England: African Caribbean Diversity


Brenda King
Brenda King

On 18 December 2014, I met with Brenda King (Chief Executive) and Paul Bokel (Board Member) of the African Caribbean Diversity (ACD) charity in order for them to tell me more about the organisation and the work that it does in the field of education.

SIRIUS: Why was ACD set up?

Originally set up in the 1990s as a networking organisation for people of migrant decent working in The City, our charity soon became focused on education. We recognised the links between the underachievement of second generation children in education and the resulting difficulties they had getting into the labour market. In order to tackle this, since 2003 we have been running a Mentoring and Enrichment Programme that aims to close the attainment gap between children with a migrant background and native children, particularly for those of low-income families. Our overarching objective is to improve the social mobility of state-schooled children of African and Caribbean descent through mentoring by City workers.

SIRIUS: How does the mentoring programme work?

ACD Summer School students 2013
ACD Summer School students 2013

We choose up to 30 students aged 13-14 who have the potential to do well at school, but are currently underperforming. They are then invited to attend a week-long summer school in Cambridge where they become familiar with the programme, understand why they should believe they can aim high within education and the labour market, get training on public speaking, confidence building and other life skills such as sport and nutrition. On the fifth day, parents are invited to attend (with their costs also covered by the programme) and they are given an induction into the programme, getting the opportunity to meet the team and understanding the expectations that they can have from the programme. Very often, parents are happily surprised to see that there is already a big change in their children after just one week. Students who participated in the summer school the previous year are also invited to attend and both parents and students are generally very impressed to see that after just one year in the programme, they are already progressing very well.

They are then matched with mentors working in the City. The companies that they work for often have Corporate Social Responsibility programmes that allow them to use their time for altruistic activities such as this. We send out a communique to the companies informing them that we are looking for new mentors and then we go in and speak to them directly. They can then sign up with us and receive training on becoming a mentor. Considering the cosmopolitan nature of City workers, the mentors come from many different places and walks of life.

Mentor Matching 2014
Mentor Matching 2014

Once we have matched the students and the mentors, they meet each other in the presence of the students’ parents. This allows everyone to get to know each other, as they will generally be in touch with one another over the course of the next four year, until the students finish school, but some stay in touch long after that. The mentors are there to give career guidance to the students, which is often lacking in their schools, and they do this in their offices so that the students become accustomed to accessing large companies, dressing for the occasion and regularly travelling to meet with their mentors. For the most part, this experience is an eye-opener for the mentors into how the other half of London lives.

Over the past 10 years, we have had about 400 students in our programme, and we are now beginning to see the first mentors being trained who started off as mentees themselves, as well as a growing alumni programme that is often in further education.

SIRIUS: How do you engage with schools?

ACD trip to Brussels 2014
ACD trip to Brussels 2014

We obviously go to schools in order to recruit students, and this happens on a yearly basis, so we are generally in touch with the same schools at least every year. However, we also follow up with the schools on the progress that our mentees are making to ensure that everything is still going well. We engage with the teachers by inviting them to our events and trainings, but they don’t always have the time to attend.

The school’s general reaction to our programme is very positive as the students’ behaviour generally changes in the classroom. Seeing as they were bright but underachieving before, they were likely to be the class clown, and their new interest in learning will generally have a very positive influence on their classmates.

SIRIUS: What are ACD’s main challenges?

Our main challenge is probably keeping the students on board for all of four years. When they reach 16-17, it can be more difficult to engage with them, but we make every effort to continually organise meetings, trainings etc. so that they remain interested and focused. Additionally, they may suffer from some negative peer pressure from their peers, but we try to combat this with regular meetings with those peers that are in the mentee programme so that they can be positively motivated to stay on. Sometimes, the parents themselves can be an obstacle. Not because of language or cultural barriers – most parents are overjoyed to have such an opportunity for their children and to get to learn about the educational system in the UK. But some parents may have other issues on their plate and don’t give any follow-up to the work that we’ve been doing when at home.

Communication used to be a challenge but that has become very easy now, and the arrival of free public transport for kids in London in full time education makes costs less of an issue. Nevertheless, funding is always a struggle, especially since local authorities no longer have the responsibilities (and therefore the budget) in education that they previously had. While we are lucky to have some corporate support from the companies we work with, we look to foundations and other such organisations to help us maintain our service. We also develop partnerships with experts, such as the local police force, in order for them to inform the students about the justice system and how to keep out of criminal activities.


