Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities
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Hazel Blears launches search for role models to inspire Black boys

Hazel Blears launches search for role models to inspire Black boys

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (173) issued by The Government News Network on 15 July 2008

A major national search to recruit Black male role models gets underway today as Communities Secretary Hazel Blears calls for motivational Black and mixed heritage men to take a lead in inspiring the next generation of Black boys to achieve and succeed.

The creation of the first ever Black Boys' National Role Model programme is part of a package of measures to help raise the aspirations and attainment of some of today's young Black men.

Hazel Blears wants to encourage Black and mixed heritage men from all walks of life to come forward and play a part in lifting the sights of young Black boys.

A national modelling programme was one of the recommendations made to Government by an independent panel made up of members who had an in depth understanding of the realities of the lives of Black Boys and the barriers they face to success. The Government has responded positively to their report and is committed to taking action on all the REACH recommendations.

Too often role models can be celebrities and those who glamorise a world of crime, drugs, guns and gangs. The national role modelling programme will seek to challenge stereotypes, shine a light on positive images of Black male achievement - from businessmen to doctors, lawyers, artists and community workers. REACH is about getting these positive images onto the radar and ensuring that more young people know that every route is open to them.

Hazel Blears said:

"It is crucial that we improve the life chances of young Black boys. Too few Black men and boys are achieving their full potential and the consequences of that are being seen socially and economically.

"There needs to be a collective effort to combat underachievement and low aspirations amongst our young Black men. These kids need realistic alternatives to show them that every opportunity is available to them. There are thousands of role models out there who offer great examples for Black boys to follow. This programme is about harnessing their potential, making them more visible and getting more young people on the right track."

At least twenty national role models will be selected by an independent panel comprising fashion designer and businessman Ozwald Boateng, entrepreneur Tim Campbell, founder and Director of Operation Black Vote Simon Woolley and Metropolitan Police Superintendent Leroy Logan along with four young Black men.

The panel want the programme to have as big an impact as possible and are keen to see applications from a diverse range of backgrounds, professions and areas of the country.

Tim Campbell said:

"The REACH role modelling project has massive potential to change the way that our community addresses some the issues around young Black men's underachievement. We need to find people that can really connect with and inspire the next generation to get on and do more. We have a real opportunity here to get voluntary organisations, the Government and individuals working together to tackle these issues head on."

Whilst around 20 role models will be chosen for the national programme, Hazel Blears is keen to harness the interest of all the candidates. Other applicants who put themselves forward will be contacted about opportunities for role modelling or mentoring in their local area.

The recruitment campaign will run until 2nd September. Panel members will unveil their final selection in the autumn when the role models will begin their activity.

Once recruited the national role models will share their stories in a variety of ways, including events and visits to meet with young Black men across the country. This will be community led, but might include schools, youth clubs and young offender institutes. As well as these specific visits the message and story of the role models will be amplified through use of podcasts, webchats and wider media activity.

Males of all ages from a Black African, Black Caribbean or Mixed Heritage background are encouraged to apply to be a national role model and can get more information by going to http://www.direct.gov.uk/reach or contacting REACHrolemodels@communities.gsi.gov.uk

As well as a national role modelling competition the Government are currently taking forward a range of measures aimed at boosting the aspirations and attainment of Black boys and young Black men. £1 million has been made available to support these activities. The REACH report highlighted a number of barriers preventing some Black boys from fulfilling their full potential and recommended that these be tackled together to bring about the changes that are needed.

The Government is currently taking action to:

* Improve engagement between schools and Black parents - home school partnership agreements are currently taking place in schools across the country. These and other programmes to engage parents with schools will be looking at how best to meet the needs of Black families.

* Strengthen the reporting and monitoring of race equality and schools - Ofsted has reviewed, revised and published new guidance for inspectors which will strengthen the way that it reports on race equality issues including drawing attention to good practice and highlighting inequalities.

* supporting Black led Voluntary and Community Sector organisations - These are often the organisations working most closely with young Black men at risk of dropping out.

Notes to Editors

1. 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. http://www.communities.gov.uk/communities/racecohesionfaith/raceandethnicity/raceequalityadvice/reach/

2. 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.

3.The Government response to that report can be viewed at http://www.communities.gov.uk/REACH

4. The recruitment launch event has been developed in partnership with Business in the Community and is generously being hosted by Ernst and Young.

Background

Business in the Community

Business in the Community mobilises business for good.

With more than 850 companies in membership it represents 1 in 5 of the UK private sector workshop. These members commit to integrating responsible business, sharing experiences and taking collaborative action. This is achieved through campaigns and programmes such as MERLIN - the Minority Ethnic Role Models for Learning and Inspiration.

MERLIN was set up to address underperformance in basic skills amongst certain ethnic minority groups, high drop out rates of BAME pupils in post-16 education and confidence and self esteem in the classroom.

Led by Patrick Clarke, director of connections for EDF Energy who spoke at today's launch, MERLIN formed a group of business leaders and recruited over 100 professionals from 20 organisations in the private and public sector to volunteer in 12 schools across 8 London boroughs working with more than 3,200 young people. The Department for Communities and Local Governments is working with Business in the Community and other organisations in developing the REACH role modelling programme.

News Releases: http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsroom

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