Wednesday, June 24, 1998 Published at 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Campaign to reduce exclusions of black pupils
Are black pupils suffering from the misconceptions of teachers?
The Commission for Racial Equality is pushing for action over the high level of exclusions of black pupils from school.
Within an overall increase in exclusions, there is a disproportionately large number of black pupils, particularly boys. Figures from the government, published last month, suggested that black pupils were six times as likely as their white counterparts to be excluded.
The Commission's regional council in Reading, Berkshire, is calling for initiatives to address what it sees as the excessive exclusion of black pupils. Its annual general meeting on Wednesday will include a debate and speakers on the subject.
Teachers needed to be educated about the lives and culture of their black pupils, Esther Augustus said. There is an element of the "fear of the unknown" in teachers' responses to black pupils, she believed, with teachers influenced by media images of black young men as troublemakers.
As an example of what could be achieved, she pointed to an education authority project in Birmingham which mentored pupils at risk of exclusion and which sought to identify potential problems and defuse them before it reached the point of expelling children.
Targets should be set for reducing exclusions of black pupils
Reducing levels of exclusions of black pupils was a "very important priority", said the CRE's spokesperson, Chris Myant. Exclusion from school often meant young people were on the streets, with greatly increased chances of getting into trouble with the police and with a greatly reduced chance of getting employment.
While he welcomed the government's moves to reduce exclusions, the CRE want a specific target for a reduction in black pupil exclusions to be set, similar to the commitment to reduce the overall figure for exclusions by a third in five years.
A report from the government's Social Exclusion Unit has recommended that schools which have a particularly high level of exclusions, particularly of children from ethnic minorities, should have additional inspections from Ofsted in an attempt both the discourage unnecessary exclusions and to examine the roots of the problem.
Among the causes of the overall rise in exclusions, the Social Exclusion Unit has suggested that the competition in academic standards and the introduction of performance tables might have encouraged schools to see the exclusion of problem children as a way of improving its levels of attainment.
Echoing this, Chris Myant said that he feared some pupils, including a disproportionately large number of black pupils, might be forced out of education because schools saw this as a convenient short cut in dealing with behaviour problems.