Facebook: ACDiversity

Twitter: @acdiversity


SIRIUS Policy Briefs: Recommendations for successful policies on migrant education


While many countries in Europe have high-quality, well-established education systems, socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent suffer from inequality of access and lower-quality education. Children from these groups, including children with a migrant background—those who are immigrants themselves or have immigrant parents—tend to underperform in the classroom compared with their native peers. Children from a migrant background (defined here as from countries outside the European Union) have particular educational needs that mainstream education policy does not always meet, including overcoming language barriers and discrimination. Recognizing the importance of education in allowing countries to realize their potential, the European Commission has developed a series of goals in the form of the Education and Training Strategy (ET 2020) to help Member States reduce school dropout and increase rates of tertiary education completion.

In 2011, the European Commission launched the SIRIUS Policy Network on the Education of Children and Youngsters with a Migrant Background to study and propose ways that EU countries can address the needs of disadvantaged groups while working to meet the goals outlined in ET 2020. The network facilitates the ability of experts, policymakers, and practitioners to gather and share policy ideas and practices to improve outcomes for these children.

This series of policy papers produced by experts from within the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe focuses on how policies at the EU level and within individual Member States can better support the education outcomes of young people with a migrant background.

Enhancing EU Education Policy: Building a Framework to Help Young People of Migrant Background Succeed


This policy brief sketches how children with a migrant background face the most urgent needs in Europe’s education systems. The overall rate for early school leaving is 33 percent for third-country nationals—more than double the overall 14.1 percent rate within the European Union, for example. Rates of youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) are significantly higher for first- and second-generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The brief examines a number of proposals for ways that local, national, and regional institutions can help educational systems become more community-centered, systemic, and inclusive in order to close the school achievement gap between native and immigrant students.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of enhancing education policy is available here.

Mentoring: What Can Support Projects Achieve That Schools Cannot?


This policy brief explores how European policymakers can design mentoring and other educational support projects to be an integral part of the educational landscape, and explains why it is important for them to do so. It highlights examples of successful mentoring experiences that focus on cultivating the hidden talents and potential of children of immigrants, countering prevailing narratives about these children possessing an educational deficit and needing to “catch up” in school. Finally, the brief summarizes current research on the benefits of mentoring and offers recommendations for program development and for policymakers at the EU level.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of mentoring is available here.

Developing School Capacity for Diversity


This policy brief uses the concept of professional capacity to frame SIRIUS’s recommendations regarding school quality. It identifies four key areas for improvement: language diversity, the learning environment, social psychology and acculturation, and community connections. To develop expertise in these areas, the brief outlines three strategies for policymakers:

– build professional learning communities that focus on diversity;

– build networks of expertise on diversity;

                           – and develop teacher training programs dedicated to diversity.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of capacity building is available here.

Language Support for Youth with a Migrant Background: Policies that Effectively Promote Inclusion


This policy brief provides key points and good practice examples on what comprehensive language support might look like. Recent  studies have identified a number of tools and approaches that can provide effective language support for migrant children, including adequate initial assessment of language skills, language induction programmes that ensure a smooth transition into mainstream classrooms, ongoing language support, training for teachers of all subjects, and valuing students’ mother tongue. Despite these suggestions, there is no blueprint for what ideal language support might look like, and many European Union (EU) Member States are facing gaps in implementation of best practices.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of language support is available here.

Migrant education and community inclusion

Migrant education and community inclusion

This policy brief reviews current measures to promote the integration of migrant students around Europe, specifically those policies and government-backed projects that include the family and community as an integral part of the educational process. The brief will focus on seven examples of good practices that might serve as an inspiration for education policies across the continent. 

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here.

Reducing the risk that youth with a migrant background in Europe will leave school early

 Reducing the risk that youth with a migrant background in Europe will leave school early

Even as the European Union (EU) in general moves closer to the EU 2020 target of reducing early school leaving (ESL) to a 10 percent threshold, wide disparities remain. Varied rates of progress can be seen not only across Member States and media, but also among social and ethnic groups within the 28 Member States. With the exception of the United Kingdom and Portugal, youth with an immigrant background are over represented among those who leave school early. Migrant youth therefore remain a target group for EU policy recommendations regarding strategies, policies, and measures to reduce ESL.

In this policy brief the authors focus on empirical findings, theoretical insights, and promising measures that may inform further policy action addressing the disproportionately high level of ESL among youth with a migrant background. The following three questions structure the content of this brief:

1/ What can be learned from empirical research on ESL among migrant youth?

2/ What features of national and regional education system can prevent ESL among migrant youth?

