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Friday Forum

Professor Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley hospital and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London

"There might be lots of reasons why there are racial problems in a school and teachers should never jump to conclusions. They should always take their time to listen. Often, however, there will be powerful individuals who are willing to fight the cause of a larger group. Those people have to be targeted and brought on side.

"One of the key issues about two groups who are deeply alienated is that the more they get to know each other, the less myths and misperceptions will arise. But there has to be an incentive: knowledge of one another and contact with one another is the direct mechanism for combating prejudice, but there has to be a positive benefit in working together.

"In this case, all groups would have seen the benefit in break-dancing. It has a strong competitive element and street cred, and there has to be this kind of appeal. Teachers saying they are going to set up a project that will stop students fighting on racial grounds will get nowhere; they have to create an activity that all the key players will want to get involved with. The effect of that activity is what you are looking for - that students will be spending time together and getting to know one another in a true sense."

Raj Persaud will hold an online behaviour clinic at www.tes.co.uk on November 3

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