Blacks blame racism for failure

African-Caribbeans feel let down by the education system. Diane Spencer reports. Black children, especially boys, fail at school mainly because of racism and stereotyping, according to a research study by Leicester University.

African-Caribbean pupils in Leicestershire are five times more likely to be excluded from school than white children. Fewer go on to further and higher education; and they said they felt marginalised.

John Benyon, director of the Scarman Centre for the study of public order at Leicester University, said the findings reflected the national picture. This was depressingly similar to the climate that resulted in the 1985 Swann report on the underachievement of black children and the Scarman report on the Brixton riots in 1981, he said.

Although more than half of parents in the survey chose education as their highest priority, they thought that the system was failing their children.

Of these, 70 per cent blamed racism and discrimination among teachers. More than a third said they favoured separate schools.

The report is based on a small sample of interviews with parents and children from the Leicestershire black community - 2.4 per cent of the population - as part of a five-year survey of about 600 adults.

The African-Caribbean children said they felt left out because teachers paid more attention to Asians and whites.

One pupil said: "There's nothing about black people in any of the lessons. I think that is wrong especially as we have to learn things about everyone else."

Another said: "I don't get anything much out of school. The lessons are so boring. It's the teachers' fault. They don't pay me any attention. I think it's because I'm black. All of the black kids are treated like me."

Professor Benyon said he was surprised to discover the "complete lack of ethnic monitoring" in the education authority. It was hard to discover how many black teachers were employed and the number of school exclusions had only just begun to be monitored.

One parent said his son was excluded for fighting, but the white boy he fought for making racist remarks was still in school. "It's a disgrace," he said.

The report urges Afro-Caribbeans to campaign for better partnerships between parents and schools in order to influence the new unitary authorities which will replace the county next April.

It recommends that each new LEA should set up a steering group with representatives from the black community to monitor the attainment of black children and improve policy and funding.

Schools should be "strongly and visibly proactive" against discrimination, the report said.

It also recommends that black parents should be encouraged to set up a forum, and that teaching materials reflect black history and culture. The LEA should monitor achievement and the number of black teachers it employs, the report states.

Education Matters: African Caribbean people and schools in Leicestershire, Pounds 11.50, Scarman Centre, Leicester University, 6 Salisbury Road, Leicester, LE1 7QR

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