By Nadeya Hussain –
A recent analysis from the Guardian found that exclusion rates in schools are five times higher for black Caribbean pupils in parts of England. Specifically, in Cambridgeshire.
Experts have called it an “incredible injustice” for schoolchildren from minority ethnic backgrounds. As quoted in The Guardian, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, said, “I believe we need a universal code with clear criteria, setting out the grounds for exclusions, to prevent any forms of bias and discrimination.”
Why are these rates so high?
When looking at official statistics, it has consistently seen that Black Caribbean and Mixed: White/Black Caribbean students are most likely to be permanently excluded compared to their White British peers.
This phenomenon is not new and it is not solely related to schools in England. Although these new statistics from The Guardian came out in March 2021, a report done in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights noted how “Black children make up 18% of preschool enrolment, but 48% of preschool children suspended more than once.”
The fact this has not changed over the years shows there has to be a bigger issue leading to these results. Many experts claim this is because of a school teaching problem, such as discrimination and stereotyping. Bernard Coard explored this in his book: ‘How the West Indian Child is made educationally subnormal in the British school system.’ He identified three factors, one being low expectations from teachers themselves.
How can teachers’ low expectations affect them?
It can be seen that however unconsciously, white teachers tend to view Black students as more likely to cause chaos and trouble. This is known as institutional racism. Something that the Swann Report 1985 concluded in how it was the racial prejudice within the education system that caused many ethnic minority members to be disadvantaged.
An example of this may be language. Because they have language barriers, teachers may expect them to underperform and therefore treat them as unachievable students.
This is known as labelling, which eventually leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy which is shown in differences in the teacher-student interaction.
It ultimately leads them to feel segregated and not involved than the rest of the students causing rebellion to bring attention.
A 2018 study done by Bonefeld and Dickhäuser that researched student performance levels noted that pre-service teachers “graded the performance of a student who appeared to have a migrant background statistically significantly worse than that of a student without a migrant background.”
We cannot claim this to be due to racism as it may be because of a genuine lack of performance and educational barriers. However, schools should provide extra curriculums to help the students’ progress a little more rather than watching them struggle when it comes to these barriers.
Good teacher education is vital to student success. The education sector should ensure that every school receives advice and support to meet all students and parents’ aspirations.
This is highlighted in the Rampton Report 1981 which reinforced that urgent action is needed for failing children in the education system. We cannot let these linguistic difficulties or any other challenges prevent the children from achieving to the best of their ability.
As quoted in the Guardian article, a spokesperson from the Department for Education said: “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.”