Race inequality starts at five

13th October 2000 at 01:00
Teacher training needs reform if black children are to stop losing out at school. Robert Boylands reports

AFRICAN-CARIBBEAN children start school at the same level as other pupils but by age 10 have fallen behind in their studies, according to a review of race equality in Britain.

And at 16, the proportion of African-Caribbean students achieving five good GCSEs is less than half the national average.

Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils are below the national average at age 11, but then steadily close the gap between themselves and the rest. In some authorities they perform at or above the national average at GCSE.

The report is by the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, which was established in 1998 by the Runnymede Trust - an independent charity that campaigns on race issues. It was launched by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, this week.

The commission says the monitoring of ethnic-minority pupils' performance by schools, councils and the Department for Education and Employment is ineffective. It recommends that the Government require authorities and schools to keep more detailed statistics on ethnicity.

It also wants race equality and cultural diversity to be properly covered in initial teacher training, and be mandatory in all management training for headteachers and deputy heads.

Governent targets should be set to cut the disproportionately high number of exclusions of pupils from some ethnic backgrounds.

One of the report's authors, Sally Tomlinson, emeritus professor of education at Goldsmiths' College, said: "Education is a crucial institution in creating non-racist, non-discriminatory communities."

A Commission for Racial Equality spokesman said: "Anybody who looks at education is going to be struck by the immense possibilities there are, but also the deep problems of unequal access when it comes to many ethnic-minority groups."

The National Union of Teachers accepts there needs to be more detailed monitoring of the performance of black and Asian pupils.

A spokesman said: "If you don't have the basic information to know where the problems lie, it's very difficult to address them.

"There may be problems of low self-esteem or lack of opportunities among pupils from specific ethnic minorities that need to be tackled with government help."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have to to make a big effort in terms of teacher training courses as there's no "one-size-fits-all" solution that's going to cover all the needs of the different ethnic groups." Serving teachers also needed training on the issue, he said.

Platform, 17

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