Members of the Centre for Research in Race & Education will be presenting their research findings at the annual meeting of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) in London on 24th September 2014.

With David Gillborn, Nicola Rollock and Paul Warmington from the University of Birmingham and Charlotte Chadderton from the University of East London

Abstract: overview

In 2014 veteran black activist Stafford Scott commented of relationships between black communities and the criminal justice system, ‘It feels as though we are living in a parallel universe from mainstream society – for what is seen as justice by the mainstream is experienced as an injustice by the marginalised.’ Anti-racist educators have begun to ask whether a similar disjuncture exists between the lived experiences of black communities and official discourses of equality and diversity in contemporary education (Gillborn et al, 2013; Warmington, 2014). At the level of governance, for example, John (2013) has pointed to the low priority given by Ofsted to schools’ race equality policies. In public debate black pupils’ experiences of educational disadvantage are increasingly obscured and many in the media, politics and the teaching profession believe that ‘white working class’ students are the lowest achieving group in schools (Gillborn, 2010; Gillborn et al, 2013). It is increasingly common for talk of race inequality to be dismissed as crude or out-dated at a time when society is supposedly becoming ‘post-racial’ (Lentin, 2011; Rollock, 2013; Warmington, 2014).

This symposium draws upon three different projects conducted by researchers at the Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) at the University of Birmingham. The three papers employ diverse methodological approaches to destabilise current representations of the status of race and ethnic diversity in contemporary education in the UK. David Gillborn examines the reductionist understandings of race, social class and poverty that have shaped media and political discussions on the achievement of white working-class children in relation to other ethnic groups. Paul Warmington’s historical research examines shifts in the work of black educational researchers in the ‘post-racial’ landscape. In particular, he examines how black scholars and activists have sought to counter the de-racialisation of education policy and the reduction of black pupils’ experiences to measures of under-achievement. Nicola Rollock’s critical ethnography explores the educational perspectives and strategies of middle-class families with black Caribbean heritage. While rendered largely invisible in contemporary policy depictions of race and education, their experiences are indicative of the persistence of racism in schooling. The substantive content of these papers is embedded in critical theories of race, racism and education. Their analysis and findings suggest that while race is today the forgotten inequality of education and social policy, for black communities the poverty of official colour-blind analyses has served to reinforce the racialization of education and threatens to increase existing racist inequalities of outcome and experience.

Download the conference programme and abstracts