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EDITIONS
Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 20:03 GMT
Task force to help black pupils
Students
Black pupils are six times more likely to be expelled
A new education task force is being set up to help tackle the problem of black pupils underachieving in England's schools.

Black pupils get worse exam results and are six times more likely than white children to be expelled.

Two thousand black parents and teachers attended a conference in London on Saturday aimed at exploring ways to improve the performance of black pupils.

And the government is now planning to bring together the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Teacher Training Agency, researchers, unions and head teachers to address the problem.

We are undertaking a fundamental reappraisal of policy and practices

Department for Education
Labour MP Diane Abbott, who organised and chaired the event, said the "massive turnout" showed how concerned black parents were at the way schools were "failing" their children.

She says parents and teachers must be a part of the solution, and is calling for more government funding for Saturday schools run by black people.

Schools minister Baroness Ashton, speaking at the London Schools and the Black Child conference, promised more help.

And a spokesman for the Department for Education told BBC News Online the task force was aimed at removing the barriers in education and tackling black underachievement.

"We are undertaking a fundamental reappraisal of policy and practices," he said.

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott says parents and teachers must be a part of the solution

Efforts to help achieve their goals include an improved system of collecting data by ethnicity and a recruitment drive to attract more black teachers.

The Race Relations Amendment Act means all public bodies have to have a written policy on race and equality.

And from January, according to the spokesman, collected data will allow the government to hold education authorities accountable.

The task force will aim to increase the number of ethnic minority students training to be teachers to 9% by 2005, reflecting the ethnic minority population nationally.

But schools minister Baroness Ashton told the conference it was not just a question of employing more black teachers.

Poor pay

"We must make sure all our teachers are trained to be fair and just so the pupils that are discriminated against, cannot be on the basis of their ethnicity, religion or language."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone told the conference the Greater London Authority could help co-ordinate better education across the city.

"Low attainment is at the root of so many other inequalities later in life, leading to low or no-skilled occupations, poor pay with minimal prospects, joblessness, under-employment, and eventually poverty in old age," he said.

"It is unacceptable that we continue to let down our young people in this way."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The James Westhead
"A growing number of black parents are prepared to pay"
Teacher Tayo Matti
"The moment these children reach secondary school they are totally different"
Labour MP Diane Abbott
"We need more black teachers and to support the black teachers we have"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Are black pupils being failed by Britain's schools?Black education
Your views on black pupils in schools
See also:

16 Mar 02 | Education
16 Mar 02 | Mike Baker
07 Jan 02 | Education
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10 Mar 99 | Education
12 Nov 98 | Education
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