Blacks 'singled out for expulsions'

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The Independent Online
RACISM IN schools is contributing to a "disproportionate" number of black pupils being expelled or suspended, two leading charities said yesterday.

The Children's Society and The Runnymede Trust called for tough targets to cut exclusions among ethnic minorities and said local authorities had to confront racism. Campaigners fear teachers may show inadvertent prejudice against black pupils. Black children are six times more likely to be expelled or suspended from school than their white counterparts, according to government figures, but fewer than half of local authorities keep a record of ethnic minority exclusions.

Black pupils also under-perform in exams. In 1996, 45 per cent of white pupils gained five or more good GCSEs, compared with only 23 per cent of black pupils. But research has found that black youngsters are no more likely than whites to be disruptive.

A conference organised by the two charities yesterday called on ministers to issue practical guidelines to help schools cut exclusions and race- related incidents. Campaigners want teachers to be trained in race relations and all schools to have an explicit anti-racist policy.

Ministers have pledged to cut exclusions by a third, and have written to local authorities with high numbers of ethnic minority pupils expelled or suspended urging them to tackle the problem.

Ian Sparks, chief executive of The Children's Society, said "The issue has to be tackled head on rather than hoping that by setting targets to lower exclusions overall the issue for black children will go away by itself.

"If the Government is serious about this we need to see specific targets set to lower the rate of exclusion for black children and schools given every support to achieve them.

"Racial tension, such as name-calling or bullying in the playground, can result in fights or truancy that in the end may lead to exclusion if not tackled. Many schools are already doing excellent work in this area and it is vital that their successes are shared with others. Unless we see specific strategies on race introduced the general standards in education might rise and general exclusion figures may drop but too many Caribbean children will continue to be excluded".

Sukhyinder Stubbs, chief executive of The Runnymede Trust, added: "The Lawrence inquiry has highlighted the extent of discrimination and disadvantage many black youths face in society today. The challenge for schools is to ensure that all children achieve equal outcomes from their educational experiences. This need is now urgent; we cannot afford to fail another generation of black youth".

t Charles Clarke, the schools minister, said: "Children get one chance at school, but every day thousands miss out on their education because they are playing truant or because they have been excluded. The fact that some ethnic minority pupils, such as African-Caribbean children, are much more likely to be excluded than the rest of the school population is of particular concern.

"This is not acceptable. All children must have the same opportunities to succeed..."