Why black kids fail at school
by Shirin Aguiar-Holloway

A HARDHITTING new education report has lifted the lid on a culture of racism in schools which holds black pupils back.
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that Britain 's education system continues to suppress black achievement by having low expectations of black pupils.

Thousands of African-Caribbean children excluded from school are forced to rely on help from poorly-funded community groups to continue their education.

According to study excluded youngsters turned to voluntary organisations, family and friends to help them turn their lives around.


Racism played a part in exclusions, with black pupils
believing they were punished more severely than their
white peers for the same behaviour problems.
Seventeen-year-old Lucinda from London said: "I think it’s because I’m black, especially how the other [white] girl was allowed back to school the next day."

Earl, 18, from Nottingham, said: "They play the white kids against the black ones, being a white child or something, the black child gets in trouble for it and the white child gets away with it, you see them do it
and the black child gets in trouble for it."


The new research, entitled School Exclusion and
Transition into Adulthood in African-Caribbean
Communities, added: “The young people in this study
felt trapped by the white teachers’ and white pupils’
low expectations and understanding of black culture.

"They stereotyped black students as aggressive,
athletic and oversized.”

Exclusions figures show that on average black pupils
are four times more likely to be excluded than their
white counterparts.

The study found that only 15 per cent of
permanently-excluded youngsters are reintegrated into
mainstream school.

The rest were left in educational limbo’ without any
immediate alternative to school. The report will
merely confirm what has been known for a long time in
the black community.

Gloria Hyatt, Liverpool-based education consultant,
said the issues raised were “old, long and established
problems that are yet to be adequately accepted or
addressed by statutory providers”


Harsher punishments at school “made them conscious of
the fact that race would affect the way they were seen
by others and that the significance of their racial
identity in their experience of exclusion was very
likely a foretaste of experiences they would have in
wider society.”

Against all the odds, however, most of the excluded
pupils interviewed for the research had overcome their
exclusion and were studying or working, having used
their experience to reassess themselves.

Report co-author Cecile Wright from Nottingham Trent
University said that while being excluded had been
traumatic for youngsters, leading to a loss of dignity
and self-respect, for most it didn’t stop there.

“In most cases it was followed by the development of a
resilient sense of self and a positive black identity
that motivated young people to disprove low official
expectations and prove their worth.


“But it was families and dedicated workers in
community-based groups, usually depending on
short-term funding, who had helped young people to
make that critical change in their lives."

Key recommendations for the government to provide
guidance and training in averting school exclusions
and to fund training of all those involved in the
exclusion process.

The study, launched at the House of Commons, was based
on in-depth interviews with 33 African-Caribbean
youngsters aged from 14-19 in London and Nottingham
who had been excluded from school.

Hyatt blasted local education authorities (LEAs) and
the Government for failing black pupils, adding:
“Whilst I think it is good that the LEA want to retain
excluded pupils within mainstream provision, they are
failing these pupils by the level of unacceptable
provision that is currently available.

"There is little encouragement for schools to retain
these pupils and more rationale and pressure to
exclude, leaving the majority isolated and with little
hope of ever returning.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We fully
back heads that take tough action to tackle
misbehaviour and disruption in the classroom,
permanently excluding pupils where their behaviour
warrants it."