Poverty can see no colours

25th March 2005 at 00:00
It is important to respond to the differing needs of pupils, but we need to keep an eye on the bigger picture. As a multi-cultural society we need to live, work and play with people of diverse backgrounds, and preparation for this begins at school.

Segregating pupils according to ethnicity is not the answer - that undermines cohesion and plays into the hands of extremists in our society who would rather the races were kept apart (TES, March 11).

How far can one go with such an approach? Separate classes of pupils taught by teachers of their own race or ethnic group?

Did not Calderdale education authority get into trouble for providing segregated education under the same legislation that the Commission for Racial Equality was created to promote?

Many schools are already successfully addressing the needs of African-Caribbean students and other underachieving groups. But their approach differs from that promulgated by Trevor Phillips in that they are guided by the philosophy of differentiation, rather than segregation.

We must bear in mind that the problem of underachievement affects many groups. There is a high level of underachievement among poor Pakistani pupils and poor white children. My own report, Underachievement of White Disadvantaged Pupils, backs this up.

Based on data from the Department for Education and Skills, it pointed out that 471,711 white pupils left school with no qualifications in 2003, compared with 18,383 black children.

I believe the reason little is being done in response to white underachievement is that no one is speaking up for this group. As the CRE is concerned for all ethnic groups, perhaps it should take up the fight on their behalf.

Karamat Iqbal

Diversity consultant



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