Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 13:23 GMT
Blair backs lessons against racism
Schools should "value cultural diversity", says report
The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has emphasised the importance of education in preventing racism.
His remarks follow the recommendation of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report that lessons in anti-racism should be included in the National Curriculum.
Under the heading Prevention and the Role of Education, the inquiry report says:
"That consideration be given to amendment of the National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society.
"That local education authorities and school governors have the duty to create and implement strategies in their schools to prevent and address racism.
"Such strategies to include:
The mother of the murdered black teenager has welcomed the report's emphasis on education.
"For a long time I have talked about education as the key," Mrs Lawrence said.
"I truly believe in education as gaining and imparting knowledge. Our history, our background, is what separates us.
At present, schools are not specifically instructed to promote racial awareness in lessons, but subjects such as religious education and history provide opportunities for teachers to explore the issue with pupils.
More explicit guidelines for teachers may result from the review of the National Curriculum being carried out by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).
One option being examined is the introduction of compulsory "preparation for adult life" lessons into the secondary school curriculum. These would tackle issues including racism, cultural differences, family life and drugs.
The government has already signalled its support for the teaching of "citizenship" in schools.
In Scotland - which is not covered by the National Curriculum - schools are provided with broad guidelines about what they should teach.
Those relating to personal and social development lessons refer explicitly to the need to teach pupils about ethnic and racial diversity.
In Northern Ireland, "education for mutual understanding" has been taught as a "cross-curricular theme" in the province's schools since 1989.
Designed to break down barriers between the unionist and nationalist communities, it promotes an awareness of the beliefs of the two communities through subjects such as history and literature.
Following the publication of the inquiry report, Mr Blunkett said: "The tragedy of Stephen Lawrence's death shows how much more needs to be done to promote social justice in our communities.
"This is about how we treat each other and, importantly, how we learn to respect ourselves and one another as citizens. That learning comes from within the home, at school and the wider community.
"That is why we are promoting the teaching of citizenship at school, to help children learn to grow up in a society that cares and to have real equality of opportunity for all."
Too many children from ethnic minorities were underachieving at school, said Mr Blunkett, while black pupils were more likely to be expelled or suspended from lessons.
He announced that attempts to tackle such problems would include calling on the Office for Standards in Education to conduct special annual inspections of schools with high levels of exclusion - including those which exclude disproportionate numbers of ethnic minority pupils.