Improving Schools’ Policies and Practices to Raise the Learning Achievement of Black and Minority Ethnic Learners in England
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
Bristol research has led to a fundamental improvement of policies and
programmes in the English education system so that they make visible and
take into account, the needs of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) learners
at risk of underachieving. The studies have been used to shape progressive
rounds of Government policy and programming including the implementation
of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant and the Black Pupils Achievement
Programme, informing and scaling-up good practice relating to school
leadership and teaching in local authorities and schools throughout the
2008-2013 assessment period. They have also been used to increase levels
of understanding amongst policymakers and the wider public about the
barriers to achievement facing BME pupils and successful practice for
overcoming those barriers.
The underpinning research involved four main studies led by Professor
Leon Tikly in the Graduate School of Education (1998-) and involving other
colleagues at the University of Bristol.
Evaluating Local Education Authority (LEA) Action Plans to Raise the
Achievement of Minority Ethnic Groups (2001-2):
The research commissioned through a process of competitive tender by the
DfES was undertaken by a team led by Tikly with colleagues at the
University of Leicester (Osler, Vincent) and in partnership with the
Birmingham LEA. The findings demonstrated the key relationships and
differences in achievement amongst ethnic minority students across
different local education authorities, and whether the strategies funded
by the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) make a difference ,.
Importantly, the research established a link between levels of ethnic
minority achievement, and LEAs strategies of supporting schools to review
their performance; setting targets and monitoring achievement; devolving
EMAG funds to school level; and, collating and disseminating good
Understanding the Educational Needs of Mixed Heritage Learners
The research commissioned by DfES through a process of competitive
tendering grew out of a pilot study and was led by Tikly, Caballero
(University of Bristol staff from 2003-6) and Haynes (University of
Bristol staff from 2003) in association with the Birmingham Local
Education Authority (LEA). This research was the first of its kind to seek
to understand the barriers faced by mixed heritage students, with specific
reference to White/Black Caribbean students and that in the mixed heritage
group, the White/Black Caribbean population is the largest (compared with
the White/Asian and White/Black African), and makes up 0.9% of the total
school population in England. White/Black Caribbean students perform below
average, and when social class is controlled for, their performance is
similar to that of Black Caribbean students. White/ Black Caribbean
students self-identify as Black and like Black Caribbean students often
experience low teacher expectations, linked to stereotypical views of
these pupils' `confused identities'. Furthermore, these students are
largely invisible in schools policies, though they indirectly benefit from
strategies aimed at Black Caribbean achievement. The research identified
effective practices that led to achievement amongst these pupils, i.e.
school leaders who challenged teachers to do better, a focus on innovative
learning strategies, diversity in the curriculum, high expectations for
pupils and a positive school culture that recognised diversity and
Evaluation of Aiming High: Raising African Caribbean Achievement
The research, commissioned through a process of competitive tender by the
DfES was led by Tikly and included Caballero and Haynes with colleagues at
the Institute of Education (Gillborn) and was undertaken in partnership
with Birmingham LEA. The research evaluated the government's Aiming
High: African Caribbean Achievement Project (2003-5), which sought
to raise the achievement of Black Caribbean learners in schools. The
evaluation report  was accepted by the DfES and was used to inform the
subsequent roll out of the Black Pupils Achievement project (below). The
research found that student attainment had improved for African Caribbean
students attending Aiming High schools compared to those not attending
Aiming High schools but that improvement varied across the schools.
Improvements for African Caribbean boys were the lowest. Where schools had
mechanisms of exclusion in place (such as ability setting, test and
examination tiers, gifted and talented classes) African Caribbean students
were less likely to be included in these classes. School heads and
teachers across the project schools had varied understandings of the
factors that affected the achievement of African Caribbean students. The
schools' use of strategic data also varied across the schools limiting
their capacity to impact on the target population.
Making the Difference: Ethnicity and Achievement in Bristol Schools
The research was commissioned by Bristol LA following a rigorous review
process and was undertaken by Tikly, Rose (member of staff since 2008) and
Bent (member of staff since 2012). The purpose was to raise public
awareness of achievement issues affecting Black and Minority Ethnic
Learners in Bristol schools. Drawing on experiences of Head teachers,
classroom educators, teaching assistants, support staff, parents and
learners the team identified the range of strategies that these schools
use to make a difference and developed this into a model of successful
practice that drew on earlier projects undertaken by Tikly and colleagues
, , , . The report found that the largest growing BME group is
the Somali group. This group along with learners of Black Caribbean and
Pakistani heritage and White Working class learners were particularly at
risk of underachieving in Bristol schools but that strategies targeted at
BME learners were likely to also benefit learners from White Working Class
backgrounds as well .
