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‘A disgrace and an injustice’: BAME pupils in Hackney disproportionately handed fixed-term exclusions, research finds

PUBLISHED: 15:06 01 October 2020

Repeated exclusions often pave the way for permanent exclusions from school. Picture: Getty Images

Repeated exclusions often pave the way for permanent exclusions from school. Picture: Getty Images

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BAME children in Hackney are significantly more likely to be handed multiple fixed-term exclusions from school than their white peers, research has revealed.

Hackney was one of a number of local authorities identified by the Centre for Social Justice working as part of the IntegratED partnership to reduce preventable exclusions, which had a disproportionality in fixed-term exclusions for the 2018/19 school year.

The data shows Hackney’s pupils of mixed race or Black Caribbean heritage are around four times more likely to receive multiple fixed-term exclusions than white pupils.

This means a pupil’s school attendance is temporarily suspended, a process which often ends with a child receiving a permanent exclusion.

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Local youth worker and campaigner Luke Billingham said it is a “disgrace and an injustice”: “Youth workers and other youth professionals across the borough have been raising concerns about these issues for many years.

“We’ve all sat in too many school meetings in which parents and students have been stereotyped, belittled or patronised. We’ve all known students with immense academic potential get treated punitively and unfairly, in discriminatory ways.

“These statistics reflect deep-seated problems in Hackney education.”

He described it as a “complex issue”, pointing to wider national issues, such as austerity, Department for Education policies and incredibly difficult working conditions for teachers affecting local educational problems.

The council, Learning Trust and schools are trying, he said, to address this problem.

Pupils can be excluded from school for five days before a school must find an alternative, in either a pupil referral unit (PRU) or alternative provision (AP).

Repeated exclusions often pave the way for permanent exclusions from school, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

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The Centre for Social Justice research focused on multiple fixed-term exclusions due to the difficulty in capturing statistically significant figures for permanent exclusions.

Among the borough’s 3,236 Black Caribbean-heritage pupils, there were 262 incidents of multiple fixed-term exclusion in the 2018/19 school year, a rate of just over eight per 100 pupils.

This is the 12th highest rate of the 47 local authorities identified by Wilcock.

Black Caribbean-heritage pupils in Hackney are just over four times more likely than their white peers to be excluded from school multiple times on a fixed-term basis

The highest rate found by the study was Gloucestershire, where pupils of the same group faced a relative likelihood of just over five and a half times.

There were 1,078 pupils of white and Black Caribbean heritage in Hackney in the same school year, among whom there were 83 multiple fixed-term exclusions. This was the seventh highest rate of the 62 local authorities analysed by IntegratED.

Pupils in this group in Hackney were found to be just under four times more likely than their white peers to experience multiple fixed-term exclusions. Wokingham performed worst in this category, with a four and a half times relative likelihood.

The study also found the borough’s 137 pupils of Irish traveller heritage were just over twice as likely to be excluded, with six incidences found in 2018/19, a rate of just over four per 100 pupils.

Responding to the research, Hackney’s deputy mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble said she is concerned: “We are working closely with schools to tackle disproportionality in school exclusions.

“This work includes training for staff, guidance on behaviour policies and co-ordinated early help for young people who need it, including help for those who have been excluded to ensure they can get back into education as quickly as possible.”

Wilcock’s report pointed to recommendations by the 2019 Timpson Review of School Exclusion, which called for funding for equality and diversity hubs, and the increase of diversity in senior leadership teams and governing bodies.

Luke said senior leadership teams need to be “brave”: “Hackney is one of the most multicultural places in the country, and should excel at providing an equitable education for people from all cultural backgrounds, if it is to be ‘a place for everyone’.

“Instead, it remains a place which privileges white, middle class people, in all sorts of ways, but particularly in our education system.”


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