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HMI urged to look at racism

THE record of Scottish schools in effectively handling racist incidents and incorporating anti-

racism in the curriculum is "patchy", Gus John, visiting professor in Strathclyde University's education faculty and former director of education in Hackney, has told a conference in Edinburgh.

Professor John said: "Some schools and local education authorities have good practice but others are bad, both at identifying the problem and at doing something about it."

The Executive has an equality strategy in preparation. Within it specific stress should be laid on racism, Professor John said. "What is necessary is for individual schools to be given guidance on how to self-evaluate and monitor the robustness of their strategies." The degree to which that is done should be a routine part of school inspections, he urged.

The conference was organised by Lothian and Borders Police and Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council, which has found that only 62 per cent of schools in its area are actively working towads the elimination of racism. Rohini Lakhanpal, chair of its education subcommittee, asked: "What about the other 40 per cent? Is it that the problem does not exist? Or is it acceptable not to do anything about it?"

Chief Constable Sir Roy Cameron called for stronger partnerships to tackle racism. "If we depend on any single agency to go it alone, then our endeavours will fail. I urge us all to join in a social contract to root out racism."

Colin Finlayson, headteacher of James Gillespie's High in Edinburgh where 20 per cent of pupils have English as a second language, outlined how the informal curriculum reflected cultural diversity. So far no racist incident had been recorded in the school, "but is that the result of our work or is there a problem in young people reporting racism?"

Saroj Lal, former director of Lothian Racial Equality Council, asked: "Why are there not more black teachers in schools? I suspect it is because the school and staffroom culture is very negative for black teachers."

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