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Schools: Racial Discrimination

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if his Department make an assessment of the potential merits of the recommendations contained in the report entitled, Race and Racism in English Secondary Schools, published by Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury and the Runnymede Trust; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Officials at the Department are aware of the recent report on ‘Race and Racism in English Secondary Schools’ published by the Runnymede Trust and continue to consider its implications. They have noted the report’s recommendations across the teacher workforce, curriculums, police and policies.

On the teacher workforce, in October 2018, the Department set out its commitment to increasing the diversity of the teaching workforce across all protected characteristics - including race - when it launched the Statement of Intent. This commitment to increasing teacher diversity was made alongside 10 co-signatories from the sector (including unions and grassroots organisations, such as BAMEed, WomenEd, LGBTed and Disability Ed) who set out their own individual activities. The Department has been making progress against its commitments including:

  • Providing £2 million of funding in nationwide Equality and Diversity regional ‘hubs’ to support aspiring leaders, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds, into headship;
  • Reflecting the importance of diversity in the Department’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy published in January 2019;
  • Continuing to engage with our signatories. In July 2019, we held a roundtable to gather progress updates and showcase best practice;
  • Encouraging representative recruitment for NPQs for school leadership through key performance indicators.

On curricula, schools play an important role in preparing children for life in modern Britain and supporting them to understand the society they grow up in. All schools are required to teach a balanced and broadly based curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils, and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. The national curriculum does not set out how curriculum subjects, or topics within the subjects, should be taught. The Department believes teachers should be able to use their own knowledge and expertise to determine how they teach their pupils, and to make choices about what they teach. Additionally, schools are required to promote fundamental British values, including individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs.

On the presence of police in schools, there are good examples of joint working between police forces and schools which have been established through working effectively in partnership. Indeed, many schools have links with their local police forces and police officers play an important role in schools, engaging with and mentoring pupils. However, decisions about these relationships are rightly made at a local level between schools who know their pupils and police forces who know their local neighbourhoods.

On school policies to tackle racism, all children and young people must be treated fairly. Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must not discriminate against a pupil in a number of respects because of a characteristic protected by the Act, including race. The Public Sector Equality Duty also requires public bodies, including maintained schools and Academies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other conduct prohibited by the Act; advance equality of opportunity for people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it; and foster good relations across all characteristics. Additionally, the Department is clear that racism or bullying of any kind is completely unacceptable and schools should adhere to stringent behaviour policies to prevent this.

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