Last night the Guardian reported on the horrendous rate of school exclusion for children of black, Asian and minority ethnic origins. They revealed that Gypsy, Roma and traveller children are nine times more likely to be suspended in some areas of the country than their white counterparts, while black Caribbean pupils are being excluded at six times the rate.
Expelling children from school makes them more vulnerable to abuse. It impacts hugely on their ability to perform academically and socially. And when this happens to children who are already from marginalised and disadvantaged groups, it destroys their lives.
The education system is failing thousands of students.
And the worst thing about the report? None of it is surprising; not even the heartbreaking stories of racial abuse being ignored and children fearing for their lives, or stories of children being excluded from primary school aged seven, and teachers facing horrendous, relentless daily racial discrimination.
Why is this happening?
There are, of course, a lot of reasons for these horrifying statistics;
In some educational settings staff are exhibiting white privilege and unconscious bias, racism is being left unchecked. There is a lack of diversity in the curriculum. Brutal benefit reforms have pushed families below the poverty line, leaving them struggling to cope. When schools are turned into academies they are under huge pressure to perform and exclusion becomes part of the solution. And there is a heavy focus on performance and league tables, contributing to pressure on staff.
What can we do to change things?
There are things we can do and organisations we can support who are making a huge difference.
- Support the decolonisation of the curriculum and get a wealth of important information from the team at The Black Curriculum
- Do the work – make sure you are working towards being anti-racist, dismantling your own privilege and staying informed. Nova Reid can help you do that as can Liz Pemberton at The Black Nursery Manager and Sophie Williams
- Talk to your kids about racism and anti-racist behaviour. . Diversify your social media feeds, bookshelves, news consumption and TV shows. We can help you with your family and school bookshelves.
- Write to your MP to ask what is being done in your local schools to tackle institutional racism.
- Start with your local school. Join the PTA, check out the relevant school policies, the curriculum, teacher training. No matter how diverse your school population is, all teachers need full and comprehensive anti racism training. There are some great resources on the BAMEednetwork website.