The over-representation of black students in suspensions and expulsions from school.

Blair, Maud (1999). The over-representation of black students in suspensions and expulsions from school. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study sought to understand the phenomenon of school ‘exclusion’ with particular reference to the suspension and expulsion of black (male) students in secondary schools. The principles of the ‘market’ by which schools are expected to operate are widely viewed as responsible, for the rise in the numbers of children expelled from school. However, it is argued that ‘market’ principles alone cannot explain why black students are overrepresented in suspensions and expulsions to such a high degree.

The study was carried out between 1992 and 1996 in three schools. It was ethnographic employing mainly interviews, observation and limited documentary analysis.

The concept of ‘orientation’ was employed to make sense of the choices headteachers make as well as a means of understanding teachers’ relationships with students. It is suggested that schools whose general orientation is towards punishment and not ‘education’ as an integral part of the school disciplinary culture, will be more likely to expel students than find ways of keeping them in school. However, the ethnic significance of suspensions and expulsions requires a different explanation. It is argued that black communities have historically had a troubled relationship with the education system in Britain and that the high incidence of suspension and expulsion of black students can only be understood within this context. I argue that the human rights implications of expulsions are far reaching given the connection between expulsion and an individual’s vulnerability to involvement in the criminal justice system.

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