The facts are black and white

18th March 2005 at 00:00
It is not what Trevor Phillips said about the education of black boys that is worrying - it is the response to what he said.

Teachers' associations expressed horror. Keith Vaz MP felt that it all smacked of "educational apartheid". Chris Woodhead immediately wanted to tell us that other boys also had problems learning. Tony Sewell called it "crude segregation". Professor David Gillborn said that we "cannot separate the kids on the basis of ethnicity alone". The Department for Education and Skills said separation risked "stigmatising" black students.

Not one of these people said a word about the content of Trevor Phillips's suggestion. No one seemed to want to give a reasoned response based on the evidence, and on what is actually good for these students.

Trevor Phillips said: "If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately in some classes, then we should be ready for that." He did not call for black boys to be segregated. He spoke of a programme tried in the US which showed that in just a few months attainment levels had risen by about 12 per cent. He even added that he was not sure if this success would translate equally well into Britain.

Is there evidence that such segregation would help? Yes. Is there evidence that the good this might do is outweighed by other consequences? We do not know.

But as any scientist would tell you, let us look at the available evidence, build ourselves a little hypothesis and then test it before determining what to do next.

Dr F H Mikdadi

One Cedar Road

Charlton Down

Dorchester, Dorset

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