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New form for ethnic group

IF they can't find out a pupil's ethnic background teachers will have to guess, under Government proposals for the modified annual school census. The form, to be launched in January, will monitor the achievements of pupils from different ethnic groups for the first time. It will be used to target funding.

A Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) consultation paper says that if parents do not fill in the ethnic group question, the school should meet them or write with a freepost reply envelope. If parents do not reply within four weeks the school can ascribe an ethnc group.

The National Association of Headteachers warned the idea would result in inaccurate statistics. It will advise members not to put down pupils' ethnic group where parents fail to provide details. "It is wholly inappropriate to expect our members to second-guess in such circumstances. A person's ethnic group describes how they see themselves, not how others perceive them."

The DFEE said it had consulted the Commission for Racial Equality and would not comment until the consultation was completed after the general election in June.

Ceri Williams

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