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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Schools' race relations challenge
Secondary schools in England should fall foul of Ofsted inspectors if they do not take race relations seriously enough, a government adviser says.

They are all being sent "community cohesion standards" to aim for.

The aim of the Home office guidelines is to tackle discrimination and promote good race relations.

Keith Ajegbo, head of Deptford Green School, London, who chaired the group behind them, said "going through the hoops" should not be enough.

The idea arose from the Cantle report on the disturbances in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley in 2001.

That said that schools were central to breaking down the barriers between young people.

They define a cohesive community as one where everyone has a common vision and sense of belonging.

People's different backgrounds would be appreciated and valued and would not affect their "life opportunities".

Those from different backgrounds would develop "strong and positive relationships".

Exclusion rates

Among the objectives are that testing does not put any group at a disadvantage.

The curriculum has to be accessible to all and allow everyone to learn about their wider communities.

Behaviour and discipline policies are supposed to reflect this mutual respect and acceptance of diversity.

And, unlike now, there should be no significant differences in exclusion rates between social or ethnic groups.

Mr Ajegbo said the aim was to support the excellent work already developed by many schools across the country.

"If you are an inner city, multi-ethnic school you have probably thought this through anyway because the issues are pressing," he told BBC News Online.

But teachers from minority backgrounds should feel able to go to schools in other areas.

He did not think that legislation or quotas were the best ways forward.


Being realistic, a lot of schools would want to work through the standards - but others would regard it as an exercise in "going through the hoops".

The test should be: if you were a school with poor "community cohesion" but in some regards achieving well, could you be put into the Ofsted classification of having "serious weaknesses"?

In his view the answer was "yes".

"Everyone sees league tables and Sats as important, because if you don't you are hammered," he said.

Community cohesion should be regarded in the same way.

But change, in areas such as Bradford - where some good work was being done - had to come from the community itself.

That was why schools were so important in the process, Mr Ajegbo said.

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