References to the research
 Tikly, L., Osler, A., Hill, J. & Vincent, K. (2002) Ethnic
Minority Achievement Grant: Analysis of LEA Action Plans, (London:
DfES). (Available at:
 Tikly, L., Osler, A. & Hill, J. (2005) The Ethnic Minority
Achievement Grant: A Critical Analysis, Journal of Education Policy,
20(3): 283-312. DOI:10.1080/02680930500108619.
 Tikly, L. &Caballero, C. (2006) The Barriers to Achievement for
White/ Black Caribbean Pupils, British Journal Of Sociology of
Education, 27(5): 269-283. DOI:10.1080/01425690600958766.
Related grants supporting and evidencing quality of publications:
• Tikly (2001-2) Evaluation of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant,
• Tikly (2002) The Achievement and Educational Needs of Mixed
Heritage Children in UK Schools (University of Bristol, Centre for
Ethnicity and Citizenship), £500. A small grant to pilot fuller
application [with Chamion Caballero, Department of Sociology].
• Tikly (2003-4) Understanding the Educational Needs of Mixed
Heritage Pupils (UK Department for Education and Skills), £136k
[with Jo Haynes and Chamion Caballero, Department of Sociology, University
• Tikly (2004-6) Evaluation of the Aiming High: Raising African
Caribbean Achievement Project (UK Department for Education and
Skills), £126k. [with Professor Dave Gillborn, Institute of Education and
Birmingham Local Education Authority.
• Tikly (2012) Making the Difference: Ethnicity and Achievement in
Bristol Schools (Bristol Education Achievement Partnership), £12k
Details of the impact
The research has had a wide and significant impact on professional
practice at the local level. It has also shaped national policy and
programmatic interventions and influenced national and international
guidelines on successful practice in closing the attainment gap.
Local impact (practice)
The research has changed teacher practices and LEA approaches towards
raising the achievement of BME learners at risk of underachieving across
England. Case studies of Birmingham and Bristol offer examples of the
significance of the changes from 2008:
A former LEA statistician reported that:
- Outputs from the research and findings   underpinned resources
that were made available through the LEA's School Improvement Website
(Birmingham Grid for Learning — BGfL, between 2004 and 2012. "This
included a number of DfE reports and guidelines; an African Caribbean
Achievement Plan; and school case studies"[h].
- The LEA utilised these resources and the research findings to enhance
professional practice, informing "good practice relating to school
leadership, community partnership, mentoring, curriculum development,
and raising awareness/tackling racism and stereotyping [h]
- The research   reinforced the LEA's inclusion of mixed heritage
groups in the analysis of performance (GCSE and SAT results) and in the
analysis of "Every Child Matters" outcomes. This is a practice which
Birmingham LEA continues to support and the performance analysis is
reported to the City Council Scrutiny Committee each year [h].
- The data show that standards have improved for African Caribbean
students and mixed heritage groups since the research was published and
disseminated through BGfL. "Although it would be difficult to establish
a direct cause effect relationship with these improvements and the
research, the research findings did inform the policies and practices
introduced to raise achievement"[h].
Bristol: The LEA service director has emphasised:
- That the research  "has had a strong impact on awareness, policy
and practice. Bristol LA refer to the report on a number of occasions,
including drawing it to the attention of head teachers and governors.
This has raised awareness and brought around a more informed dialogue
about the attainment of BME pupils"[g].
- The research  has influenced professional standards, guidelines or
training, and has helped to develop a model of good practice in Bristol
which "has had a valuable impact in terms of raising awareness and
evidenced based discussions around policy and practice, and provides a
useful on-going reference point" [g] .
- "In partnership with the Bristol Education Achievement Partnership
(BEAP) the LA commissioned an "easy read" version and booklet of the
report . The booklet has been widely disseminated to schools and, to
stakeholder groups such as governors, parents, inter-agency NGOs etc.
BEAPare also in the process of developing digitally based resources and
guidance which are underpinned by the Making a Difference
- "The November 2012 Bristol LA Annual Education Partnership Conference
attended by head teachers, governors, academy sponsors, inter-agency
NGOs etc. focused on narrowing the gap in achievement. The conference
raised the profile of the report, and Professor Gus John from the
Institute of Education was invited to speak with reference to the Making
a Difference" [g].
- "The dissemination of the research finding  has impacted the
development of policy and practice around inclusion and diversity and
contributes to Bristol City Council's approach and awareness of
achievement issues affecting Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Learners in
Bristol schools" [g].
