Racism blights Catholic life

4th July 2003 at 01:00
Many black and Asian children feel rejected in Church's schools and prejudice is widespread. Emily Clark reports

A quarter of ethnic-minority pupils say they have suffered racism and prejudice in Roman Catholic schools.

A study launched by the Catholic Education Service this week reported that one child said her teacher had called her a "cute black monkey", and another was told that only black girls caused trouble. Many of those surveyed expressed feelings of rejection, paranoia and cynicism.

Bernadette O'Keefe, co-author of the report, said: "This is a disappointing reflection of our society. It is not surprising that ethnic- minority students do not have the amount of confidence one might hope for.

"Schools must deal with racism more effectively and there should be a forum for students to register their complaints."

Only 43 per cent of pupils from ethnic minorities said that they felt at home in a Catholic school; nearly one in five said they did not.

More than half the 483 respondents, aged 11 to 18, believe there is considerable discrimination and prejudice in British society and only one third believe they have the same chance in the job market as white people.

Stephen Corriette, director of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, said: "There needs to be a concerted effort to understand other cultures, faiths and traditions. Schools are becoming more aware of the need for policies which ensure against racism."

The Ethnicity, identity and achievement in Catholic education study follows the launch of the Government's Aim higher document in March, which highlighted the underachievement of Caribbean, African and Pakistani pupils. It found the proportion of ethnic-minority students in Catholic secondary schools is just one percentage point less than in other maintained schools Respect supplement

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