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12th September 2003 at 01:00
Complementing Teachers: A Practical Guide to Promoting Race Equality in Schools

Book and CD-Rom

Runnymede TrustGranada Learning pound;30 plus VAT.

Concern about the relative under-achievement of black students is not just an English phenomenon. Researchers in the US have for many years documented the achievement gap between black and white students. In the US, dropout rates, exclusions and poor test scores are most marked among African American and Latino students.

Race equality and cultural diversity have never enjoyed such prominence in this country. This is due not only to the well-publicised failure of sections of the ethnic minority community to achieve their potential and the high rate of exclusion, but more importantly to the publication of the McPherson report into the circumstances surrounding the murder 10 years ago of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The report's findings, that the Metropolitan Police force was institutionally racist and that other police forces and institutions including schools were also likely to exhibit the characteristics of institutional racism, prompted a heated nationwide debate which led to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. This places specific responsibilities on schools to produce written race equality policies detailing how they will promote race equality in every aspect of their work.

The policy puts the spotlight on every function of the school that might directly or indirectly advance or hinder the progress of ethnic minority students. In essence, schools are charged with demonstrating that they are not acting against the interests of any sections of their community. The Act also requires schools to be proactive in promoting policies that will remove the wide discrepancies in the performance of highest and lowest achievers.

Given the urgency of schools delivering effective race equality policies, Complementing Teachers will be welcomed by all teachers and officials.

Parents should also find it helpful in gaining a fuller understanding of what should be happening in our schools as a result of the Act.

This extremely well researched book offers an excellent range of practical advice, with strong links to the national curriculum and strategies at all key stages. The authors recognise the pivotal role of the head and leadership team in ensuring not only that there is genuine commitment, but also that robust structures are in place to underpin the agreed policy.

There is much useful guidance on leadership and governance; teaching and learning strategies; working with refugees; asylum-seekers; Gypsy and traveller children and schools with limited numbers of ethnic minority students. The impressive section dealing with national curriculum subjects includes resource material and exemplar lesson plans. Teachers will find this section particularly helpful if they haven't had the opportunity to think about how the national curriculum can be used to support race equality and awareness-raising. The final section on support information is invaluable in providing a wealth of guidance on highly relevant areas such as the statutory framework.

Although there is much to praise in this publication, there are inevitable omissions. The crucial role played by parents and carers and the wishes of young people themselves are not addressed. These important factors must be considered when discussing achievement and under-achievement.

William Atkinson is head of Phoenix High School, west London

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