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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 04:48 GMT 05:48 UK
Tory bid to select pupils by race
Secondary school pupils
Conservatives say selecting pupils by race could tackle social division
Some schools would be able to select pupils by race in order to improve community relations under plans being considered by the Conservative Party.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said city academies could use racial selection to unite communities divided by race or religion.

Government figures in the Observer show some schools in England have a pupil majority from one ethnic group.

Ministers say there are plans to tackle this through fostering community links.

'Positive role'

Mr Willetts said his party had drawn up its proposals because there were parts of England where towns were "divided by race and religion into two very distinct groups".

"In those communities which are deeply divided we could use the creation of new academies to improve links between the communities by setting the aim of recruiting students from both those communities," he said.

Although the Conservatives did not want to "bus children around", the party did see the "potential for a positive role in tackling the growing ethnic segregation in our schools", he added.

The Tory plans came as the Sunday paper revealed Department for Education and Skills figures showing some schools in England were becoming overwhelmingly white, Asian or black.

The paper said Blackburn with Darwen council in Lancashire was one of the most divided areas, with four out of nine secondary schools attracting more than 90% of pupils from one ethnic group.

The BBC's Panorama programme has previously reported on how increased separation and segregation between Muslim Asians and white people has been dividing communities in Blackburn.

'Sleepwalking'

Former schools minister Stephen Byers told the Observer the figures showed parts of the country were "sleepwalking towards the segregation of schools on racial grounds".

"With no public debate, we are enshrining division and discrimination at an early age," he said.

But Education Secretary Alan Johnson told the paper the problem was being dealt with through "a new duty to promote community cohesion" which comes into force in England in September.

"This can involve twinning and sharing teachers so that this kind of problem can be tackled," he said.

Meanwhile Conservative leader David Cameron said in the Mail on Sunday that the row over grammar schools was at an end.

There had been anger within the party at the dropping of the idea that selective schools could help social mobility.

Education's future

Instead of grammar schools and selection by academic ability, Mr Cameron has promised more city academies - the privately sponsored state schools championed by Prime Minister Tony Blair - and more streaming and setting within schools.

Writing in the paper, he said the row had been "about moving the Conservative Party on from slogans such as 'Bring back grammar schools'" to addressing "the real question about the future of education".

He accused some of his critics of being "at risk of becoming inverse class warriors".

"I may be a white, fortysomething old Etonian, but that doesn't constrain what I do," he said.

"As an individual with three children aged five or under, I worry more about finding good state schools than almost anything else."

The Conservatives would be "a motor of aspiration for the brightest kids from the poorest homes", he added.




SEE ALSO
Britain's growing ethnic division
07 May 07 |  Panorama
Twinning plan to stop race divide
07 May 07 |  Education
Racial 'time bomb' in UK schools
26 Apr 07 |  Education

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