Black churches plan to set up their own schools

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BLACK CHURCHES are considering setting up their own schools because they believe state education is failing blacks.

Leaders of Black Majority Churches are angry they have been excluded from a government initiative to set up after-school and Saturday clubs to raise standards.

Black churches have for 30 years been running supplementary schools on Saturday because of fears that African and Caribbean pupils are not being taught the basics. Most charge a small fee.

Yesterday black churches said their decision to investigate full-time church schools was a protest at the Government's decision to give schools and local education authorities control over supplementary schooling.

Mark Sturge, general director of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, said: "It has been shown time and again that black pupils are under-achieving because teachers do not have high enough expectations of them. Some pupils who are treated as though they are educationally subnormal find their level of attainment rises very quickly within a month of them starting at supplementary school.

"Now the Government has published a paper extending the principle of supplementary schools giving extra support after school and on Saturday but using schools and local authorities, the very people who so badly failed our children in the first place."

He said nearly every other faith group had a significant number of its own schools and many black church leaders now believed they should follow.

Last year the Government agreed to provide state funding for the first time to a Seventh Day Adventist school, the John Loughborough School in north London, which has many Afro-Caribbean pupils. Mr Sturge said he had been talking to John Loughborough.

Local education authorities have been given the responsibility to decide whether a new school should be set up, using government guidance. Councils have to consider whether the school will be viable, whether it has enough capital and whether it will follow the national curriculum.

The Department for Education said that proposers of new voluntary-aided schools catering for particular faiths would need to consult local education authorities and other interested parties. The proposals would then be considered by new- school organisation committees, with an independent schools adjudicator as the final arbiter. Ministers will soon issue guidance on the criteria to be used.