From Race & Class
Educationalist Chris Searle, in his 2017 article in this journal, drew attention to the ‘scourge of Roma school exclusion’ and highlighted the shocking number of pupils in Sheffield who were being educated outside of mainstream school provision. He points to the following factors: a lowering of the ‘last resort’ school exclusion threshold, coupled with greater exclusionary powers for head teachers; the neoliberal nature of the erstwhile competitive state secondary school/academy with its eye on the school league tables and itself under close surveillance by the forces of the school inspectorate Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education); and a continuance of racist ideologies traced back to the treatment of inner-city African Caribbean children (and their families) in the 1960s and before, who were classified often as ‘Educationally Sub-Normal’ and disproportionately separated from mainstream education. Then, as Searle argues, this inherently structured and institutional racist ideology was to some extent countered by an increase in anti-racist campaigning, multicultural legislation and the establishing of language and education services for both the arrivant children and their families.
Building on the work of Chris Searle the author of this paper draws on an ethnographic study of a Sheffield school to examine the experiences of Slovak Roma children in the first year of secondary school as they negotiate prevailing English-only language ideologies and complex curriculum challenges and attempt to fit into an educational framework that is trying to adapt to the forces of migration and super-diversity. In this paperthe author examines the situation of the Roma children and builds on Searle’s work, and presents one day in the life for 11/12-year-old Slovak Roma pupils in the bottom set of one secondary school.
One aim of this piece is to flesh out some of the detail of what life is like for the Roma Slovak pupils inside one secondary school, and what might in turn be contributing to those increased numbers of children ending up outside of mainstream schooling. He outlines what he calls the exclusionary ‘anteroom’ with its limited and potentially limiting educational life chances, one step away from exclusion. It is clear, at least for the author, that the pupils at the bottom end of this school system have little real hope.
Building on the work of Chris Searle in this journal, the author draws on an ethnographic study of a Sheffield school to examine the experiences of Slovak Roma children in the first year of secondary school as they negotiate prevailing English-only language ideologies and complex curriculum challenges and attempt to fit into an educational framework that is trying to adapt to the forces of migration and super-diversity. Struggling to engage academically, pupils are banished to the bottom sets where they are fed a watered-down curriculum. It is argued that the Roma pupils in this situation are in the exclusionary ‘anteroom’; unable to rise through the academic system, weighed down by lack of English language, an alien culture, non-white skin colour and the lack of various forms of capital prized by schools, the next logical step for many is temporary or permanent exclusion. This article sheds light on those pupils at the bottom of the heap for whom chances are curtailed, and adds to debates about xeno-racism, exclusion and class-biased pedagogies.
School life on the margins: Slovak Roma pupils negotiating education
First Published January 25, 2019 Research Article
Race & Class