Parent:        I can’t get my son to do his homework.
Me:              Really?  Does he have his own bedroom?
Parent:       Yes.
Me:              Is there a television in his room?
Parent:       Yes.
Me:              Is there a stereo in his room?
Parent:       Yes.
Me:              Is there a computer in his room?
Parent:       Yes.
Me:              Is there some kind of games console (X-Box, Playstation,Nintendo etc.) in his room?
Parent:       Yes.
Me:              Does he have a mobile phone which he can take into his room?
Parent:       Yes.
Me:              Well…his room sounds more like an entertainment complex than a place to study. If my son spent most of his time in Disneyland, I wouldn’t be able to get him to do his homework either!

It was the last week of school in the Spring term, just before the Easter holidays.  It was a Friday morning and I was tired because there had been a Parents Evening the night before.  I was trying to remember how many parents I had seen and the amount of times I had gone through a conversation almost identical to the one above.  I realised that apart from the students who were doing exceptionally well, almost all of my conversations with parents had been repeated many times before.

These conversations had been repeated either that same evening, that same year but with different year-groups, or in previous years with every year-group.  I was saying the same thing over and over again, but no matter how many times I said it, the parent(s) sitting in front of me would be completely shocked.  Shocked that they had not made the obvious links between their own behaviour and their child’s subsequent slump in achievement.

The simple truth is that although institutionalised racism is a monumental force that is built into almost every aspect of the British educational system, parents can still help their children to succeed both academically and socially.  Many parents are already aware of at least one student in their child’s school that consistently achieves no matter how crappy the teachers are, no matter how poorly the school is managed, and no matter how low the school is in the league tables.  Most parents dismiss that child or that family as ‘freaks of nature’.  However, the truth is, that family is simply ‘managing their managables’.  They are taking care of all the factors that they are in a position to positively affect.

In preparation for that Parent’s Evening, I intended to produce a single-sided A4 sheet of tips for Black parents to make sure that their children got a grade A in GCSE mathematics by the end of Year 11.  However, as I started typing, I got more and more frustrated at what I considered to be the basic things parents should be doing at home to support their children.  The single-sided sheet quickly spilled over to a second side.  The idea of an information sheet quickly grew into an information pamphlet, then a booklet…

I wrote Gifted At Primary, Failing By Secondary in the two weeks of the Easter Break following that day.  Hopefully, parents will have the opportunity to read this book BEFORE their child reaches secondary school so that they do not receive any unnecessary shocks, and they are not forced into crisis management when things usually start to go wrong for their child in Year 9.

Clearly, I’m going to be biased, but I thought that I would make so much money from the book that I would be able to retire and dedicate my life to supporting my community 24-7!

What I failed to understand was that there are millions of severely overweight people who want to lose weight but simply choose not to exercise.  They make that choice knowing that their health depends on it.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There are people who smoke, there are people who drink and drive, there are people (myself included) who don’t open their letters immediately when they come through the door because…?  I’m not even sure why I do that!  That’s why I try not to judge individuals or our community too harshly about inaction – as long as we recognise that our solutions can sometimes be very simple.

With respect to ‘underachieving Black students’ at secondary school, I have literally written a book that will guarantee your child’s success.  The only question is, will you get it?

‘Gifted At Primary, Failing By Secondary’ is a parenting  manual packed with simple and practical tips to help Black children avoid ‘The Secondary Slump’.