CEN releases its annual report

Est. read time: 4 min

Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has spent another year supporting vulnerable children and their often bewildered parents in the face of institutional practices in schooling that are often demeaning, unfair, discriminatory and damaging to the life chances and well-being of children and to the confidence of parents and families in the schooling system.

This year’s Annual Report (covering the period from April 2011 to May 2012) provides details both of the range and extent of the interventions CEN is called upon to make and of the disproportionality of exclusions involving African and African Caribbean school students. It is now an all too familiar story and one that has a history of which the entire nation should be ashamed. But, rather than looking at the systemic reasons for the continuing over-representation of African heritage students in exclusion statistics, the Government is hell bent on removing the only recourse they and their parents have to an independent scrutiny of headteachers’ exclusion decisions.

As the report points out, even under the former regime that pre-dated the Education Act 2011 which took effect in September 2012, only a very few exclusion decisions were overturned with a direction from the Independent Appeals Panel that the student be either reinstated within the excluding school or assisted by the school to find an alternative place elsewhere.

Read the report in full (below):

CEN has a databank that provides ample evidence of the fact that many schools do not see permanent exclusion as a last resort. They could provide little information about the measures they employed to keep the individual student in school. Indeed, many argue that their responsibility is to those students who demonstrate their willingness to learn and not to those who use up school resources in ‘futile attempts’ to get them to change their behaviour and outlook so that they could learn.

This approach is reinforced heavily by government officials and by recent education legislation. It is one that flies in the face of principles such as ‘Every Child Matters’, ‘No Child Left behind’ and ‘Delivering the Educational Entitlement of Every Child’. Surely, part of that entitlement must be entitlement to support and guidance with self development, self management and learning how to learn.

This is why CEN welcomes the engagement we have with enlightened headteachers, such as Gary Philips at Lilian Baylis Technology College, who, rather than seeing CEN as an adversary, actively work in partnership with us to support children’s learning and improve school practices, especially in support of vulnerable students and those identified as being at risk of exclusion.

I take this opportunity to thank all the staff and volunteers at CEN for their continuing and relentless hard work and for keeping going with hope and determination even when it felt during the year that things could hardly get worse. They remain an inspiration to parents and students no less than to me, and I am committed to ensuring that they receive as much support as possible from the Management Committee and Friends of CEN.

At the beginning of May 2012, just as we were about to release this report, Gerry German, founder and unpaid director of CEN passed on suddenly, even as he prepared to go and cast his vote in the London Mayoral elections. While this was traumatic for us all, the staff dealt with their bereavement while making sure that services to vulnerable students and their parents were not interrupted.

Huge thanks, too, to our funders who continue to believe in the need for the dedicated advocacy, support and guidance services CEN provides and in our capacity to provide those services to the highest standard, despite the ever increasing demand.

My greatest wish, though, is to see more evidence of CEN enabling students, parents and whole communities to empower themselves, as our name suggests, and act collectively in their own interest in the face of increasingly worrying developments in education and schooling. I see those developments as divisive, discriminatory, against children and their rights and destined to widen rather than narrow the gap between those whose self development and life chances are enhanced by schooling and those who are left behind and whose lives are too often defined by the abandonment of hope and the death of aspiration.

I remain hopeful that with your support CEN will continue to stand with students and parents and provide them with the advocacy, guidance, knowledge and information they need to empower themselves to play a more effective role in supporting children’s learning and defending their education rights.

NOTE FOR EDITORS: Professor Gus John was a founding member of CEN with Gerry German and John O’Malley. He is currently CEN’s Chair – for the second time since 1999.

Picture (Home): “Students in Classrooms at UIS” by Jeremy Wilburn (Flick – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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