3/ What specific settings are promising for the implementation of measures to prevent, intervene in, and compensate for ESL among migrant youth? 

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here

Refugee children in education in Europe. How to prevent a lost generation?

Refugee children in education in Europe - how to prevent a lost generation

In the policy brief we will show what refugee children need to be successful in school. We identified six major school arrangements that affect school success.

  1. Free of costs pre-school places for the youngest refugee children to start to learn the second language early.
  2. Sustained second language programs should be available from pre-school until upper-secondary school to accommodate children from all age groups. Teachers should get up-to-date second language teacher training and especially developed materials and methods.
  3. For 16+ and 18+ students: Education should be available also after compulsory schooling (for instance adult education) if we want to prevent a lost generation. Stopping or only providing limited access to education beyond compulsory schooling is highly disruptive.
  4. Short introductory classes, after which students are immersed into regular classes. Being placed for one or two years in welcome classes or international classes is detrimental to school success. Introductory classes should be connected to all secondary school levels (not just vocational education).
  5. Additional support teachers should be assigned to follow up on children’s needs.
  6. Direct access to English Master programs for students holding a BA, comparable to international students.

An integrated approach is key, where these arrangements are linked together (See also the recommendations of European Commission Report: Study for educational support for newly arrived migrants, PPMI 2013). For example, short introductory programs can only be successful when combined with sustained second language support.

This policy brief is mainly focused on education measures, however other policies and factors that have an impact on the education chances and outcomes of refugee children and youngsters.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here.

School Leaders – Advocates for Refugee and Migrants Students

School leaders

SIRIUS Policy Network on Migrant Education has since 2012 debated and researched policy priorities for migrant education and inclusion. Although its research did not specifically zoom in on the roles and responsibilities of the School leaders in this regards, the SIRIUS Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe (2014) outlines specific recommendations regarding the school leaders. The further exploration within the network and its experts and consultation with relevant other stakeholders from European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL) shines more light on the key roles school leaders have in implementing migrant and refugee education policy. With this Policy Brief SIRIUS attempts to highlight the school leaders as advocates for refugee and migrant students, agents of inclusiveness and social justice and focus on the role of school leaders in the implementation of refugee and migrant education policy as well as provide policy makers with recommendations on how to best support school leaders.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here.



Regional Policy Paper

Migrant Education Opportunities in the Baltic States: strong dependence on the level of school preparedness

Baltic states policy paperThe purpose of this policy paper is to explore the national policy measures related to pupils with a migrant background in the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The paper aims to identify similarities of policy responses to specific educational needs related to migrant background and point out the differences in approaches, bringing forward the examples of successful practice. The paper serves as an overview of the topic in the Baltic region, which aims to enable mutual learning and inspire the development of most effective strategies in order to shape education policies towards greater inclusiveness to respond to the diverse needs of the learners.

ET2020 Working Group on School Policy – Brussels, 15 December 2014

What are Working Groups?

As part of the Education and Training 2020 (ET2020) Open Method of Coordination, the Commission and Member States cooperate in the form of Working Groups. Working Groups are designed to help Member States address the key challenges of their education and training systems, as well as common priorities agreed at European Level.

The primary focus of the Working Groups is to benefit the Member States in the work of furthering policy development through mutual learning and the identification of good practices. Following their mandate, Working Groups must deliver outputs directly linked to the objectives of ET2020 and contribute to Europe 2020.

What has been done so far?

The ET 2020 Working Groups  rely on the work conducted by eleven Thematic Working Groups between 2011 and 2013. These groups concerned:

  • Primary and Secondary Education
  • Higher Education
  • Adult Learning
  • Vocational Education and Training
  • Transversal Key Competencies.

Each ET2020 Working Group has a specific mandate detailing the challenges the group needs ot address, the outputs to achieve, and the overall roadmap. To achieve this, more than 400 experts participate in peer-learning activities, such as country-focused workshops and webinars.

School policy

Building on the results of two previous Thematic Working Groups on Teacher Professional Development and Early school leaving, the group (see the mandatepdf(375 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  and work programmepdf(431 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  ) will look at:

  • ways to improve the effectiveness and quality of teacher education, with a view to equipping teachers with the competences required in changing work environments (see background note on Initial Teacher educationpdf(868 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  );
  • the collaborative approaches inside and around the schools that can support schools in their ambitions to provide educational success for all, and prevent and reduce early school leaving (see the background notepdf(379 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  and the final reportpdf(560 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  on the case study on Belgium-Flanders and the city of Antwerp).

