Subnormal: A British Scandal

Now Streaming on Prime Video* *US, CA ONLY
  • About

    Examining one of the biggest scandals in the history of British education, Subnormal: A British Scandal reveals how Black children in the 1960s & 70s were disproportionately sent to schools for the so-called “Educationally Subnormal” (ESN). This gripping documentary tells the story of how Black parents, teachers and activists banded together to expose the injustice and force the education system to change.  It explores the controversial debates on race and intelligence that led to the scandal, and the devastating impact it had on the children affected. The film discusses the IQ testing that took place and shows why it was heavily biased against Black migrant children.

    Subnormal also describes the events surrounding a leaked school report which revealed the common misconception of teachers that Black children have lower IQs than their English contemporaries. The explicit racism of the report galvanized the community into action and led to the publication of Bernard Coard’s seminal book How The West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System. Featuring first-hand interviews with key participants in these events, the film charts the ensuing media storm and the persistence of black parents and organizers which ultimately led to The Race Relations Act being amended to prevent racial bias in education.

    Though these special schools were eventually phased out, this documentary also features several ESN students who talk for the first time about their education and what it is like to live in the shadow of an ‘Educationally Subnormal’ label.

    Drawing on a rich array of personal testimony, documents and archive footage, the film captures this high-stakes battle between Black parents and the British education system to drive fair and equal treatment for Black children in today’s society.

Press Contacts
Chris McLaughlin
Kit Chavers
Country Availability

Canada, United States

Executive Produced By

Steve McQueen, James Rogan, Tracey Scoffield, Soleta Rogan

Directed By

Lyttanya Shannon

Assets

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Show Description

Examining one of the biggest scandals in the history of British education, Subnormal: A British Scandal reveals how Black children in the 1960s & 70s were disproportionately sent to schools for the so-called “Educationally Subnormal” (ESN). This gripping documentary tells the story of how Black parents, teachers and activists banded together to expose the injustice and force the education system to change.  It explores the controversial debates on race and intelligence that led to the scandal, and the devastating impact it had on the children affected. The film discusses the IQ testing that took place and shows why it was heavily biased against Black migrant children.

Subnormal also describes the events surrounding a leaked school report which revealed the common misconception of teachers that Black children have lower IQs than their English contemporaries. The explicit racism of the report galvanized the community into action and led to the publication of Bernard Coard’s seminal book How The West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System. Featuring first-hand interviews with key participants in these events, the film charts the ensuing media storm and the persistence of black parents and organizers which ultimately led to The Race Relations Act being amended to prevent racial bias in education.

Though these special schools were eventually phased out, this documentary also features several ESN students who talk for the first time about their education and what it is like to live in the shadow of an ‘Educationally Subnormal’ label.

Drawing on a rich array of personal testimony, documents and archive footage, the film captures this high-stakes battle between Black parents and the British education system to drive fair and equal treatment for Black children in today’s society.

Supporting Documents

Subnormal - Press Kit download icon

Credits

Executive Producers
Steve McQueen
James Rogan
Tracey Scoffield
Soleta Rogan

Senior Producer
Helen Bart

Director
Lyttanya Shannon

Production Companies
Rogan Productions
Lammas Park
Turbine Studios
Amazon Studios

  • Credits

    Executive Producers
    Steve McQueen
    James Rogan
    Tracey Scoffield
    Soleta Rogan

    Senior Producer
    Helen Bart

    Director
    Lyttanya Shannon

    Production Companies
    Rogan Productions
    Lammas Park
    Turbine Studios
    Amazon Studios