William Eichler 29 September 2020

Black working-class pupils criminalised by ‘two-tier education system’

Black working-class young people in England are being unfairly excluded and criminalised by a ‘two-tier education system’, a new report says.

A paper from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) argues that black pupils are disproportionately being sent to pupil referral units (PRUs) and alternative provision (AP).

AP and PRUs provide education to pupils who are not able to attend mainstream schools because they were expelled, had behavioural difficulties or were bullied.

Focusing on London, the IRR paper found that the proportion of pupils in PRUs and AP in the capital is almost double the national rate, with young boys of black Caribbean heritage overrepresented in the sector.

It argues that this is the result of 40 years of the state attempting to deprive working-class communities of education in response to ‘inner-city youth rebellions and political agitation’ for racial and social justice.

The IRR claims that the education system ‘has been purpose built to segregate.’

Author of the report and IRR researcher, Jessica Perera, said: ‘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 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.’

IRR director, Liz Fekete, added: ‘With this paper, 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?’

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