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Ministers attacked over race research

The Department for Education and Employment has shown an "ostrich-like" refusal to address the problem of black under-achievement, the Commission for Racial Equality says, attacking the failure to introduce compulsory ethnic monitoring.

The CRE accused the DFEE of muddled-thinking and neglect as it responded to figures in last week's TES which showed Caribbean pupils score well below their peers in maths and science.

In a letter to The TES CRE chairman Herman Ouseley also blamed the Office for Standards in Education for sitting on research thought to be the most substantial in the field for the last decade.

"The data catalogues a disaster in achievement levels for Afro-Caribbean pupils," says Mr Ouseley. "It is presided over by an ostrich-like DFEE which takes no steps to determine the situation and none to remedy it.

"The case for detailed ethnic monitoring is made by what it reveals. When failure is identified it can be engaged, resources directed and strategies for improvement implemented. For the DFEE not to drive this process is a dereliction of duty.

"The department has argued that the collection of sufficient ethnic data will be an unacceptable burden on schools. This is Alice in Wonderland logic. The burden is being carried by too many Afro-Caribbean children.

"It is difficult to take seriously claims made by the DFEE and OFSTED to have a commitment to raising achievement when they signally fail to support African-Caribbean children in raising theirs, and when the excellent and important research for OFSTED by David Gillborn and Caroline Gipps remains unpublished."

Last week's TES showed that in Birmingham, Caribbean boys scored only a third of the male average in maths and science GCSEs, figures backed by a national study from the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the National Foundation for Educational Research.

A spokeswoman from the DFEE said: "We have to strike a balance between collecting the information we need and placing an undue burden on schools. "

She said that basic ethnic monitoring will be supplemented with figures from the OFSTED and from ad hoc surveys.

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