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Black working-class youth criminalised and excluded in English school system

Black working-class young people in England are being unfairly excluded and criminalised by a “two-tier education system”, says a report by the Institute for Race Relations.

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Black working-class young people in England are being unfairly excluded and criminalised by a “two-tier education system”, says a report by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR). Little is known about how the education system for the excluded came about.
While a minority of young, multiracial working-class Londoners caught up in serious youth violence are schooled in the Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). Many commentators and educationalist are concerned the Alternative Provision (AP) forms part of the ‘PRU-to-prison pipeline’;

The IRR’s new paper, How Black Working-Class Youth are Criminalised and Excluded in the English School System: A London Case Study, reveals that over the past forty years, exclusion from mainstream school has coincided with systematic ‘educational enclosure’.

The state has responded to inner-city youth rebellions and political agitation for racial and social justice by depriving working-class communities of education. Consequently, a two-tier education system has emerged. ‘Deserving’ and aspirational students in the academy sector and ‘undeserving’ and alienated kids in the PRU and AP sectors. The ‘undeserving’, steadily cast adrift in education, are not mere anomalies in a system that encourages learning and race-class inclusivity. They represent a system that has been purpose built to segregate. As the paper explains, London is leading this educational trend. The proportion of pupils in PRUs and AP in the capital is almost double the national rate. Young boys of black Caribbean heritage overrepresented in the sector.

This report aims to support campaigns for education justice, by looking at specific political conditions that ushered in regressive reforms. According to the report, this history has been forgotten. However, it urgently needs retelling at a time when think-tanks and government are in the business of expanding the PRU sector by rebranding it as AP and privatising it through academisation.

Report author Jessica Perera says, ‘Amidst the Black Lives Matter protests, we have seen increased demands to decolonise the curriculum. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a system which fails working-class students. This paper reminds us that those who have been continually failed are found in PRUs and AP. Their system of segregation is a damning indictment of a planned education malaise. This has been designed and deployed on a specific section of society with a history of resistance and rebellion.’

IRR Director, Liz Fekete added, ‘The IRR challenges the superficial analysis that stigmatises young Black Londoners for knife crime. Whilst failing to look reality in the eye. Could it be that factors such as austerity, privatisation and educational enclosure have in fact hardwired racial injustice into society?

Click here to download a copy of IRR's report: How Black Working-Class Youth are Criminalised and Excluded in the English School System: A London Case Study report