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Racist: A damning report on our schools |
Official investigation leaked to 'IoS' reveals widespread 'institutional racism'
But ministers refuse to accept sweeping criticisms from experts
By Ian Griggs
Published: 10 December 2006
A high-level official report has found a compelling case that Britain's schools are "institutionally racist", but ministers are refusing to accept that conclusion. The report, leaked to The Independent on Sunday, reveals "systemic racial discrimination" in the country's education system, with three times more black children being excluded than whites.
The Government ordered a "priority review" into the issue last year. Its damning conclusions were delivered to ministers two months ago, but have not been released.
The report, written by Peter Wanless, director of school performance and reform, states: "The exclusions gap is caused by largely unwitting, but systematic racial discrimination in the application of disciplinary and exclusions policies."
But Lord Adonis, the Schools minister, is refusing to authorise the use of the term "institutional racism", despite being presented with a clear judgement that it was justified.
"A compelling case can be made for the existence of 'institutional racism' in schools," the leaked report reveals.
The report, entitled Getting It. Getting It Right, addresses why Afro-Caribbean pupils, in particular boys, are three times more likely than white pupils to be permanently excluded from school.
Every year 1,000 black pupils are permanently excluded from school each year and 30,000 more are banned for a limited period. By contrast it found black children are five times less likely to be officially registered as "gifted or talented". It weighs up whether "out-of-school" factors such as street culture cause black pupils to behave more aggressively in school. But it concludes that black pupils are disciplined more frequently, more harshly and for less serious misbehaviour than other pupils.
"While a compelling case can be made for the existence of institutional racism in schools, there is a comparatively weak basis for arguing that street culture has a more persuasive influence on black young people than it has on other young people," the report said.
The internal report supports experts who say: "The exclusion gap is due to institutional racism - decisions made by schools and their staff which have the cumulative effect of producing a racist outcome. It is argued that unintentional racism stems from long-standing social conditioning involving negative images of black people, particularly black men which stereotype them as threatening.
"Such conditioning is reinforced by the media portrayal of black 'street culture'. It encourages school staff to expect black pupils to be worse behaved and to perceive a greater level of threat and challenge in their interactions with individual black pupils."
The authors of the report stopped short of insisting that the highly controversial term be used, leaving the final judgement with the minister. "If we choose to use the term 'institutional racism', we need to be sensitive to the likely reception by schools [but] if we choose not to use the term, we need to make sure the tone of our message remains sufficiently challenging."
A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "In the light of this work, ministers concluded that it would be inaccurate and counterproductive to brand the school system as racist. However, there is more that schools, parents and the Government can do to ensure that every child fulfils their potential whatever their background."
About 100 schools and 20 local authorities have been identified as giving the most cause for concern. Schools could be in breach of their duties under the Race Relations Act 2000 that requires public bodies to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination.