In a move which both surprised and delighted anti-racism campaigners, ministers unveiled a 10-point plan to improve the poor school records of some ethnic groups, particularly African-Caribbean boys.
The plan was announced in response to a report published yesterday by the school inspection body, Ofsted. It revealed an "unusually high" degree of conflict between white teachers and black pupils, even at infant and primary level. African-Caribbean pupils were up to six times more likely to be excluded from school than their white classmates. Asian pupils were subjected to "negative and patronising" stereotypes, with staff often assuming that their English was poor and that girls would be expected to marry early and stay at home, it said.
The report, commissioned from academics at London's Institute of Education, showed that while some ethnic minority groups, particularly Indians, were doing better than ever in public exams, others were improving only very slowly.
However, it added, initiatives in some local authority areas had made a huge difference. In Tower Hamlets, east London, for example, Bangladeshi pupils who had been given extra English teaching and who had become fully fluent did better than white pupils.
Teenagers from all ethnic minority groups stayed in education for longer than white students, with the majority of Pakistanis still learning full time at 19. However, they were less likely to apply to a traditional university and more likely to go on to a former polytechnic.
Cheryl Gillan, the junior education minister, asked schools inspectors to look at ways in which under-achievement and stereotyping could be tackled. A further report next year will spell out ways in which some schools have succeeded, and advise on future strategy.
Ethnic minority pupils will have their progress monitored through their national curriculum test results, and both the inspection and teacher- training systems might be reformed to place greater emphasis on their problems. In 1985, an official report proposed a similar scheme but it was rejected amid allegations that it was heavy-handed and patronising.
Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, welcomed the plan, but said it should have come sooner. "We want it implemented with haste and vigour. We have really missed a whole generation of young people who have underachieved, and that includes white working-class boys. We have got to address the failure to fully educate all our children."
The racial divide, page 3Reuse content