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Education and ethnicity – Is the education system in the UK delivering or discriminating?

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In the second half of the review on educational attainment in the UK, policy think tank Curia investigates the relationship between ethnicity and educational attainment in the Liverpool and Leeds.

Liverpool and Leeds

With minimal change in deprivation statistics after 2019, educational attainment in Liverpool has continued to be concentrated within the dominant White population in the mid and south east regions, with LSOA deprivation as low as 0.8 in these areas. As the north west has remained significantly deprived over the past four years, the Asian and Asian British have significantly borne the brunt of the inequalities. Within Leeds, the trends show a slightly different trend, with Black ethnic minorities being at a greater relative disadvantage. Consistent throughout, have been the high scores in education deprivation across all ethnic minorities.

Leeds Cropped 2
Image – Educational Deprivation stats via VUIT

Capturing deprivation beyond statistics—an intersectional lens on attainment and disadvantage

A snapshot of the areas show how red zones within the cities collectively bring down the education skills and training rank of these areas in the UK. This, in itself, highlights severe deprivation. Within this, the concentration of that deprivation borne by Asian and Asian British, followed by Black, minorities is startling, to say the least.

This piece of information is not small by any account. This result is alarming in that the burden of educational deprivation in most deprived regions is not born by all ethnicities equally. Even within the most deprived areas, Asian and Asian British individuals are further deprived by ethnicity. In an economy where cost-of-living is impacting all facets of life, education is clearly not far behind. However, the repercussions of these statistics will not stop at education. We have seen, too many times, how deprivation is cyclically sustained across generations when educational inequalities feed into income security and well-being instability.

This sentiment has already been echoed by parliamentary data published by the House of Commons. It reveals that one of the factors responsible for educational deprivation among the U16 population is income deprivation experienced by families in these areas. The IDACI—Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index—within the red zones in these cities is consistently high, showing how ethnic disadvantage leads to lower educational attainment and increasing poverty, which will sustain itself in future generations.

What we need to acknowledge are also the severe psychological consequences. Data shows that educational deprivation strongly correlates with long-term mental health conditions that are significantly higher for red zones across these cities and consistently lower for green zones—and within the population, higher for children and young teens.

It becomes obvious then, how deprivation and disadvantage along ethnic lines can contribute to cumulative disadvantages across generations while invisibly supporting the accumulation of knowledge and life chances in favour of certain races and ethnicities over others.

The way forward in tackling ‘ethnicity-biased’ education

Ethnic minority students are at a greater risk of lower achievement relative to white pupils. As long as these fault lines are not addressed or recognised, ethnicity-biased socioeconomic deprivation in England will continue to be produced and side-lined until the cracks in the social fabric of the economy widen to a point beyond repair.

Final thought

In the long term, bringing the economy out of a recession cannot be targeted solely through monetary and fiscal policy measures. Interventions need to be matched with investments in structural barriers that are experienced by pockets of the population, who are often largely forgotten about or side-lined by policies that focus on the mainstream. These policies must recognise the struggles of minority communities and base their foundation on conversations with grassroot communities, such as local schools, teachers, parents, community organisations, etc. They should be targeted to the most deprived regions regarding the barriers, discrimination and disadvantage faced by minority ethnicities. This will go a significantly long way to stabilising the economy and will set up a stream of steady productivity over the coming decade.

There is an essential need for concerted efforts by legislators to bring in ethnicity-influenced education policy within the corridors of power and translate them into actionable and scalable intervention.

For the full report and similar articles, click here to view the Chamber journal for this quarter.

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