Britain’s education system has been failing Black working-class children for generations

Students in classroom
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Last week, the Institute of Race Relations published new research highlighting how Black working-class children and young people are being systematically criminalised and excluded from the English school system.

A ‘two-tier’ education system

Using London as a case study, the report reveals Britain’s ‘two-tier’ education system. A system in which ‘deserving’ students are encouraged to thrive in the academy sector, while those deemed ‘undeserving’ are relegated to pupil-referral units (PRUs) and alternative provision (AP) – most of which aren’t fit for purpose. This has the greatest impact on working-class Black Caribbean boys, who are over-represented in school exclusion rates, in PRUs and AP (where they are vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs), and the youth justice system.

Author of the report, Jessica Perera said:

This paper reminds us that those who have been continually failed are found in PRUs and AP and that their segregation is a damning indictment of a planned education malaise, which has been designed and deployed on a specific section of society with a history of resistance and rebellion.

Our education system is failing Black and working-class children

Indeed, from the 1985 Swann Report which explored Black children’s experiences of racism and stereotyping in schools, to the 2019 Timpson Review which shone a light on racial disparity in school exclusion rates, evidence shows that our education system has been failing Black and working-class children for generations.

Through a regime of regressive reforms including austerity, privatisation and the ‘PRU-to-prison pipeline’, the state has systematically deprived young Black and working-class communities of educational opportunity. The government’s recent guidance banning the use of resources expressing anti-capitalist views is a predictable reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement’s calls to decolonise the curriculum and demands for social and racial justice. This guidance will serve to further alienate Black and working-class students.

Working-class Black Brits have been failed by Britain’s education system for far too long. It is time for real and lasting change.

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