Secondary exclusions up from 6.7% to 10.8%

Posted in Class Struggle's blog on Tue, 06/04/2021 - 16:30,

Martin Thomas

Black-Caribbean, and mixed-background Black-Caribbean-white, students suffer more fixed-term exclusions from schools in England than white students.

There has been outcry about this in the media, and a justified call to investigate possible bias and cultural insensitivities.

The overall statistics on school exclusions, however, suggest that there are bigger and wider factors here than those biases and insensitivities.

Overall, in state secondary schools, where most exclusions are done, ethnic-minority students are excluded at a lower rate than white British students (8% vs 12%: the rates are 17% for black-Caribbean, and 22% for mixed black-Caribbean-white).

The biggest disparity is between an exclusion rate of 29% for free-school-meals-eligible students vs 8% for those students whose families are well-off enough not to qualify for free school meals (FSM).

The 29% rate does not mean that 29 out of every 100 FSM-eligible students suffer an exclusion each year. It does mean that there are 29 exclusions for every 100 students.

There are cultural reasons why students from immigrant families tend, on average, to be more studious and polite than those from long-settled families, and those may explain the lower exclusion rates for Asian-background students (4.5%) and Black-African-background (8%). Roma and Traveller students have very high exclusion rates.

Since many of the Asian and Black-African students will come from poorer households, any cultural effect here masks the class inequities in exclusion. It's a near-certainty that the high rate for all white British students reflects a very high rate for poor white British students and a relatively low rate for well-off ones.

The overall exclusion rate went down for many years, but is up since 2012-3, from 6.7% to 10.8%.

Anecdotally, the probability is that the rise reflects a rise in fussy, arbitrary, and oppressive discipline in schools (elaborate uniform codes, silence in corridors, lining up outside the building before each class, enormous numbers of detentions, and so on). Many of the exclusions will have come as culminations after many detentions, "internal" exclusions, and other alienating and unhelpful measures.

Let's investigate biases and insensitivities. But our overriding concern should be to reform unhelpful and oppressive school discipline, to bring down the overall exclusion rate, and to reduce its class bias.

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