Education has long been a key site in the struggle for racial and ethnic equality in Britain. Seen as both a mechanism for social mobility and a means of cultural integration and reproduction, schools (as institutions) and schooling (as a practice) lie at the heart of the pursuit of a successful future for an equal multi-ethnic Britain. Nevertheless, 35 years on from the Swann report (Department of Education and Science, 1985), which argued for Education for All, and 20 years after the Future of Multi-ethnic Britain report (Parekh et al, 2000), issues of racial and ethnic inequality in our schools are as pertinent as ever. Education remains a primary arena for both the maintenance of entrenched racial stereotyping and discrimination, on the one hand, and anti-racist activism, on the other. Concerns over structural racism, low educational attainment, poor teacher expectations and stereotyping, ethnocentric curricula and high levels of school exclusions for some groups remain entrenched features of our school system. While there has been progress and change, recent years have seen the erosion of the fragile gains made in the wake of the Macpherson report (1999) and the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, which imposed a duty on schools to promote race equality. In their place we have seen a refocusing on ‘fundamental British values’, a narrowing of the curriculum, the embedding of the Prevent agenda in schools and universities, and the use of schools as internal border sites, focusing on new migrant and asylum seeking children and families (Alexander et al, 2015).
On 22 June 1948, the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, London from Jamaica, carrying 492 people, mainly young men and ex-servicemen, from across the Caribbean islands. The arrival of the ship, and its iconic scenes of be-suited and be-hatted young men disembarking along the gangplank, is often celebrated as a landmark moment in British history, heralding the start of large-scale postwar labour migration from the colonies and former colonies, and marking the birth of modern multicultural Britain. Seventy years on, and the ‘Windrush scandal’ dominated the spring and summer of 2018, exposing the victimisation and deportation of members of the ‘Windrush generation’, many of whom arrived between 1948 and 19711 as children with a legal right to remain in Britain, but without appropriate paperwork, and who had inadvertently fallen foul of the Home Office’s much vaunted 2012 ‘hostile environment’ initiative for illegal immigrants.
The political fallout from the ‘Windrush scandal’ – underpinned by public and media outcry, which led to a belated public apology by the Prime Minister to Caribbean leaders in April 2018 (BBC Online, 2018a), followed by the reluctant resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd soon afterwards (The Guardian, 2018b) and the appointment of Britain’s first minority ethnic Home Secretary Sajid Javid (BBC Online, 2018b) – has been most usually presented as an accidental pothole in the road to Britain’s post-racial present. Subsequent months saw a rush to recognise and celebrate the ‘valued’ presence (BBC Online, 2018a) of the Windrush migrants, to be marked in an annual ‘Windrush Day’ on 22 June ‘to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants’ (Ministry of Housingm Communities and Local Government, 2018).
Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC licence. 50 years after the establishment of the Runnymede Trust and the Race Relations Act of 1968 which sought to end discrimination in public life, this accessible book provides commentary by some of the UK’s foremost scholars of race and ethnicity on data relating to a wide range of sectors of society, including employment, health, education, criminal justice, housing and representation in the arts and media.
It explores what progress has been made, identifies those areas where inequalities remain stubbornly resistant to change, and asks how our thinking around race and ethnicity has changed in an era of Islamophobia, Brexit and an increasingly diverse population.
08 Apr 2020
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