Black Children and Exclusions

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2019 National Black Members' Conference
12 September 2018

Conference we all know that as Black people we are disproportionately represented within all aspects of society, this includes education and particularly, exclusions of Black pupils.

The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16. This corresponds to around 35.2 permanent exclusions per day in 2015/16, up from an average of 30.5 per day in 2014/15

National figures from the Department for Education show that 6,685 pupils were permanently excluded from schools in England in 2015-16 – the majority of them in the run-up to their GCSEs – marking a 40% increase over the past three years.

The most vulnerable children are most likely to be excluded. One in two has a recognised mental health need. Excluded children are four times more likely to be from the poorest families and eight out of 10 of them have a special education need or disability. Therefore, it will not be a surprise to learn that Black pupils are significantly over-represented in pupil referral units. Black Caribbean pupils are over three times more likely to be permanently excluded compared with their white British counterparts. As an example, a Black Caribbean boy eligible for free school meals who also has special educational needs (SEN) is 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded than a white British girl without SEN and not eligible for FSM. Why is this, how have exclusions become so unequal? It is argued that the education system tends to marginalise children who do not conform to majority norms. The growth of special educational provision in the 1960s and 1970s coincided with the arrival of immigrants from the Caribbean and South-East Asia. Statutory categories were developed for children with “limited ability” and those who “showed evidence of emotional instability or psychological disturbance and required special treatment to effect personal, social or educational readjustment”. From the outset, these labels of “educationally subnormal” (ESN) and “maladjusted” were disproportionately applied to disadvantaged Black pupils.

For the past half-century, whenever relevant data has been broken down by ethnicity, Black C students have been over-identified as having SEN, and pupils with SEN have been disproportionately excluded.

Black children are twice as likely to live in low-income households compared with their white counterparts. The poorest Black households are expected to experience the biggest average fall in living standards by 2020, equating to a real-terms average annual loss of £8,407. Household and community disadvantage are associated with outcomes that are, in turn, linked to exclusion, including emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties, and under-developed language and literacy development. Children with multiple disadvantages require increased support in school, but are instead more likely to be excluded. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)’s recent report Making the Difference estimates that close to 100 per cent of children who are excluded have mental health difficulties, researchers found that 1 in 2 excluded pupils experience recognised mental health problems, compared with 1 in 50 pupils in the wider population. Estimates suggest this might be as high as 100% once undiagnosed problems are taken into account. Meanwhile government data has shown that only one in a hundred children who have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools go on to receive five good GCSE grades.

The government published its Race Disparity Audit in October 2017, a collation of data showing Black-white disparities in a range of lifelong outcomes, including educational attainment, labour market participation, health, wealth and treatment by the criminal justice system. These outcomes are related, and school exclusions can act as a key link in a chain of risk leading to adverse consequences throughout an individual’s life, for example, pupils officially excluded from school at age 12 are four times more likely to be in prison by age 24.

David Lammy MP is quoted as saying,” The relationship between pupil referral units [a type of alternative provision maintained by the local authority] and the criminal justice system has become symbiotic, and the rise of exclusions is creating a pipeline of young people into our prison system. There is no fiscal or moral case to go on like this.”

Conference we have seen a spike in the numbers of Black victims of crime this year, we now have to say enough is enough, our young Black people deserve a better start in life and not blamed for the inadequacies of this inept Tory government.

Conference calls on the National Black Members Committee to:

1)Work with the Local Government Service Group to highlight the disparity that exists with Black pupils and exclusions and look at a campaign initiative to address this;

2)Request from the Regional Black Members Committees analysis of local data to campaign for the reduction of Black pupil exclusions;

3)Draft an article for Black Action highlighting the extent of the impact on young Black pupils and signpost members to organisations that have been able to offer support to UNISON members.