Unrest in London and our multi-kulti arrangements

the conservative government of Boris Johnson, who once described black
children in Africa as having ‘water melon smiles’, is appointing people to inform and
head inquiries on racial disparities, who are scornful of the very idea of institutional
racism. They front a system of denial, where the structural causes of racial disparities
and disproportionalities are brushed off as ‘flimsy’ – the result of the ‘internalised
perceptions’ of ‘BAME communities’ and their ‘grievance cultures’. A particular view
of the British black Caribbean heritage community, as mired in gang culture and
prone to violence, is also advanced. And the black family – absent fathers and weak
single mothers – is discussed as dysfunctional.
Such views are not new, nor do they exist in isolation. There is a long history of New
Right thinking (that first came to prominence under Thatcherism) placing the blame
for racial disadvantage on the failures of the black family. But, today, this racial
stereotyping is bolstered by a common-sense racism popularised by the media and
its reporting on serious youth violence and knife crime, often discussed as though
it was the disease of ‘black on black violence’. The ‘disease’ parallel informs police
strategy, resulting in relations between the Metropolitan Police and London’s black
communities now being at its lowest point since the 1980s. London has the highest
rate of child poverty in any English region and more children living in poverty than
the whole of Scotland and Wales combined. Yet, in the stampede to embrace a
quasi-pathological view of knife crime as rooted in black gang culture, there is next
to no interrogation of class, or the way austerity has stripped communities of any
hope of a more racially and socially just future.
Thankfully, though, a new generation of researchers and activists are challenging
media and policy frameworks. They know that racial stereotyping, force, surveillance,
stigmatisation and repression are not the answer to social problems like youth
violence and knife crime. Community campaigners, charities, academics, researchers
and even some voices in parliament argue that the systematic dismantling of vital
services, especially youth provision, and the restructuring of education to the
detriment of the working class as a whole, has quite literally created an educational
underclass, whose only prospect is a downward spiral from school exclusion, to youth
detention and ultimately prison.
How Black Working-Class Youth are Criminalised and Excluded in the English
School System is a follow up to the IRR’s 2019 report The London Clearances: Race,
Housing and Policing. In her passionate defence of young poor working-class black
Londoners’ right to a ‘shot at life’, researcher Jessica Perera amplifies the voices
of existing campaigners, while offering her analytical perspective of ‘educational
enclosure’. She argues that, from the 1980s onwards, the state has been engaged in
an ideological onslaught on the black radical tradition and its vision of a democratic,

anti-racist and culturally inclusive education. She sees this as part of a system of
‘educational enclosure’ through which the state takes back control of education
and stymies the dreams of those black and anti-racist educators who have fought
so valiantly for a more egalitarian and just education system. In the process, the
state has also imposed its own ethnocentric view of British culture on the school
curriculum. Perera sees a connection between this ‘colour blind’, monocultural
approach and the alienation of young black people from an educational system that
erases their lived reality.
Many young people, whose campaigns today centre around decolonising the
curriculum, may not know that in the 1980s and 1990s – when the original New Right
created the ideas that inform Conservative structural racism deniers today – there
was indeed a vibrant anti-racist movement in education. The IRR contributed to that
movement with the publication of Roots of Racism and Patterns of Racism and How
Racism Came to Britain. Our office is now home to the Black History Collection, an
archive of the documents, magazines and leaflets that prove beyond doubt that the
black self-help educational movements and anti-racist curriculum campaigns of that
time, were making ideological inroads. That all too brief period of black radical anti-
racist history in this country (we will not call it a ‘moment’), was overtly contested by
the Thatcher government and the New Right of that time, which viewed anti-racism
as a subversive force. How Black Working-Class Youth are Criminalised and Excluded
in the English School System recounts that history to show how the past continues to
shape the present.
Perera’s findings echo the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement which
heralds a new struggle for transformative change, similar to that of the 1980s. In
today’s fights for racial justice, the education and criminal justice systems have
emerged as key concerns. But, as Perera argues, they are in fact not separate sites,
but conjoined – part of a continuum, as technologies of control, such as CCTV and
biometrics make schools the labs in which the securitisation of society is trialled.
Undoubtedly there exists, today, a trajectory that takes young black children from
mainstream education, to Pupil Referral Units (PRU) and Alternative Provision, to
youth detention centres, and, on reaching adulthood, to prison. Campaigners
are calling for an end to the ‘PRU-to-prison’ pipeline. This report, in helping us
understand how the pipeline came about, reinforces the transformative demands of
Liz Fekete
Director Institute of Race Relations, August 2020

Recent analysis by the Guardian reveals that, although UK schools are permitted
to teach ‘black history’ as well as the history of people outside the global North, very
few actually do.1
In fact, in 2019, just 11 per cent of GCSE students studied modules
that referred to the presence of black people in British history and just 9 per cent
of GCSE students, over a two-year period, opted for modules that make specific
reference to the British Empire. Part of the answer as to how this has come about
lies in a decision made in 2014 by the former secretary for education, Michael Gove,
to make the teaching of black history optional. On the other hand, the government
has made the teaching of the national curriculum in local authority schools, a legal
requirement. But there are variations. Academies, free schools, learning centres
providing Alternative Provision, and other private institutions, are legally entitled to
teach what they like. (Alternative Provision is a confusing term used to cover a mixed
public and private education sector comprised of local authority PRUs, privately run
Alternative Provision academies and Alternative Provision free schools.)
How Black Working-Class Youth are Criminalised and Excluded in the English School
System is concerned with what happens to black students who may never get the
chance of learning about the post-war history of BAME settlement in the UK and
the struggles for social and racial justice that followed. Its special focus is on the
most marginalised young people in society; those excluded from mainstream school
and caught up in youth violence. It sets out to explore the race and class aspects
of school exclusions, providing a historical overview of the legislation, policy and
practices that have forced so many young people, stigmatised as ‘disruptive’ out of
the mainstream state educational sector. This is already a huge issue in inner London,
where according to conservative estimates, the proportion of students in Pupil
Referral Units (PRUs) and Alternative Provision (AP) is almost double the national
rate. As, in London, it is young boys of black Caribbean heritage that are significantly
overrepresented in this sector, I have largely focussed on their experience. This
is not to say that other communities are not affected. We know for instance that,
nationally, Gypsy and Traveller children experience many of the same issues. We
are also beginning to see evidence that girls, too are affected, but often by informal
exclusions (particularly via ‘early exits’), with recent research by the not-for-profit
Social Finance drawing attention to higher rates of exclusion amongst girls in social
care, with mental health issues or special educational needs.2
Those working with excluded young people are rightly concerned about what
has been described as the ‘PRU-to-prison’ pipeline. In what follows, I argue that
this concept provides a useful way of describing an alarming trajectory of the
criminalisation of young black students. But I also register concern about the way
in which policy-makers have taken up the concept to expand and monetarise PRUs.
By arguing that PRUs need to be opened up to the market, and professionalised,
they are normalising permanent exclusion from mainstream education. Those being
educated in what is now frequently called Alternative Provision, are used as pawns in
a new education market – I call this ‘marketing the marginalised’.
Another way of challenging the PRU-to-prison pipeline descriptor is by looking
behind the scenes. By providing a synopsis of the recent history of systematic
educational enclosure – a policy enacted by the state at various points to blunt

Published by technofiend1

Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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