Black pupils in UK experience biased diagnosis of learning difficulties 

Research has indicated that social, emotional and mental health issues are being identified twice as often in black Caribbean students than in their white classmates.

Eliza Archer
Eliza Archer NewsMavens, Europe
Black pupils in UK experience biased diagnosis of learning difficulties  - NewsMavens
British schoolchildren, YouTube

Why this story matters:

A study from Oxford University has found that black Caribbean pupils are being over-diagnosed with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) issues, negatively impacting their education.

Students identified as experiencing these difficulties often require special adaptations to their education. However, children wrongly identified may then receive an unnecessarily narrowed curriculum.

"This might mean they get less academically challenging, more vocationally orientated work perhaps, like being shifted from maths to motor maintenance, or experience a lowered expectation of what they can do.”

These results have sparked discussion around the systematic bias that may be present in classrooms and encouraged schools to examine their practices, particularly regarding the identification of SEMH issues.

Details from the story:

  • The study indicated that social, emotional and mental health issues are being identified twice as often in black Caribbean students than in their white classmates.
  • Researchers were unable to account for the "substantial overrepresentation" of black Caribbean students.
  • Professor Steve Strand suggested that there were instances of misidentification though it was difficult to pinpoint exactly.  
  • Disciplinary measures were also suggested by Professor Strand as an action which may have unintended consequences.
  • Socioeconomic status can account for approximately 50% of the difference but not all.
  • The research has sparked calls for schools to be aware of systematic biases in the classroom.
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