This week's finding that black children in some parts of Britain are being excluded from school at 15 times the rate of white classmates is deeply disturbing. Recent figures show that exclusion is often the first step in a life of crime (page 2).
Nationally, black pupils are more than three times as likely as whites to be excluded - a statistic which suggests a less than even-handed approach to different ethnic groups. However, these broad figures may owe as much to social class as to racism. Nearly everywhere, working-class children are excluded more frequently than those from middle-class families. Since there are far fewer black middle-class families than there are white, arithmetic alone suggests that black exclusions will be higher.
But the TES's analysis illuminates the extremes buried within the national statistics. Why should such disparate areas as Merseyside and Essex exclude 10 or 11 times as many black pupils as whites? In the week in which we heard that black people are five times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched by police, the Commission for Racial Equality is right to question what lies behind these alarming exclusion figures.