Over half of pupils in Sheffield school referral units 'black or minority ethnic' reveals critical report

More than half the children in Sheffield’s pupil referral units for excluded school children are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, officials have revealed.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:07 pm

The figures are revealed in a Government report – The experiences of black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system – which warns black and mixed heritage boys are receiving poor support from youth offending services.

It reveals 52 per cent of referral unit pupils in the city are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and only five per cent successfully reintegrate back into mainstream education.

Pupil referral units teach children who aren’t able to attend school and may not otherwise receive suitable education. This could be because they have a short or long term illness, have been excluded or are a new starter waiting for a mainstream school place.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sheffield Magistrates Court, where youth court cases are heard. A government report into support for young offenders reveals 52 per cent of youngers in pupil referral units in Sheffield are black or minority ethnic

Read More

Read More
A fifth of Sheffield young offenders will reoffend within a year

Inspectors found “significant deficits” in the quality of work conducted by youth offending services and partner agencies, after looking at work in Sheffield, Manchester, Lewisham, Nottingham, Haringey, Hackney, Leeds, Liverpool and Oxfordshire.

Poor support for black and mixed heritage boys in youth justice system

HM Inspectorate of Probation Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “There is a disproportionate number of black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system. Addressing this disparity has been a long-standing goal, but we found a lack of clarity and curiosity about why this disparity exists and what needs to be done to change it.

“More must be done to understand and meet these children’s needs earlier on, to prevent yet more black and mixed heritage boys from entering the criminal justice system further down the line.”

Youth offending services work with 10 to 18-year-olds who have offended or are at risk of offending.

It reveals 60 per cent of those who received a court sentence had been excluded from school; youth justice staff struggled to find suitable educational alternatives for them.

Mr Russell said: “We have to question why social services, education teams and other agencies are not intervening earlier. Why are these boys less likely to be referred to Early Help services or more likely to be excluded from school than their white peers?

“Youth justice workers are united in the view that the early detection of problems would have led to different outcomes for these children.”

“We found some staff lacked the confidence to talk to the boys and their families about discrimination, culture, and the specific challenges they face because of their ethnicity.

“These topics are too important to push aside.”

Sheffield Council commissions survey of extent of racism

The report said there were examples of good practice found in Sheffield, where cabinet members at Sheffield City Council and the council’s chief executive had arranged for the Race Equality Commission to carry out an independent strategic assessment of the nature, extent, causes and impact of racism and race inequality within the city, and make recommendations for tackling them.

The assessment will focus on a number of areas, including business, crime and justice (including youth justice), education, health, sport and culture.

The report stated: “Once they gain a better understanding of any issues of structural racism and racial disparities, the intention is to take action to disrupt them and to identify those with responsibilities to make the necessary changes. This affirmative action and whole-system approach being taken by senior leaders demonstrates a real commitment to change.”

It also stated the YOS in Sheffield had produced guidance for staff working with black and minority ethnic children and their families, setting out questions, prompts and things to think about when analysing a child’s circumstances and experiences.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription or buy a paper. Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor