published: 25 November 2020
It has been common knowledge for decades that black youth are disproportionately excluded from school permanently. No significant progress has been made to significantly change this reality in spite of many reports. The most recent data show that black pupils are nearly four times more likely to be permanently excluded than their school peers.
The London case study by Jessica Perera of the Institute of Race Relations is ground breaking. It shows that exclusions and criminalisation of black working class youth are not isolated issues that should be confined to school level without relating them to wider social and political developments over five decades.
In response to the media and commentators who deliberately sensationalise serious black youth crime by projecting black youth as a menace and racialising it, Perera reviews the evidence thoroughly to present a more nuanced view.
Although black youth are disproportionally over-represented in serious youth violence, it is only a small cohort of less than 1% of black youth that are involved in such violence.
Evidence from many studies show that ethnicity is just one factor, while other socio-economic factors also contribute to youth violence. The most recent research by the Institute of Health Inequity demonstrates that the systematic dismantling of vital social services over the past decade has exacerbated the levels of youth violence.
London has the highest rate of child poverty of all the English regions and 800,000 children live in poverty with one in three growing up in persistent poverty. Being a perpetrator or victim of crime is closely associated with deprivation and exclusion. Several reports over the past few years have drawn a direct connection between school exclusion, knife crime and youth imprisonment.