Labour accused of racial 'naivety'

4th September 1998 at 01:00
The Government's approach to race and ethnic diversity in its education policy is "naive multiculturalism," according to a leading race-in-education specialist.

Despite its attempts to reverse the "de-racialisation" of social policy during the Thatcher years, the Labour Government has subscribed to "a weak form of social justice", which focuses on equality of access and provision rather than tackling inequalities in experience and outcome.

As an example, David Gillborn of the London Institute of Education cites the way the Government has approached language support. The Department for Education and Employment sees minority communities as being "particularly at risk of under-achievement" because they do not have English as a first language. This is despite a wealth of data showing wide variations in achievement between different ethnic groups, with Indian students often doing as well or better than their white counterparts.

Paradoxically, despite the DFEE's view of low achievement, it has declined to put more resources into Section 11.

Gillborn says Labour's policies are colour-blind on exclusion and on raising achievement. While black students are up to six times more likely to be excluded than their white peers, the Social Exclusion Unit fails in each of its 16 recommendations on reducing exclusions to cite race-specific targets.

Reva Klein

"Naive multiculturalism: social justice, 'race' and education policy under New Labour", by David Gillborn of London's Institute of Education. Tel: 0171-612 6811

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