Black pupils 'held back by prejudice'

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Black boys do badly at school because teachers believe they are disruptive and unacademic, leaders of the Commission for Racial Equality said yesterday.

Twenty years after an official report accused schools of stereotyping Afro-Caribbean males, nothing has changed, the commission said.

One explanation may be that teachers are frightened by the sheer size of the boys and find their physical presence threatening, said Herman Ouseley, the commission's chair.

A report to be published shortly by the Office for Standards in Education is expected to underline the poor performance of black Caribbean boys in exams. Recent research shows that Afro-Caribbean boys lag far behind other ethnic minority groups in maths and science. They even do worse than white working class boys, whose underachievement was highlighted earlier this year by school inspectors.

The commission has written to Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, demanding national ethnic monitoring of pupils' achievement.

Mr Ouseley said Afro-Caribbean boys found it much harder than whites to secure training or jobs. "They are hooked into a cycle of failure."

In London, 62 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 are unemployed.

Mr Ouseley said: "We see a crisis developing in education with regard to children from particular ethnic backgrounds.

"A feature in all of this is that the black male is seen as a problem within schools. Undoubtedly teachers have said that and employers are saying it."

Philip Barnett, the commission's principal officer, said: "Teachers' attitudes and stereotyping have been on the agenda since the Swann report identified them in 1975."

A recent study by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the National Foundation for Educational Research which analysed the 1994 GCSE results in 14 authorities showed that most ethnic groups - black African, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese - make more progress at school than whites.

Only black Caribbean pupils fared worse, particularly in maths and science, where they scored an average one third of a grade below their white counterparts in maths and more than half a grade below them in science.

A Birmingham local authority study found that Afro-Caribbean boys did better than their white counterparts at primary school but fell behind at secondary school.

Around four times as many black Caribbeans as whites are excluded from school.

The commission says the Government should set national improvement targets for those ethnic groups that are failing and that a working party should be set up to investigate ways of reducing the number of Afro-Caribbean exclusions.

Local authorities should do more to support supplementary Saturday schools set up by Afro-Caribbean communities who are unhappy with their children's progress in mainstream schools, the commission believes. They should also do more to ensure that there are more well-qualified teachers from ethnic minorities.

Mr Ouseley said: "If we continue to overlook these problems, they are going to get worse and they will have dire consequences for our society.

"It is a waste of human resources. The state is picking up the tag. And there is a danger that these young people will be lured into unlawful activity."

How the races fare

Birmingham analysis based on 1995 GCSE results.

Percentage of boys getting grades A to C in maths:

Afro-Caribbean 8.6

Black African 14.3

Indian 34.2

White 32.2

Percentage of boys getting grades A to C in science:

Afro-Caribbean 12.4

Black African 28.6

Indian 44.1

White 36.9