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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 08:51 GMT
Black boys separate classes idea
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Black boys' exam results are below average
Black boys may have to be separated from classmates to help improve school performance, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality has suggested.

Trevor Phillips also suggested black fathers not living with their sons should be denied access if they refused to attend parents' evenings.

But teachers have warned the ideas could fall foul of anti-racism laws.

Last year 36% of Black Caribbean pupils in England got five or more C-grades at GCSE. The national average is 52%.

'Embrace the unpalatable'

Mr Phillips said a lack of self-esteem and positive role models for black boys also compounded the problem, as well as an attitude that being clever is not cool.

"If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately in some classes, then we should be ready for that," he said.

It may be necessary to "embrace some new if unpalatable ideas both at home and at school" to avoid the mistakes of the past 40 years, Mr Phillips said.

If they can't be bothered to turn up for parents' evening, should they expect automatic access to their sons?
Trevor Phillips

"A tough new strategy would compel black fathers to be responsible fathers.

"If they can't be bothered to turn up for parents' evening, should they expect automatic access to their sons?"

He also called for more male black teachers, tempting them with extra cash if necessary.

Mr Phillips' comments were not aimed at black girls - GCSE results in England show that "black African" girls are scoring higher grades than "white British" boys.

'Counter-productive'

Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, told The Times: "Clearly there is scope for schools to help all children who are doing badly.

"But to single out black children for special treatment could be counter-productive and even illegal."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, also rejected segregation.

"This has been an area of concern for people in education for a long time and I understand (Mr Phillips') motivation and welcome his interest.

"But I think with things like this that it needs to be left to the professional judgement of schools."

Shahid Malik, chairman of the Labour Party's ethnic minority forum and a former CRE commissioner, said that there was scope within the existing equality laws for such "positive action".

He said he thought Mr Phillips comments had been taken slightly out of context, but that "many African-Caribbean people would feel it was a debate whose time had come".

'Demonised for failure'

Simon Woolley, co-ordinator of Operation Black Vote, said the issue was "complex" - citing social factors such as poor housing and fractured family life.

"I would prefer to focus on these things first before we start blaming the victims - and demonise them for their failure.

"However, it is true that the bling-bling and gangster rap culture does not help."

Former chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, told BBC News he was sceptical and believed shortcomings in schools were down to a failure to teach literacy, a failure of expectation and a failure to develop an appropriate vocational curriculum.

"I am not sure myself that dividing up the children, teaching black boys separately, is the answer," he said.

If it's a scheme to help their education then how can it be racist?
James Bucknall, Scotland

In filming for BBC's Inside Out programme, Mr Phillips returned to his old school in Wood Green, north London.

He described himself as "one of the few lucky ones" to escape the fate of most of his generation.

Mr Phillips, who received an OBE in 1999, has made controversial statements in the past.

Last October he wrote an article which seemed to suggest he believed policemen in general are racist - an allegation he denied.

Inside Out will be broadcast at 1930 GMT on Monday on BBC One in the London area.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Trevor Phillips visits a US school to see a trial project



SEE ALSO:
Duncan Smith opens black school
21 Feb 05 |  Education
Ethnic minorities improve at GCSE
24 Feb 05 |  Education
Black girls overtake white boys
24 Feb 04 |  Education
Profile: Trevor Phillips
08 Oct 04 |  UK


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