their students and felt they had a responsibility to deliver on the high expectations parents and communities had of schools. Read the rest of this entry →