AFRICAN AND CARIBBEAN PEOPLE wrongly classed as ‘educationally subnormal’ in the 1960s and 70s are launching a legal campaign for the government to make amends. An event will be held at the House of Commons on Wednesday 1 March, where those who have suffered the lifelong consequences of the misclassification as children will share some of their experiences.
Leigh Day solicitor Frances Swaine, who is spearheading the campaign on behalf of those affected, will chair the event. Speakers will include Kim Johnson MP for Liverpool Riverside, Professor Leslie Thomas KC and Professor Gus John.
BBC documentary maker Lyttana Shannon who told some of the stories in her groundbreaking production Subnormal: A British Scandal in 2021 will also attend. She described how the term “educationally subnormal” was disproportionately applied to children of the Windrush generation and the effects that has had on their whole lives.
They include Noel Gordon, Maisie Barrett, and Rene Stevens who will speak at the Westminster event. The audience of up to 100 people will include a broad section from the fields of education and politics who are working to end continuing racism in education.
Noel Gordon was sent to a school for ‘educationally subnormal’ children where he had little formal education, with no curriculum and no exams. He has spent his whole life trying to catch up on education but still carries the stigma of the childhood label.
Maisie Barrett, who now knows she is dyslexic, was sent to a special school aged six. Although her parents were able to get her into mainstream education from the age of 11, as a pupil who could not read or write, she had fallen too far behind to be able to catch up. She says her own children have suffered the consequences of her feelings of inadequacy.
The legal campaign is calling on the Government to make amends for the lifelong consequences of educational misclassification in childhood. Leigh Day solicitor Frances Swaine said: “I represent people whose entire lives have been shaped by the fact that as children they were wrongly labelled as educationally subnormal, a label that was disproportionately applied to African and Caribbean children in the 1960s and 70s. These people have suffered the terrible consequences of this labelling for their whole lives. The classification was a result of racism in education that still continues today.
“The event at the Commons on 1 March is to raise awareness of our campaign and I am grateful that so many intend to come and listen to the stories of my clients as part of their own work to eliminate racism from education in Britain.”
Frances Swaine works alongside Jacqui McKenzie and Freya Danby in the immigration and asylum team to help those affected by the Windrush scandal.
* The documentary, Subnormal: A British Scandal is available to watch here.
* Source: Leigh Day