Peter Rudd, Joana Lopes, Mark Cunningham
01 July 2004
The Excellence in Cities (EiC)/Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) Pilot Project was initiated by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in 2002. Thirty-five primary and secondary schools participated in the initiative by identifying target groups of students and running a wide range of programmes and activities aimed at raising achievement. The evaluation of the Pilot Project, carried out by NFER between August 2002 and July 2004, involved an annual headteachers’ questionnaire survey and ten case-study visits which included interviews with school staff, students, LEA officers and parents.
- The EiC/EMAG Pilot Project has served to enhance existing EMAG activities aimed at minority ethnic groups in most participating schools and initiate new approaches for others. Where schools had previously been active in their work to raise the achievement of minority ethnic students, the project provided the scope for them to deliver some of the best practice ideas which they may have previously identified.
- Schools were given the scope to interpret the Government’s central aims of the EiC/EMAG Pilot Project when devising their own strategy for raising achievement of their targeted groups of students at the local level. As such, over the two-year period of evaluation, schools have sought to enhance the self-esteem and self-confidence of minority ethnic students, as well as raising the achievement of these groups of students.
- Whilst project coordinators in schools made considered decisions in order to select participant students upon whom projects were likely to have the most impact, they were sensitive to the challenges which could be created by alienating groups of students. Schools were keen to avoid forming groups of students who could be viewed either as high profile or as groups of underachievers with behavioural problems.
- Most projects were either currently engaged in or had plans to start some form of monitoring and evaluation, often by obtaining the views of teaching staff about the impact of projects on students and also by assessing students’ test or examination results. LEA officers had carried out monitoring and evaluation activities in schools to varying degrees, from in-depth termly and annual assessments to no form of intervention at all. Evaluation activities included school visits, target setting and end-of-project conferences.
- Two of the main barriers to learning which were identified included ‘lack of language skills’ and ‘cultural stereotypes’. Some school staff, concerned about the language skills of students, focused their attention on students for whom English was a second language (EAL). In other schools, where cultural stereotypes were thought to be hindering student progress, projects were directed towards addressing issues such as peer pressure and negative expectations.
- For some projects time demands and limits on finance presented the main challenges for teachers. Some teachers struggled to fit project requirements, such as planning and management, in with their other teaching duties. Likewise, in some cases, particularly where activities clashed, students had to make choices between project involvement and other extra-curricular activities.