Achievement of Black Caribbean Pupils: Good Practice in Lambeth Schools

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Demie, F. (2005). Achievement of Black Caribbean pupils: good practice in Lambeth schools. British Educational Research Journal 31(4), 481-508. A Critique.
This paper is a critique of F Demie’s ‘Achievement of Black Caribbean pupils: good practice in Lambeth schools’, which is an interpretive study by Feyisa Demie Jan McKenley, Chris Power, and Louise Ishani. The LEA provided the funding for this research project. The aim of the research according to Demie was to “Identify a number of significant common themes for success in raising the achievement of Caribbean heritage pupils”. In order to analyse these achievement rates, Researchers looked at good practise in Lambeth schools. Demie does not provide the reader with any clues in regard to the researchers’ backgrounds and qualifications. One cannot learn from the report under analysis whether Demie et al were LEA employees with a task to prepare a ground for future policy making.

Demie et al hose to study 10 primary and 3 secondary schools in the Lambeth region, where the rates of Black Caribbean performance were reported to be above national and LEA (Local Education Authority) averages. The aim of the investigation was to identify the factors enabling pupils of Black Caribbean origin to achieve high standards in British schools, and to track “significant common themes for success in raising the achievement” (Demie, 2005) of Black Caribbean pupils.

Researchers used a subjectivist and interpretive viewpoint throughout the study. Crotty (1989, p. 83) states that a modern interpretive researcher examines “experience from ‘the point of view’ or ‘perspective’ of the subject”, “experience as people understand it in everyday terms”. Cohen et al. (2000, p. 181) also emphasise that the interpretive subjectivist paradigm attempts “to understand and interpret the world in terms of its actors”.

Demie looked at thirteen case studies, which dealt with a phenomenon of Black Caribbean achievement levels. Examination of the case studies were conducted via a range of data collection techniques including a detailed examination of school and LEA data, documentation, non-participant observation with colleagues from the schools, interviews and discussions with staff, parents, pupils and governors. When utilising these research techniques, researchers applied methods of subjectivist epistemology, which “asserts that an inquirer and the inquired-into are interlocked in such a way that the findings of an investigation are the literal creation of the inquiry process” (Guba & Lincoln, 1991, p. 159).

As Pring (2000, p. 40) states, any case study is based on the premise that “any unit of investigation in which persons were involved could only be understood if the perspectives of those involved (and the interaction of those perspectives) were taken into account”.

The interaction of the various perspectives within the case study framework helped to reveal several key factors that contributed to “the success in the case study schools for raising the achievement of Black Caribbean” (Demie, 2005). As Demie underlines, the case study collection was designed “for all concerned with school improvement”.

Demie (2005) clearly states that the critical investigation tackles upon the concepts of achievement, colour/ethnicity, and the National Curriculum. The conceptual framework of achievement is enriched by the assessment criteria of “language fluency”, “eligibility for free school meals”, “English as an additional language” “special educational needs (SEN) stage”, “mobility rate”, “years in school”, “attendance rate”, and “types of support” (Demie, 2005). The researcher then goes on to link the concept of attainment/achievement to the concept of colour/ethnicity. Colour or ethnicity is conceptualised as a complex state comprising of “heritage, culture and experience”, of “participation in British life”, and of “the influences of location, family links and other factors in developing...
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