The group is composed of government representatives of nearly all Member States plus Norway, Liechtenstein, Serbia and Turkey, and of European social partners. By the end of 2015, the group is expected to deliver a “Next practice guide on improving Initial Teacher Education”. On ESL the group is expected to deliver a “Guidance Framework” and a “toolkit” for schools on collaborative practices to reduce ESL.

How does SIRIUS engage with the Working Group on School Policy?

Experts from the SIRIUS Network will be attending the upcoming meeting of the Working Group on School Policy in order to give their input on various aspects of school policy:

  • Plenary session – Setting the scene: Education of Migrant and Minority Students
  • Workshop 1 – Early School Leaving and Community Intervention
  • Workshop 2 – Teacher Capacity and Multilingualism

Their input will be used in developing the above-mentioned framework and toolkit on collaborative practices to reduce ESL.

via ET 2020 Working Groups – European Commission

UK: London’s diverse ethnic population explains the success of its schools

londoneffect-articleLondon’s diverse ethnic population is the reason for its pupils achieving significantly better GCSE results than the rest of England, according to a new study published on 12 November.

This study from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation(CMPO) at the University of Bristol looked at GCSE data for the whole of England to understand what lies behind the ‘London Effect’ – a term used to describe the high levels of attainment and progress of pupils in the capital.

The London Effect is large: the report shows that pupils in London schools score about eight GCSE grade points higher than those in the rest of England, relative to their attainment at age 11. For example, this means achieving eight Cs rather than eight Ds, or eight As rather than eight Bs.

Evidence in the study shows that this is explained by the ethnic composition of pupils in London. Once ethnicity was taken into account in the analysis, the London Effect in pupil progress disappears.

Previous research from CMPO showed that white British pupils achieve the lowest GCSE scores relative to their attainment at age 11, which this study confirms for 2013. Combined with the fact that this group make up 34 per cent of Year 11 pupils in London compared to 84 per cent in the rest of England, researchers say the background to the result is clear.

Professor Simon Burgess, who carried out the research, said: “We know that ethnic minority pupils score more highly in GCSEs relative to their prior attainment than white British pupils. London simply has a lot more of these high-achieving pupils and so has a higher average GCSE score than the rest of the country.

“Many policy makers, school leaders and commentators enthuse about the major policy of the time, London Challenge, and view it as unambiguously improving schools in London. This unanimity carries weight, and no doubt London schools were improved in a number of ways. But so far at least, catching a reflection of this improvement in the attainment data is proving to be difficult.”

The report also looks at the role of the children of recent immigrants rather than ethnicity. Evidence shows that taking account of the number of pupils who are the children of immigrants also accounts for the London Effect.

Comparing Newcastle, where 11.8 per cent of the population was born abroad and arrived before the year 2000, with London, where the number is 34.7 per cent, yields a difference of about 15 GCSE grade points in pupil progress in London’s favour.

Looking back over the past decade, the study shows that there has been a London Effect in secondary school progress since at least 2004, and that it is accounted for by ethnic composition in each year.

Analysis of some different measures of attainment shows that a London Effect is much reduced once ethnicity is taken into account, but remains significant. These include measures that remove vocational qualifications (known as GCSE ‘equivalents’) from the total and measures of very high GCSE performance.

Professor Burgess added: “My interpretation of these results leads to a focus on pupil aspiration, ambition and engagement. There is nothing inherently different in the ability of pupils from different ethnic backgrounds, but the children of relatively recent immigrants typically have greater hopes and expectations of education, and are, on average, more likely to be engaged with their school work. This is not by chance of course. A key point about London is its attraction to migrants and those aspiring to a better life.

“London has a right to be pleased with itself in terms of the excellent GCSE performance of its pupils. These results help to explain the London Effect but they do not explain it away. The London Effect is a very positive thing, and much of the praise for this should be given to the pupils and parents of London for creating a successful
multi-ethnic school system.”


‘Understanding the success of London’s schools’ by Simon Burgess, CMPO Discussion Paper 14/333 published on 12 November.

Via Bristol University News

Articles regarding this study available in:

  •  BBC: Diversity ‘key to London GCSE success’
  • The Daily Mail : Ethnic diversity boost GCSE results: Cities with large numbers of children from immigrant backgrounds do better because they work harder
  • The Guardian: London’s GCSE success due to ethnic diversity in capital’s schools – report
  • The Independent: Hard-working ethnic minority pupils lifting schools’ results as ‘London effect’ takes hold
  • The Telegraph: Schools with large migrant intake ‘get better GSCE results’