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Long term Government commitment will turnaround achievements of young Black men - John Denham

Turning around underachievement of young Black men is a generational challenge that will be met by a long term commitment from Government, Communities Secretary John Denham, said today.

Recommendations from an independent REACH report made to Government two years ago identified the specific and unique barriers that are still holding back too many Black boys and young Black men.

Targeted Government measures to tackle inequality in criminal justice and education are improving the opportunities and life chances for Black boys and young Black men. But there is more to do.

The REACH programme of work, led by representatives from the Black community, set out clearly what further work is needed to tackle specific challenges and ensure no Black boys or young Black men face a penalty for being Black.

Responding to those specific challenges has been the focus of Government's work in partnership with the community. A report published today shows the progress that has already been made and what further work is needed in three key areas:

More action in communities

Many organisations rooted in communities do an outstanding job of helping young Black boys and are able to support them far more effectively than any national initiative or external group. But they are often small in scale and resources. Guidance being published today will help these organisations to work together, access funding and have greater effect.

Tackling underachievement in schools

Achievement in schools is rising and attainment of Black boys is improving but there is still a gap that must be closed. REACH called for practical action to make stronger links between Black parents and schools and ensure that schools are responding to this challenge. Immediate actions taken by the Government have included getting more dads involved in education through new "Parent Support Advisor" roles, recruiting more Black school governors and as of September every school will be inspected on how well they are promoting equal opportunity and tackling discrimination as part of a normal Ofsted inspection.

Raising aims and aspirations

REACH concluded that when Black boys and Black young men looked around they felt there were few inspirational options available to them and called on Government to establish a national role modelling programme to address this. In 2008, 20 national role models were named who are working with hundreds of young Black boys and men across the country to broaden their horizons by showing them what they can aspire to.

Speaking at a REACH conference in London, John Denham said:

"Barack Obama taking office as America's first ever African-American president was a turning point in racial equality. And, here in Britain, we can see examples of successful black men from all walks of life.

"However, it is unacceptable that young Black boys are still paying a price for simply being black. Turning around underachievement amongst young Black men is a generational challenge but one that none of us will shy away from. There are no quick fix solutions to what are long standing and complex problems.

"We have developed a good understanding of what the challenges are. Now, we in Government, schools, and crucially, communities need to step up our efforts to work together to deliver the solutions that will ensure young Black boys and men have the confidence, skills, opportunities and determination to succeed."

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls said:

"We are committed to helping all children to raise their aspirations, fulfil their potential and make Britain the best place to grow up in the world. Our efforts over the last five years have seen considerable improvements in the educational attainment of Black pupils leaving our schools and we have started to narrow the achievement gap.

"Black boys are closing the gap faster than other groups at GCSE - five years ago less than 30 per cent got five good GCSEs, last year it was over 50 per cent. However, I am determined that we must do more and cannot be complacent. That is why we have set out further reforms for our schools in our recent 21st Century Schools White Paper and welcome the REACH programme and the challenge provided by it to improve the outcomes and aspirations of Black boys."

The Department for Communities and Local Government will be publishing a broader strategy to promote race equality; and learning the lessons from REACH will be a big part of that. This forms part of wider measures that Government is taking forward to tackle race equality.

Entrepreneur, 'Apprentice' Winner and REACH Role Model Tim Campbell said:

"The REACH role modelling project has carried out great work in changing the way that our community addresses some of the issues around young Black men's underachievement. I'm confident REACH will continue to provide a real opportunity to get voluntary organisations, the Government and individuals working together to tackle these issues head on."

Notes to editors

1. The REACH report was delivered to Government by an independent panel of experts from organisations working with Black boys and young Black men in August 2007. This report was commissioned as Black boys are less likely to do as well at school, more likely to be excluded from school and more likely to become involved with the Criminal Justice System.

2. The report made five evidence based recommendations on how to raise the aspirations and attainment of Black boys and young Black men. The Government accepted all five recommendations in December 2007 and a team in CLG has been leading delivery across Government since, working in partnership with stakeholders and other Government departments.

3. Biographical details of the 20 role models can be found at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/nationalrolemodels.

4. A national Black role modelling programme was one of the recommendations made by the REACH group in their report entitled An Independent Report to Government on Raising the Aspirations and Attainment of Black boys and Young Black Men which can be viewed at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/reachreport.

5. The REACH group was set-up by Government in 2006 and had 22 members drawn from a variety of sectors, including the voluntary and community sector, education academia and law enforcement.

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