Schools face race law crackdown

17th February 2006 at 00:00
A crackdown on all-white schools which do not promote racial equality and diversity has been announced.

It comes as some Welsh schools with few ethnic-minority pupils continue to ignore a legal requirement to draw up policy plans to tackle race, culture and diversity.

Inspection agency Estyn has been asked to inspect the race equality action plans of 200 primary and secondary schools as part of the review, expected to start in April. Schools whose policies fail to come up to scratch could be served with enforcement orders by the Commission for Racial Equality Cymru.

But Iwan Guy, acting director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, branded the action plans "as just another layer of bureaucracy for hard-pressed schools".

He said schools already tackled race equality and diversity as part of the curriculum and there was no need for schools without a mix of racial backgrounds to waste time drawing up such policies.

Chris Myant, director of CRE Cymru, said the intention of the review was not to "put the frighteners" on schools.

However, he said some schools should be made aware of the importance of teaching diversity for the sake of future racial harmony.

He said: "I really don't want to go down the road of serving enforcement orders. This review is all about informing schools, particularly all-white schools, of examples of good practice."

Estyn, the Assembly government and CRE Cymru are discussing the terms of the review. HMCI Susan Lewis criticised some schools for failing to draft adequate race equality plans in her annual report for 2004-05.

While most schools tackle discrimination in lessons, inspectors found many schools ignore guidance and legal requirements - and that some teachers use inappropriate words such as "coloured" to describe ethnic-minority people.

Meanwhile the Assembly government has announced a major drive to recruit more teachers from ethnic-minority backgrounds.

People from ethnic minorities are more likely to drop out of teacher-training courses, particularly in Wales, according to the Training and Development Agency for Schools, which is gathering evidence on the issue. The General Teaching Council for Wales says fewer than 100 newly-qualified teachers who completed induction by March 2005 were from ethnic minorities.

Sonia Sadar, a Pakistani teacher at Maindy primary in Newport, said: "This school has 70 per cent of its pupils from ethnic minority groups and we have excellent schemes to help them.

"However, it is so important to recruit more teachers from ethnic- minority backgrounds. Seeing a face of your colour in the classroom can really act as a role model. It is also important that schools without many ethnic-minority pupils teach their children about other cultures - we need our society to mix, make friends with each other, and integrate."

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