Police presence at school 'criminalises BME students'

Lack of black and minority ethnic teachers in senior roles could lead black pupils to feel that senior roles are not for them

Catherine Lough

racism in schools

The presence of police in UK schools could lead black and minority ethnic pupils to feel less safe, teachers have warned.

A report published today highlights teachers' concerns that "placing more police in schools acted to criminalise and pathologise students".

Concerns over knife crime has led to calls for more police in schools, but teachers felt a police presence could "disrupt" pupils' view of school as a "place of sanctuary", according to Race and Racism in English Secondary Schools, by Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury from the University of Manchester with racial equality think tank the Runnymede Trust.

"The punitive nature of policing, coupled with longstanding experiences of over-policing in BME communities, means that the police can be an intimidating and threatening presence for BME students," the report says.

It notes that in Black and Asian communities, pupils are already more likely to be stopped and searched. Teachers also warned that police presence in schools could contribute to a "school-to-prison pipeline" where minor disciplinary issues are escalated into criminal ones. 

The report also says that use of the Prevent strategy could make police in schools "particularly detrimental" for Muslim and South Asian pupils.

It calls for "funds spent on police in schools [to be] spent on reversing cuts to the teaching force".

The report also highlights the lack of diversity in senior leadership teams in many schools, and says black staff are often only employed in non-teaching roles.

"If the diversification of the teaching workforce focuses only on nonteaching roles, there is a risk that BME students will internalise a message that they are less suited to senior roles than their white counterparts," it says.

It says teachers need more training in order to improve their understanding of racism, and called for the curriculum to be diversified.

Dr Joseph-Salisbury said: "We urgently need a national conversation about the future of our schools, and we must really question whether police officers stationed in schools should even be part of that future.

"School policies need to be reviewed in consultation with anti-racist organisations, in order to ensure that policies do not discriminate against BME students.

"The report shows us how the transformation of education is key to tackling racism in society."

Dr Zubaida Haque, interim director of The Runnymede Trust, said: “Children deserve to be protected and not over-policed.

"Schools are supposed to be safe places for children, where they are seen and heard, and above all, where they are protected and safeguarded.

"We must ensure that children (and teachers) are safe from abuse, violence and harm, but the answer should not be permanent police presence in schools. We should be thinking of more pastoral support and early protection for children struggling with behavioural and discipline issues, or truanting.

"What we should not be doing is treating children as criminals.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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