The academy’s students have come up with two initiatives aimed at highlighting the issue of school exclusions: No Lost Causes, and IC Free. Lewis is involved in the latter project, which takes its name from IC3, the police shorthand for someone identified as black.
Both campaigns highlight the fact that school exclusions disproportionately affect black and ethnic minority children and young people...
Really? Hmmm. How are they targeted, then?
Most exclusions are the result of zero-tolerance behavioural codes common to a huge number of schools, whereby answering back or refusing to follow an instruction can take someone from a relatively trifling punishment to exclusion in short order.
Ah. Because they can't obey the rules. How fiendishly discriminatory!
Do we have any examples?
Esther Atunrase, 18, is another of the young people behind IC Free. At school, she tells me, “I got bullied quite a lot for being tall.” She says her attempts at self-defence resulted in internal exclusions. She describes being placed in a booth, where “you can’t talk to anybody, you can’t stand up if you don’t ask. Literally, it’s like being in prison. I’ve been there multiple times...”
Prison? I doubt it! The school's recollection is, as you might expect, a little different:
“Esther had a few challenges to overcome, including a sports injury – which she did very well, with a lot of support from staff here. This did include some time on different occasions in the reflection centre. Our records don’t quite match her perception of the events – and that is to be expected.”
But back to fun with numbers:
As the young people at the Advocacy Academy note, pupils with black Caribbean heritage are nearly three times as likely to be permanently excluded as white children.
Maybe that's because they are three times as likely to ignore the rules? I mean, do white children always follow the rules?
In 2018-19, two groups had the highest rates of exclusion: those from Gypsy and Roma families, along with those classified as “Traveller of Irish heritage”.
Ah. No, they don't. So what we have here isn't a colour thing at all. It's a culture thing.
“Let’s say that 80% of kids in a school respond really well to a zero-tolerance, no-excuses policy,” Dave Whitaker says. “Well, what about the other 20%? Do we accept them as collateral damage – or do we improve our systems so we’re getting nearer to 100%?”
“The education system is wonderful when children toe the line,” Ananya says. “But the second you deviate from the norm, there’s too little support. And kids get damaged.”
It's the culture of the offending groups that needs to change. Not the rules and guidelines that other cultures have no problems following.