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CHARITIES CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO SET TARGETS TO REDUCE NUMBER OF BLACK PUPIL EXCLUSIONS

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Two leading charities yesterday called on the government to set specific targets to tackle the disproportionate num...
Two leading charities yesterday called on the government to set specific targets to tackle the disproportionate number of black children being excluded from school - six times the number of their white fellow pupils.

The Children's Society and The Runnymede Trust asked the government to set specific targets to lower the rate of exclusion of African Caribbean pupils. Though local education authorities have targets to lower the overall rate of exclusion, there is a concern that unless the race issue is tackled specifically that the proportion of black pupils being excluded will remain disproportionately high.

- African Caribbean pupils are up to six times more likely than White pupils to experience exclusion from school (AudreyOsler 1997; Census data 1991)

- Despite this a survey by The Children's Society in 1998 found almost half of the responding LEAs did not keep ethnic records of exclusions

- Black Caribbean pupils make a sound start at primary schools, but their performance shows a marked decline at secondary level (Ofsted 1999)

- Research shows that African Caribbean pupils do not usually show a career of disruptive behaviour throughout school from early years; are less likely to have experienced trauma; are no more likely to be truants (Gilborn 1996) and tended to be of higher or average ability (Ofsted, Exclusions from Secondary School).

- African Caribbean pupils have not shared equally in the general rise in education standards. In 1996 45% of white pupils achieved five or more GCSE grades A-C, compared to only 23% of black pupils

As well as calling for targets, the charities want to see specific DfEE guidance and practical assistance with strategies to reduce the number of exclusions of black pupils. This would include the Department collecting and sharing good practice, more training for teachers, and closer cooperation with local black community groups and schools to develop a range of schemes as such clear anti racist policies, eg including race as part of anti-bullying strategies, developed with the support of local black community groups and having positive black mentors and role models as part of school life.

'We have to address the fundamental reasons behind that shocking fact that Black boys are six times more likely to be excluded from school than their White classmates,' says Ian Sparks, chief executive of The Children's Society. 'The issue needs 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.

'We have seen from our own work in schools how 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 said: '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.

'The Runnymede Trust along with other key agencies has highlighted the disproportionate number of African Caribbean pupils excluded from schools. Educators, researchers and practitioners now need to focus on the type of structures and procedures needed to reduce this alarming rate. This conference directly addresses this issue by providing examples of good practice that have significantly contributed to reducing exclusion rates because race-specific strategies have been adopted. We urge Ministers and other key agencies to do the same.'

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