TWENTY years after Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham, his mother Doreen Lawrence is helping to launch a new centre for research in race and education.

The first institution of its kind in England, the centre aims to pursue race equality and social justice by working to close gaps in educational achievement and career prospects of black and minority ethnic people.

The most recent data on GCSEs in England showed that pupils from a black background remain the lowest performing group in terms of how many students get five good GCSEs including maths and English.

At the centre’s launch later today (Feb 21) Doreen Lawrence is expected to say: “We know that there remains a persistent gap between the number of white and black students achieving a first class degree.

“We know that it will be considerably harder for graduates with names that sound non-English to secure a job compared with their white counterparts.

“We also know from available research that qualifications and a so-called ‘good accent’ are not enough to protect you from racism."

She said the University of Birmingham, where the centre is based, had "taken a bold and necessary action in a climate where race is no longer on the political agenda”.

A spokesman for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, based in Deptford, said: “The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and the Centre for Research in Race & Education share a commitment to challenging race equality and improving the educational outcomes and career experiences of black and minority ethnic groups. 

“We are currently discussing the development of a new joint initiative and are excited at the prospect of working closely together in the future.”