Academics say it is an issue of culture, not race
Black caribbean pupils in England are twice as likely as white pupils to be categorised as having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, a study of more than six million pupils has found.
Academics at Warwick University found this to be the case even after allowances were made for the effects that gender, age and socio-economic background have on the incidence of behavioural problems.
Steve Strand and Geoff Lindsay, of the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research, found there was no evidence - contrary to work in the United States - that black pupils were more likely to have moderate learning difficulties.
Dr Strand said: "The interesting thing is that, when you look back, black Caribbean children have been over-represented as having moderate learning difficulties. This shows no over-representation now, so that picture of 40 years ago has changed.
"But what does seem to be still an issue is an over-representation for social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. It goes against theorists who like to talk about black and white, because this affects only black Caribbean children, not black African children. So it is not about colour, it is more about culture."
Dr Strand said one of main issues is that there is no objective definition of problematic behaviour. "What is a behavioural problem in one school may not be in another one. It is not entirely subjective, but there is a social process involved in making that judgement," he said.
He said the figures alone could not answer the question of whether there was genuinely more need for behavioural, emotional and social support for black Caribbean children or whether the over-representation was due to different teacher expectations and stereotyping.
"Schools need to consider the individual pupil and be aware that this is a national issue," he said.
The 2005 pupil census shows about 3 per cent have statements of special educational needs.
`Ethnic disproportionality in special education: Evidence from an English population study' will be published in a forthcoming issue of `The Journal of Special Education'.