Words cannot express how this black teenager must have felt after this humiliating nightmare. Her ordeal came about as a result of an institutionally racist police force and a fragmented education system which does not put the safety and well-being of its pupils first.
Some might say it is not the SEA’s role to comment on policing. Those of us who live in London have lost all confidence in it. The promise of a paradigm shift after the death of Stephen Lawrence has not come about. Commuter trains from Surrey and Kent take many Met police officers to work. They often do not live in the communities they serve and have no idea of the reality black young people face every day. Recent events have shown racism and misogyny are rife in the force. Child Q faced the full force of both. Assurances around a ‘few bad apples’ have been shown to be false. Nothing less than a root and branch reform of “The Met” and a discipline code, similar to that in most education establishments, where racism and misogyny are sacking offences, will do. Moving people away from ‘front line’ roles is not good enough.
The school, in this case a stand-alone academy, must bear much of the responsibility. It is a. school’s duty to safeguard its pupils and prevent sexual humiliation. The fact that two teachers stood outside to enable this strip search to happen is simply unacceptable. The teachers themselves should have questioned what they were being asked to do. The fact they apparently did not is down to a safeguarding culture in the school which must have been virtually non-existent. The safety of and wellbeing of the child came second to discipline and behaviour policies. After all, the police were called on the suspicion of an offence being committed rather than an actual one. Those of us who have worked in inner city schools would have been phoning the police several times a week, if we had followed this policy. The creating of a safeguarding culture which protects children is down to the leadership of the school. The mayor of Hackney has called for resignations from the academy’s leadership. We support this call. We have serious doubts that the school can continue to work effectively with the children from the communities it serves, unless this is the case.
The SEA is running a campaign to bring back schools under local authority control. The school where this happened was a stand-alone academy with good intentions of course, but divorced from the community it serves. Parents, pupils and the local authority have no influence on how it operates. Education is just being done to the pupils by a charity which no one in the community invited in. There are no elected governors, and none apart from a small opaque group of trustees is ultimately accountable. The SEA believes education has to happen in collaboration with communities. Listening is crucial. Dialogue must take place. Partnership must develop. The terrible ordeal Child Q faced is the result of a broken system which has mislaid its raison d’etre, the children it serves.
SEA General Secretary