Teach black boys separately, says Phillips

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The Independent Online

Black boys should be taught separately from their white classmates to improve their performance at school, according to the head of Britain's race relations watchdog.

Black boys should be taught separately from their white classmates to improve their performance at school, according to the head of Britain's race relations watchdog.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said it may be necessary to examine the option of segregation because of the discrepancy between the academic achievements of black and white teenagers.

Low levels of self-esteem, an absence of positive role models and a culture where it was "not cool to be clever" were combining to affect the performance of Britain's black pupils, according to Mr Phillips.

While he acknowledged some might perceive his conclusions as "unpalatable", he insisted the steps were essential to protect future generations of black youths.

Mr Phillips made the comments after returning to his former school, White Hart Lane, in Wood Green, north London, as part of a BBC programme, to gain a deeper understanding of the problem.

He called for tougher action against black fathers as part of his plans to reverse the trend of academic under-achieving, questioning whether fathers of black pupils who failed to attend school parents' evenings should be denied access to their sons.

"If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately for some subjects, then we should be ready for that," Mr Phillips told BBC1's Inside Out programme.

"A tough new strategy would compel black fathers to be responsible fathers. If they can't be bothered to turn up for parents' evening, should they expect automatic access to their sons?"

Last month, figures showed the extent to which black teenagers were trailing behind white counterparts. While there were signs the gap has been narrowing, the results showed a clear discrepancy between black and white students.

Only 35.7 per cent of Black Caribbean pupils in England scored at least five C-grades at GCSE level last year, compared with the national average of 51.9 per cent.

Black Caribbean girls also performed significantly better than their male classmates, with 43.8 per cent achieving at least five-C grades compared to 27.3 per cent of black boys.

Mr Phillips also highlighted the need for a greater number of black teachers as role models in order to stem the trend of academic failure among black teenagers. "We need more male black teachers, tempting them with extra cash if necessary," he said. "I was one of the few lucky ones who escaped the fate of most black men of my generation.

"We need to embrace some new if unpalatable ideas both at home and at school. None of us, least of all the next generation of black children, can afford a repeat of the last 40 years."

Last September, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, also called for a significant increase in the number of black teachers in the capital's schools.

His comments followed a report showing black pupils are more likely to be suspended or expelled than other ethnic groups. Black pupils also believe they were being victimised by white teachers, according to the research.

Ministers launched a scheme to reverse the underachievement of ethnic minority pupils in April 2001, while a further £10m strategy was launched in 2003.

However, the notion of segregation in schools has long been controversial. David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools, recently sparked a row with his comments surrounding religious "segregation".

Mr Bell warned two months ago that the growth of Islamic faith schools posed a potential threat to the "coherence" of British society.

While he stated that cultural diversity should not lead to "segregation" in education, Muslim groups reacted angrily to his comments.

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