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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 16:22 GMT


Schools 'failing ethnic minorities'

Schools are reluctant to monitor attainment by ethnic group

State schools in England still need to do far more to identify and meet the needs of pupils from ethnic minorities, according to a report from the schools inspectorate, Ofsted.

BBC Education Correspondent Sue Littlemore: "It's down to the attitude of the teachers"
Some schools are 'institutionally racist', says Oftsed's Director of Inspections, Jim Rose - to the annoyance of teachers' unions.

Ofsted undertook the study because of the continuing high rate of exclusions and lower-than-average attainment among children from some ethnic groups.

[ image: Jim Rose:
Jim Rose: "It's often unwitting"
Mr Rose said "Much of that [racism], we think, is to do with unwitting stereotyping of youngsters and the lack of expectation or lowered expectation of teachers as a result of that sometimes."

Inspectors looked at the attitudes of 48 schools in 25 local authority areas which had a significant percentage of pupils from four focus groups: Bangladeshi, black Caribbean, Pakistani and gypsy travellers. They also went to 34 other schools known to have good practices in educating pupils from ethnic minorities.

It is a follow-up to a study published by Ofsted two years ago, which showed that certain ethnic minority groups were failing to keep up with the general rise in educational achievement.

'Vicious circle'

The new report says not much has changed: schools could be doing much more to target improvements in standards amongst ethnic minority pupils and should put greater effort into monitoring their results.

Chris Woodhead says he sympathises with angry teachers
The Chief Inspector, Chris Woodhead, said there were important messages in the report for schools, local education authorities and central government.

"We cannot afford to ignore them," he said. "Nor can we, as a nation, ever be satisfied with an education system which fails any sector of the community.

"This report confirms not only that significant minority ethnic groups are not being enabled to fulfil their potential but that, within those groups, boys are generally doing worse than girls.

"Many thousands of pupils, notably black Caribbean boys, are therefore facing double jeopardy. When you add the inner city dimensions, the odds are brutally stacked against them. Schools can and must make a difference."

Trevor Phillips of the Runnymede Trust: "Either they're stupid - or there's a fundamental problem"
The national Union of Teachers has welcomed the report. But its General Secretary, Doug McAvoy, said teachers would interpret the term 'institutional racism' as an attack on them.

"It can alienate rather than include," he said. "Many schools have led the way in tackling racism.

"Schools need the support of parents and the community generally in countering this evil. Sadly they have yet to see a lead from the government of the Teacher Training Agency."

Sheila Lawler of education think tank Politea: "Danger of singling people out"
And the General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Nigel de Gruchy, said the term was "outrageous".

"It is profoundly unhelpful to have foolish charges levelled by individuals who are keen to catch the falvour of the month. No progress will be made unless this persistent culture of blame is abandoned."

The leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, said his union "categorically" rejected any assertion of institutional racism.

"Such unfounded allegations make no positive contribution to solving a longstanding and highly complex situation," he added.

Mixed picture

The Schools Minister Charles Clarke restated the government's intention to eradicate differences in academic achievment between whites and some ethnic minorities.

Charles Clarke: "Government priority"
Figures due out later this month which will show that the proportion of black and Pakistani pupils gaining five GCSEs at grades A to C has increased from 23% in 1996 to 29% in 1998.

The proportion of Bangladeshi pupils rose from 25% to 33% while the performance of Indian, Chinese and other Asian pupils continues to outstrip that of white pupils.

Five GCSEs at grades A to C were achieved by 54% of Indian pupils and 61% of Chinese and other Asian pupils in 1998, compared to 47% of white pupils.

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