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Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 10:47 GMT


Education system racist - Ouseley

Pupils start school with equal promise but an attainment gap widens

Britain's education system is "institutionally racist", according to the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Sir Herman Ouseley.

Sir Herman pointed to the disproportionate level of under-achievement by black children in schools.

The explanation, he told The Times Educational Supplement (TES), was "institutional racism" which was "an inherent part of the education system".

[ image: There are problems recruiting teachers from ethnic minorities]
There are problems recruiting teachers from ethnic minorities
The commission defines institutional racism to mean that the practices and procedures or methods of working of an institution will have a worse impact on one ethnic group than another, whether or not that impact is intended.

Sir Herman's remarks come ahead of next week's publication of the Macpherson inquiry report into the investigation of the racist murder of the black London teenager Stephen Lawrence, and the wider lessons to be learned from the case.

He said: "Why is it that after almost 40 years of analysing and campaigning about this, so many black children are still under-achieving; that there are so few ethnic minority teachers; that bodies like Ofsted are so lacking in ethnic minority input?

"Many organisations have good intentions and excellent paper policies and many individuals try very hard, but the end result is still the same."

Sir Herman was responding to comments made by Althea Efunshile, Director of Education and Community Services in Lewisham, south London.

She told parents in Hackney, east London, this week that under-achievement and high exclusion rates for ethnic-minority children were evidence that racism was as endemic in education as in other public institutions.


The General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, Nigel de Gruchy, criticised Sir Herman's remarks.

"Such a blanket condemnation of the system is unjustified and profoundly unhelpful," he said.

"There could be other factors at play here, such as poverty. You might get similar results by comparing poor whites with well-to-do whites."

Statistics show no difference between the levels of attainment with which black and white children start school. But a gap widens by secondary school.

And black young men are three times as likely to be permanently excluded (expelled) from school than their white counterparts - in some areas, the figure is as high as 15%.

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