Saturday, 16 October 2010

How Trevor Philips' love of a headline does nothing for black students

There’s been an almighty outcry over the apparent fact (and we have only the EHRC’s word for this) that just one “British Afro-Caribbean” has been admitted to Oxford this year. Now, what we need to understand is that this figure is very specific – it excludes a range of categories that would normally be characterised as “black”:

Mixed: White & Black Caribbean
Mixed: White & Black African
Black or Black British: African
Black of Black British: Other

So the impression given – that just one black person is wandering round the dreaming spires as part of this year’s intake of students – is misleading. And, of course, these figures do not include overseas students.

The ‘Black or Black British: Caribbean’ category represents around 1% of the UK population so, on a straightforward distribution we would expect the number of students from this category to be around that proportion of the intake from the UK. Each year, Oxford takes in between 3,000 and 4,000 students but at least a third of these are overseas students. Let us be generous and say that 2,800 UK students are admitted. This would mean that an even distribution would have 28 students from the category ‘Black or Black British: Caribbean’. More than one, I’ll grant you but not quite as bad as you all thought when you didn’t have the context.

As the press reports say:

The elite university recruited more than 3,000 students last year and almost 90 per cent of them were white.

However this shouldn’t be a surprise since nearly 90% of the UK population is white (England & Wales: 88.7%). Oxford may be elitist, it may take in too many posh kids for some folks liking but it cannot really be faulted for its record on taking non-white pupils when the proportion almost exactly mirrors the proportion in the country.

This is just another example of the selective, misleading use of statistics by the “equalities” industry. Rather than this unjustified shouting at universities, people like Trevor Philips should turn their attention to why it is that afro-Caribbean children do so poorly at school:

“African Caribbean boys, in particular, start their schooling at broadly the same level as other pupils, but in the course of their education they fall further and further behind so that in 2003, for example, roughly 70% of African Caribbean pupils left school with less than five higher grade GCSEs or their equivalents. This represents the lowest level of achievement for any ethnic group of school children. In national examinations African-Caribbean boys have been the lowest achieving group at practically every key stage for the last four years.”

This is the real scandal – we reinforce for no good reason the view that black kids are thick condemning most of them to a life at the bottom of the pile. Berating Oxford doesn’t help these youngsters and rather than do this the EHRC should be supporting efforts to produce better outcomes for young blacks – even when they’re promoted by segregationists like Lee Jasper. At least they recognise the problem.


1 comment:

SadButMadLad said...

I thought the figure of "one" student out of the whole lot as being black a bit suspicious and suspected some shenanigans by those who have ulterior motives. Thanks for clearing it up.