On Friday 1st May, I quoted-tweeted Ria Chatterjee, an ITV journalist, reporting that an east London school was being investigated for ‘completely unacceptable methods’, one of which was referring to pupils in detentions as ‘detainees’. My tweet described this as the ‘school to prison pipeline’ in action. My DMs lit up with people questioning what I meant by this and accusations of overreacting. Yet, research exists clearly outlining a relationship between early issues during school and later experiences with the law. Karen Graham, a former prison teacher, lecturer and sociologist of education, found in her study described in her 2014 research paper, Does School Prepare Men For Prison?, that there is enough to suggest that there is a trajectory through schooling that leads from problems in school, to exclusion from school, to prison.
The investigation by ITV of Hackney New School, the east London school introduced above, found that the school was averaging 80 detentions issued every day, and on one day alone more than 150 pupils, or ‘detainees’, were in detention – approximately half the school’s population. In many other schools, children are being removed from classes and sent to ‘isolation units’ by way of behaviour management intervention. These sanctions arguably have parallels with the sanctions and language of prisons and it can be further argued that this increase in carceral language – language relating to prisons – is feeding the ‘school to prison pipeline’. As Karen Graham (2014) argues, “What is usually called educational failure is conceivably successful social control.”