Equality & Disproportionality in Schools

Equality and disproportionality are themes that school inspectors have recently been interested in during school inspections. Keeping children safe in education 2022  has given focus and clarity on the legal duties of schools in relation to equality, disproportionality and protected characteristics.

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the subsequent global impact has prompted many education settings to take a deep-dive into their own data. Such a process will enable the  identification of areas where there has been disproportionality and inequality in service delivery in relation to children and families. Examining their own data can uncover questionable practice and enable learning and change.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) highlighted in a report How Black Working-Class Youth are Criminalised and Excluded in the English School System by Jessica Perrera that black working-class young people in England are being unfairly excluded and criminalised by a “two-tier education system”. The IRR report focuses on London and states that pupils from black families are disproportionately being sent to pupil referral units. Black Caribbean boys are nearly four times more likely to be permanently excluded and twice as likely to be suspended. The updated DfE guidance Behaviour in Schools – Advice for Headteachers and school staff  sets out clearly  that school leaders should analyse data ‘with an objective lens and from multiple perspectives’ to query and examine what could be contributing to misbehaviour and considering protected characteristics. Findings should inform policy and practice to ensure schools are complying with legal duties under the Equality Act 2010. In particular paragraphs 83-93 of KCSIE 2022 has included updated paragraphs clarifying schools’ and colleges’ legal duties and making the link between these and safeguarding.

Practical Advice with Children from ‘Wish We Knew What To Say’ by Pragya Agarwal

  • Promote learning about each other’s home cultures and each other’s similarities and differences
  • Introduce critical thinking about stereotypes and situations seen in books and cartoons (true/not true/fair/not fair)
  • Introduce stories from your own culture/heritage
  • Introduce positive stereotypes and role models
  • Be particular about the literature and media that you are exposing children to
  • Foster pride in children’s racial identity
  • Introduce diverse books and question stereotypes
  • Support children’s curiosity about their own identities and those of others through active engagement and questions
  • Help them to understand the difference between respectful and abusive behaviour
  • Talk to children about the ways that racism can manifest in the classroom and the playground, e.g.  through jokes and name-calling
  • Ask open-ended questions such as ‘What would you do if someone was being racist on your bus’? Talk through appropriate responses and actions

Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice

  • Ensure your school or college practices preventative education (para 131 KCSIE 2022) to prepare children and students for life in modern Britain
  • Create a culture of zero tolerance for sexism, misogyny/misandry, homophobia, biphobic and sexual violence/harassment
  • Ensure your behaviour policy promotes your setting’s values and standards
  • Include a planned programme of evidence-based PSHE delivered in regularly timetabled lessons and reinforced throughout the whole school curriculum
  • Ensure the PSHE programme is fully inclusive, age and stage of development appropriate (in particular for children with SEND and other vulnerabilities)
  • Draw up individual behaviour plans for more vulnerable children – involve parents and carers to plan positive and proactive behaviour support and to minimise the need to use reasonable force
  • Safer recruitment processes should include the exploration of potential areas of concern such as an implication that adults and children are equal, a lack of recognition of the vulnerability of children or any indicators of negative safeguarding behaviours.

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