National level (policy)
The research has impacted and shaped government policy in England, and
NGO's and professional bodies' policy from 2008 in the following ways:
- Influence can be seen in the impact of the Aiming High programme
feeding into the content of the Black Pupil's Achievement Programme
(BPAP) [a], which ran until August 2008 and has been credited for
significant gains in the educational achievement of BME students.
- Influence can be found in several guidelines issued by the DfES as
part of their national strategies, where research outputs have been
cited. For example Aiming High  is included in a literature review of
six research projects on BME children in schools in the Excellence
And Enjoyment: Learning And Teaching For Black Children In The Primary
Years strategy [b].
- The research underpins policy and best practice guidelines by
professional bodies and charities. For example models of good practice
drawing from the Aiming High research  is cited in guidelines of
successful practice aimed at schools produced by the National Union
of Teachers and the National College for School leadership
[f]. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation cites Understanding the
Educational Needs of Mixed Heritage Pupils  in a paper
commissioned as part of its programme on poverty and ethnicity [i].
- Practitioner debate has been informed and stimulated by research
findings. This is evidenced in Times Educational Supplement (TES)
article Colour blind? Not any more, an article engaging in the
debate about persistent gaps in BME pupil performance and exploring
issues around race equality and "colour blindness". The article cites
"The final evaluation of Aiming High , led by Leon Tikly, Professor
in Education at Bristol University" which "found that there had been
impressive changes where schools routinely gathered data that was then
analysed and used for professional development and targeted programmes
of support" [j].
Regional and Global levels (Policy)
Insights developed through the combined research outputs have had a
- Guidelines for inclusion and diversity underpinned by the research fed
into a booklet (http://www.britishcouncil.org/malta-indie-best-practice-guidelines.pdf)
and the British Council's INDIE Policy Makers Seminar involving
representatives from the Ministries of Education from 11 EU countries
[d], with the outcome being a "strong interest in widening the impact of
- Dissemination has successfully targeted key policy makers and
practitioners in international agencies and NGOs. It has fed into global
guidelines on raising BME achievement, inclusion and diversity and
research outputs have been widely cited in policy documents and
background papers. For example  in the OECD Reviews of Migrant
Education — Closing the Gap for Immigrant Students: Policies,
Practice and Performance, which is "a report structured as a
concise action-oriented handbook for policy makers" [e], and  in Equal
Opportunities? The Labour Market Integration of the Children of
Sources to corroborate the impact
[a] Maylor, U., Smart, S., Abol, K., and Ross, A. (2009) Black
Children's Achievement Programme Evaluation (DfES: London). Aiming
High/Tikly   is cited frequently, evidencing its impact on Gov.
policy, the Black Pupil's Achievement Programme and Black Children's
[b] Department for Children, Schools and Families (2008b) Excellence And
Enjoyment: Learning And Teaching For Black Children In The Primary Years,
(Ref: 00058-2008BKT-EN), Nottingham: DCSF. Aiming High  is included in
a review of 6 research projects on BME children in schools, demonstrating
it has become an important reference point in its field.
[c] OECD Equal Opportunities? The Labour Market Integration of the
Children of Immigrants. 2010. OECD ISBM 9789264082397. Cites Tikly et
al (2005) , and Tikly et al (2006) ,
demonstrating the research has become an important reference point for its
[d] Conference Report. British Council INDIE Policy Makers Seminar, 30th
Nov to 1 Dec 2009, Berlin. http://www.britishcouncil.org/indie-what-is-indie-policy-seminar.htm.Tikly's
presentations on diversity and voice and collating best practice are
reported, with the outcome of "strong interest in widening the impact of
INDIE" amongst attendees.
[e] OECD Reviews of Migrant Education — Closing the Gap for Immigrant
Students: Policies, Practice and Performance. 2010. OECD ISBN:
9789264075771. A "report structured as a concise action-oriented handbook
for policy makers", which cites (Tikly 2006) , demonstrating it has
become an important reference point in its field and for policy makers.
leadership for promoting the achievement of white working class pupils.
The National Union of Teachers and National College for School Leadership.
Nov. 2008. Six successful interventions identified in the Aiming High
research  are cited, evidencing the impact on promoting good practice.
[g] Statement, Service Director, Education, CYPS, Bristol City Council.
Provides evidence of impact of underlying research on policy and practice
in Bristol LA.
[h] Statement, former statistician, Birmingham LEA. Provides evidence of
impact of underlying research on policy and practice in Birmingham LA.
ethnicity and education. Joseph Rowntree foundation. 2011. Cites Understanding
the Educational Needs of Mixed Heritage Pupils , as an example of
how the research impact has dispersed beyond schooling to a broader
blind? Not any more, by Helen Ward. Article Published in TES 4th
Aug 2008. Cites Tikly , evidencing practitioner debate is being
informed and stimulated by the research findings.