New research reveals children in poverty and Black children in London are more likely to be excluded from school

15 Oct 2020

New analysis released today from 4in10: London’s Child Poverty Network and Just for Kids Law shows that children on free school meals (FSM) and Black Caribbean children are likely to be excluded from school at a much higher rate than their peers on average across London.

The report, ‘Race, Poverty and School Exclusions in London’ finds Black Caribbean children in London are nearly three times as likely to be excluded and children who are Mixed White and Caribbean are more than twice as likely. Children eligible for FSM were around three times more likely to be excluded.

In areas where there are fewer children on free school meals or Black Caribbean children, there is an even larger difference in the rates of exclusion compared to their better off, or non-Black counterparts. The data shows for the first time that the Boroughs where this happens for both Black children and FSM-eligible children are predominantly in outer London.

The report finds that racism in schools manifests in many ways which can lead to Black children being unfairly excluded. Living in poverty can also severely affect a child’s experience of school, their ability to engage in learning, and behaviour which can lead to them being unjustly excluded. Children on free school meals are twice as likely to have SEN and Black children face a higher chance of living in poverty. Just for Kids Law sees these entrenched multiple vulnerabilities every day in its legal and advocacy case work which challenges unfair school exclusions.

The report reveals that inequality is not uniform across the capital and practice varies across schools within a local area - therefore a united response between local authority leaders, schools and academies is key to tackling the challenge.

Laura Payne, Campaign Manager, 4in10 says “It is not right. It seems some schools are pushing our lowest income and black Caribbean pupils out at a much, much higher rate than their other school friends. It isn’t like this all over the capital, so we know it is down to local decision making.”

Tackling institutional racism and poverty are complex, ingrained societal challenges but given the extent of the disproportionate exclusion of Black children and those living in poverty in the capital such challenges must be addressed. The report calls for urgent national and local Government action to tackle and eliminate disproportionality in school exclusions on the basis of race and poverty.

Enver Solomon, Chief Executive, Just for Kids Law says “Being excluded from school can have life changing consequences. As we see in our case work, the school exclusions system and the process for challenging it, are deeply flawed. This means the current system is ill-equipped to address the disparities faced by Black children and children living in poverty. There have been too many reviews and inquiries that have failed to lead to concrete action. It is now time for the Government to act with urgency to protect children from this unacceptable and damaging inequality.”


For further information or to request an interview, please contact:

Yasmin Perez

Communications Officer

020 8187 2119


Notes to editors:

  1. ‘Race, Poverty and School Exclusions’ is being published during London Challenge Poverty Week and Black History Month. Read the report here:
  2. Analysis in the report is based on Permanent and Fixed-Term Exclusions in England. Academic year 2018/19. Department for Education.
  3. Child poverty is rising, there were 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2018-19, about, nearly one third of all children - Households Below Average Income, Statistics on the number and percentage of people living in low income households for financial years 1994/95 to 2018/19, Tables 4a and 4b. Department for Work and Pension.
  4. Children on free school meals are twice as likely to have SEN - Institute for Public Policy Research (2017) Making the difference: Breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion.
  5. Black children face a higher chance of living in poverty - Khan, O (2020) Understanding and responding to ethnic minority child poverty, in 2020 Vision: ending child poverty for good, Child Poverty Action Group.
  6. As a result of the focus of our work and the availability of data, this briefing considers the disproportionate rates of exclusions for children living in poverty and Black children. However, we recognise that there are other groups of children who are disadvantaged in the system and require further attention, particularly Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, and children with special educational needs.
  7. In their joint report the charities explore the causes and impact of school exclusions amongst these children and what needs to change. They call for:
    1. The urgent implementation of a strategy to address and eliminate disproportionality on the basis of race and poverty in school exclusions.
    2. Better cross-government understanding of the impact of poverty on children’s educational attainment, and action to address levels of child poverty and its impact on a school day.
    3. More resource and support for schools and teachers to understand and address the issues, including workforce training.
    4. More funding from central government to enable local authorities, schools and the voluntary sector to establish partnerships in their communities to address the issues.
    5. Greater accountability for schools with large disparities in school exclusions in relation to poverty and race.
    6. Local areas with above average disparities for Black children and FSM-eligible children to investigate this as a matter of urgency, for instance building on the work of the GLA Violence Reduction Unit initiatives and the Child Poverty Action Group/GLA Tackling Poverty in Schools Toolkit.
    7. Steps to ensure that teaching staff are more diverse and representative of the communities they work with, particularly in senior leadership roles.
  8. We spoke to a small number of parents and young people about their experiences and views of the exclusions process. While not representative, these conversations provide insight into the lived experience of families in London.
    1. “In my first few months the headteacher said I would never make it to year 11.” Child
    2. “He was desperately unhappy and this made his behaviour worse. He would run and hide under tables or hide in the toilets because they gave him the view of himself that he was a bad person.” Parent
    • “The teachers were white, even the headteacher was white. There was one Black teacher… he was the only Black person there and would only be there on a Thursday. He was the only one who understood me.” Child
    • “Schools are quick to dismiss our kinds of children rather than see the problem and see how they could approach the situation or to find resources to help with their needs.” Parent
  1. There are examples of good work being done by the voluntary sector, schools, boroughs and the GLA. Some are listed in the report.
  2. 4in10: London's Child Poverty Network is a campaigning network of organisations working to improve the lives of the 4in10 children living in poverty across the capital; highlighting best practice that works and keeping the spotlight on the damage that poverty is doing to families in London. 4in10 coordinates London Challenge Poverty Week.
  3. Just for Kids Law is a UK charity that works with and for children and young people to hold those with power to account and fight for wider reform by providing legal representation and advice, direct advocacy and support, and campaigning to ensure children and young people in the UK have their legal rights and entitlements respected and promoted and their voices heard and valued.