Race chief slates schools

24th January 2003 at 00:00
New CRE boss Trevor Phillips accuses teachers of double standards when dealing with black and white pupils

WHITE boys need to be "nutters" to be expelled while black pupils are excluded all too easily, according to the new chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips.

Mr Phillips, chairman of the London assembly and a TV producer, said the CRE should make the Office for Standards in Education check that schools are complying with the Race Relations Act.

He said that he did not believe the school system was riddled with racist teachers, but he did blame schools for the underachievement of black pupils.

"We are experiencing in our streets a level and intensity of violence which I believe is ineluctably associated with the failure of our school system with particular groups of students," he said. "For a black boy to be expelled, it's easy. If it is a white boy he has to be a serious nutter."

Black pupils are four times more likely to be excluded than other pupils nationally, according to research by Ofsted. And while 59 per cent of white pupils get five Cs or better at GCSE, only 22 per cent of African-Caribbean pupils do.

In a speech at London University's Institute of Education, shortly before his appointment to the pound;110,000-a-year post was announced, Mr Phillips referred to research by David Gillborn, of the institute, and Heidi Safia Mirza, of Middlesex University. They found that, in one of the six local authorities they examined, African-Caribbean pupils began school achieving 20 per cent above average but at 16 were 21 per cent below.

"The most persuasive, even devastating point they make is this: the failure of black children is not principally about class, family circumstances or about motivation," said Mr Phillips. "It is about schools."

Mr Phillips recently completed a Channel 4 series Second Chance where a black 14-year-old excluded from his inner-London school excelled after being sent to Downside, the private Catholic boarding school. It will be broadcast in the spring. He sent his two daughters to the private North London Collegiate school.

Mr Phillips said that if inspectors forced schools to uphold the Race Relations Act it would create better opportunities for ethnic-minority pupils.The Act requires all schools to have a race equality policy and monitor the impact of all policies and procedures on pupils and staff. For example, they must assess whether black boys are more likely to be excluded or ethnic-minority staff are less likely to be promoted.

Some ethnic-minority teachers said they were not even aware schools had an equality policy. Lisa Alabaksh, assistant head of Kingsland school, Hackney, told a General Teaching Council for England meeting in east London this week: "Some of us weren't even aware there were these policies in our schools. The feeling is it was tokenistic."

A website of anti-racist guidance and resources for schools produced by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is still awaiting Department for Education and Skills' approval. Respect for All was due at the end of 2001.

The CRE plans to ask why it has still not been launched.

Diary, 27

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