If school exclusions are not to blight the futures of African-Caribbean young people, strong local support has to be provided.
According to a report by leading educationalists, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, African-Caribbean young people who are permanently excluded from school at some point in their lives, can easily drift into crime. And exclusion places great stress on the families of the excluded. However, where young people have been able to treat exclusion as a ‘critical moment’ in which to reassess their lives, they have had the support of local voluntary organisations. Unfortunately, such groups are lacking support from statutory education services.
Researchers at the universities of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent have carried out in-depth interviews with thirty-three African-Caribbean young people (twenty-one male, twelve female) and their parents and carers in Nottingham and London. (In fact the young people were contacted via community-based projects dealing with education issues or offending or working with young people – which may go some way to explain the findings.) Researchers found that thirty of the young people were in education or employment at the time of interview. And this, despite the fact that most of the young people had an overwhelming sense of injustice at the exclusion and a belief that punishment for Black pupils was more severe than for White pupils. Most of the young people had, in addition to help from relatives and friends, support from their communities, sympathetic teachers, social workers, agency workers, mentors, religious groups and alternative education projects.
Said Professor Cecile Wright, a co-author, ‘Although the exclusion statistics for Black pupils are improving, they are still four or more times more likely to be permanently excluded than White pupils. This makes it imperative that funding is made available to train everyone involved in the exclusion process to ensure greater awareness of the way that race influences the relationship between teacher and pupil. There also needs to be on-going, integrated support for excluded pupils to ensure successful reintegration into mainstream education, seizing the opportunities for positive change that this study has revealed.’