Black pupils 'victims of racism by teachers'
By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent
(Filed: 17/09/2005)

Black pupils are no longer judged to be the most advanced when they start school and unconscious racism by teachers could be to blame, according to a professor of education.

Prof David Gillborn, of the London Institute of Education, said the performance of young black children has apparently declined since 2002 when a new method of assessing four- and five-year-olds was introduced.

Before 2002 teachers were told to administer baseline tests in their pupils' first few weeks at school but now they tick a series of boxes based on observations of the children.

Prof Gillborn told a conference of the British Educational Research Association at Glamorgan University yesterday that data showed black children were no longer doing so well and that the trend may have emerged because of the new emphasis on teacher assessment.

There was evidence that many teachers tended to have lower expectations of black children and graded them accordingly, he said.

Well-meaning, white professionals who simply did "not see equality as a major concern" were guilty of institutional racism, he said.

A previous study by Prof Gillborn and Prof Heidi Safia Mirza published in 2000 challenged the preconception that black children entered school poorly prepared when it found they were the highest achieving of all groups at the start of their school careers.

Since teacher observation replaced the tests white children have attained higher marks than all other ethnic groups, Prof Gillborn said.

He added: "Here's one area that black kids were doing well and it has disappeared, almost overnight. There is no evidence of conscious intent. There does not need to be."