Excluded pupils’ group on brink of collapse

April 30, 2009 — News

Written by Harmit Athwal

A vital community group working with excluded BME children faces closure because of funding shortfalls.

The Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) was established in 1999 in response to the growing demand from BME parents and children for help, support and advice concerning school exclusions and reintegration. Since then it has established a small but effective caseworking team, which provides free advice, counselling, support, representation and training for people experiencing mistreatment and discrimination in education, especially exclusion from school.

According to Gerry German, CEN’s director, recent years have seen the ‘number of cases going up by leaps and bounds, as well as their complexity increasing’. He continues: ‘Nobody is turned away but with upwards of seventy cases a month at the moment, the demands on our services are considerable.’

Yet, despite the escalating demands on its services, CEN is finding it harder to access the financial support needed to support its advocacy work. The CEN team has funds pledged by three separate trusts but needs a further £12,000 in order to secure the release of these funds. The small staff is becoming smaller as existing funds dry up and projects close.

In an attempt to plug the funding gap, CEN organised a fundraising benefit in Brixton, London in March this year. It was to include performances by Ms Dynamite, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Bashy. However, two days before the concert, the police pulled the plug on it citing concerns over ‘firearms, stabbing and public disorder’, according to Deuan German, the event organiser and CEN’s chief fundraiser.

The event, ‘Jammin for Inclusion’, went ahead weeks later but by then, says Deuan German, ‘much of the momentum had been lost’. This, coupled with the non-attendance of Ms Dynamite due to conflicting commitments, meant that takings from the event were ‘lower than hoped for’.

CEN argues that, once excluded, only 15 per cent of pupils are ever returned to mainstream education. It also refers to figures released in 2001 by Martin Narey, the former director-general of the Prison Service and chief executive of Barnardo’s, which showed that 80 per cent of some 30,000 children excluded from mainstream education ended up in prison.

CEN has an almost 100 per cent record in reintegrating excluded pupils back into full-time, mainstream education. Almost 95 per cent of CEN’s clients are from BME communities.

Related links

Communities Empowerment Network

See the IRR report: ‘Outcast England: How schools exclude black children’

Read a news story: ‘Jammin for Inclusion’ cancelled

Many, many thanks to Bill Goodrham for contacting the IRR about Michael Jarrett, for all his help on researching this article and for providing feedback. Endnotes: [1] The only death of a black person, as a result of police involvement, that has been successfully prosecuted by the courts is that of David Oluwale in 1969. An excellent book based on material in the National Archive and interviews was recently written by Kester Aspden, read a review of The Hounding of David Oluwale here. [2] Under Heavy Manners: report of the Labour movement enquiry into police brutality and the position of black youth in Islington, held on Saturday 23 July 1977, Islington 18 Defence Committee, 1977. See also the IRR's pamphlet Policing Against Black People, IRR, 1987. [3] Thanks to the Coroner at St Pancras Coroners Court, Dr Andrew Reid, for allowing access to the inquest file in to Michael Jarret's death. Also, thanks to Rosie McKee for locating the relevant records and documents and for answering numerous questions. [4] Chambers was responsible for the inquest in to the death of Colin Roach who died in January 1983 at Stoke Newington police station of gun shot wounds. The inquest recorded a verdict of suicide.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Comments

September 16, 2010
Tippa Naphtali:

This is an awful case and quite distressing to read. It throws up numerous questions in the minds of a reader and reminds me personally so much of the case of Colin Roach and the mysterious (some might say, obvious) circumstances of his tragic and violent death. We are grateful to IRR for bringing this case back to the arena of public scrutiny and are hopeful that it reignites interest, but more importantly a robust investigation by the relevant authorities. No one should meet their death in this way, stuck upside-down in a chimney in a derelict property. This is truly appalling and one of the most distressing cases we have come across in a long time. No Justice – No Peace

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