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Ethnic equality

Your two articles and leader of September 6 about an Office for Standards in Education report on changes in ethnic minority GCSE achievement claim that while there has been an overall improvement in the past decade, this has been combined with a growing gap between the highest and lowest achieving ethnic groups in some local authorities in recent years.

However, they fail to cite any evidence on the question of whether ethnic minorities as a whole or any specific groups have enjoyed more or less than the national average improvement in any period, which is surely the primary issue of concern about ethnic minority equity.

In fact, the only national answer that would appear to be beyond impressionistic speculation is that due to the abject failure of OFSTED and other central statistical agencies to monitor such a vital equal opportunities issue, we are still essentially ignorant about the national facts of it. Rather than the desperate attempts of the media to manufacture some shocking headlines about increasing ethnic inequity, the truly shocking headline news should rather have been that OFSTED's report was not based on inspection evidence because it has not collected any.

One possibility worthy of further investigation is that ethnic minorities may have enjoyed above average improvements recently. Between 1992 and 1995 the national average increase in GCSE point scores was 3.6 points. Local authorities with some of the highest concentrations of ethnic minorities showed average and above improvement. For example, nine of the inner London authorities - including Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets - fall in this category, along with Birmingham, Bradford, Brent and others.

Moreover, I note that the evidence from Brent cited in your report - that Asians, Whites and African-Caribbeans enjoyed increases of 8.0, 5.4 and 6.4 GCSE points repsectively between 1991 and 1993 - shows most strikingly that all these ethnic groups in Brent enjoyed well above the national average improvement of 3.5 points in that period.


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