African Caribbean school children in some local authorities are more likely than their white counterparts to be excluded. They are up to 6 times more likely to be expelled, whilst mixed-race black students were more than four times higher than their white peers.
The only group of children who were excluded at an equally if not higher rate were the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, with Roma children nine times more likely to be suspended in some areas.
These figures were soo disproportionately high, the former children’s commissioner for England and Wales, Anne Longfield was quoted as saying the figures were ‘very concerning’ and that excluding a child can make them vulnerable to exploitation and can diminish their life chances. The majority of schools do excellent work supporting children and just 10% of schools are responsible for nearly 90% of exclusions.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who commissioned House of Commons Library research into racial disparities in school exclusions, pointed out that the figures had highlighted an incredible injustice for schoolchildren from an ethnic minority background and believed there was a need for a ‘universal code’ with clear criteria setting out the grounds for exclusions, to prevent any forms of bias and discrimination. She went on to say that with coronavirus looking likely to lead to a rise in exclusions, this is more important than ever, and the disparity is even greater where there are significant higher concentrations of African Caribbean populations.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey once said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Where a pupil is formally suspended from school for a set period of time is known as ‘fixed-period exclusion’ and can last up to 3 days and be issued at a teachers discretion even though the DfE state they must be issued on “on disciplinary grounds”, this is not always the case. Fixed-term exclusions can be given to one student over the course of a year. Campaigners and Think Tanks have warned of these negative actions, with the Institute of Race Relations have looked at the ‘PRU-to-prison-pipeline’ and warning of how black working-class youth are criminalised and excluded in the English school system.
“The school-to-prison pipeline is an epidemic that is plaguing schools across the nation. Far too often, students are kept in isolation, given fix term exclusions or permanently excluded. This can even go as far as a child being arrested for minor offences that leave visits to the headteacher’s office a thing of the past. Statistics reflect that these policies disproportionately target students of colour and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty or learning disabilities.” (Cheryl Phoenix, The Black Child Agenda).
Nicholas Treloar who is a researcher at the race equality think tank Runnymede Trust, said government-imposed targets and the constant pressure from Ofsted to “achieve”. These imposed targets were to blame for higher exclusion rates, and exclusions essentially criminalise children, and disproportionately impact on the poorest and most vulnerable children who do not have the socioeconomic means of buffering against the dangers of being out of school. Research and data has shown that school exclusions have a detrimental impact on all schoolchildren in terms of educational outcomes and attainment levels and criminalisation.
“The probability of a black Caribbean pupil experiencing a permanent exclusion before the end of Year 11 was 2.6%, and the probability of not being permanently excluded was 97.4%. Similarly, the probability of all other pupils experiencing a permanent exclusion was 0.8% and the probability of not experiencing a permanent exclusion was 99.2%. We can safely conclude that black Caribbean pupils were approximately 3.2 times more likely to be permanently excluded than other pupils. (source: FFL Education Data Lab).”
Another aspect of pupil exclusion which is not new by any measure, is the issue of anti-social behaviours in these young people such as ‘unlawful group association’ and when this occurs, such vulnerable young people can be labelled hard to reach with contributory factors such as stress, peer pressure, rejection, anger and frustration and family dysfunctions.
National fixed-term inclusions rate has increased every year since 2014-15 according to the DfE data with some Academy’s guilty of excluding children at very high rates, often using them to enforce “zero tolerance” uniform policies.
Please click this link to learn more about how interpersonal racism affects young young people.
The DfE said it was investing £10m in new “behaviour hubs” for schools to share best practices on discipline. The behaviour hubs project which started in summer 2021, led by government behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, aims to support 500 schools which struggle with poor discipline over the next three years. The £10 million initiative was originally set to begin in September 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. Lead schools and academy trusts will work closely with the schools they are supporting to diagnose what could be improved. A spokesperson for the department added: “Being excluded from school should not mean exclusion from high-quality education, but we will always back headteachers to use exclusions when required as part of creating calm and disciplined classrooms that bring out the best in every pupil.”
For more information on Behaviour Hubs, please click this link.
African-Caribbean children are still over-represented in school exclusions despite previous ‘efforts’ which have been made to overcome this. It is a sad fact that only 15 per cent of permanently excluded young people eventually manage to be reintegrated into mainstream school, successful progression into adulthood, employment and independence. When we consider the importance of education in achieving social inclusions, there needs to be a lot more focus and development in this area, in particular, to look at how support from family, community and other agencies can lead to successful transitions for excluded young black children.
Some schools have adopted a more holistic approach to educational wellbeing, some pupils continue to be plagued with persistently high rates of exclusion and these repercussions are more prevalent in certain areas; both culturally and geographically. “There is now a growing understanding that Interpersonal racism between students is a significant issue that schools have to contend with (The Runnymeade Trust, June 2020).
We are under no illusion that an awards ceremony can put an end to school exclusions, but we aim to create and foster an environment where people can be afforded the opportunity to meet leaders of industries and dignitaries, and network.
BLAC is working closely with governments, NGO’s and others, to help guide young people and families into a more productive, constructive and healthy lifestyle.
“If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot.” Charles Harper