The government has published ‘Inclusive Britain: government response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’. This is the government’s response to the Sewell report, a paper published in March 2021 by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Dr Tony Sewell. A summary of the recommendations and actions from the Sewell report is available here. This article breaks down what you need to know.

The key points are as follows:

  1. Schools will collect and publish governing board diversity data
  2. The government will develop a new history curriculum
  3. The careers duty will be extended to academies, PRUs, and Year 7 pupils
  4. The DfE will analyse and publish more attainment data
  5. A more inclusive uniform policy resource will be created
  6. The response addresses discriminatory exclusion claims
  7. The upcoming SEND review will address outcomes for pupils in AP

Read on to learn more about each key point.

Schools will collect and publish governing board diversity data

 

The government will recommend that schools collect and publish data related to the diversity of their governing boards, to ensure that boards are able to “[give] a voice to the wider school community” to “help ensure that decisions taken are in the interest of all pupils”.

The response states that once the next edition of the DfE’s ‘Governance handbook’ is published, it will “reflect this guidance in future iterations” of the ESFA’s ‘Understanding your data: a guide for school governors and academy trustees’ guidance.

 

The government will develop a new history curriculum

 

As was previously confirmed last year, ministers will develop a new model history curriculum in collaboration with “curriculum experts, historians and school leaders”. The government’s aim is to equip teachers to teach their pupils about “migration, cultural change and the contributions made by different communities”.

In addition to the new curriculum, the DfE will also “actively seek out and signpost to schools suggested high-quality resources to support teaching all-year round on black history in readiness for Black History Month [in] October 2022”.

 

The careers duty will be extended to academies, PRUs, and Year 7 pupils

 

The report found that ethnic minority pupils are “more likely” to have lower attainment levels, drop out of university, and earn less post-graduation than their white peers, despite “most” ethnic minority pupils outperforming their white peers in school.

To combat this issue, the government is supporting the Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill, which will extend the current duty to provide independent careers guidance in maintained schools, special schools and PRUs to also apply to academies and AP settings. The Bill also aims to extend the duty to all secondary school pupils; currently, the duty applies from only Year 8 onwards.

 

The DfE will analyse and publish more attainment data

 

The government will be investigating the publication of “additional data on the academic performance of ethnic groups”, alongside “other critical factors relating to social mobility and progress at school level, in post-18 education and employment after education”. The response stated that this will happen “by the end of 2022”.

Additionally, the DfE will undertake a “programme of analysis in early 2022” to “drive up” attainment for underperforming ethnic groups of pupils. The analysis will aim to “understand pupil attainment and investigate whether there are any specific findings and implications for different ethnic groups to tackle disparities”.

The DfE, alongside the government’s Race Disparity Unit, will also examine the strategies used by MATs that are “most successful at bridging achievement gaps for different ethnic groups and raising overall life chances”. The findings “will be published in 2022 and will help drive up standards for all pupils”.

 

A more inclusive uniform policy resource will be created

 

The response stated that the government is “concerned that some black pupils are experiencing discrimination because of their hair” and that “some school leadership teams are increasingly looking for guidance on this issue”.

It referenced Ruby Williams vs Urswick School, a court case related to Ms Williams, a secondary school pupil, being repeatedly excluded for violating school uniform policy due to her Afro hairstyle. Ms Williams received an £8,500 out-of-court settlement after claiming she faced racial discrimination, and Urswick School entered a legally-binding agreement to amend its hairstyle policy with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In acknowledgement of the “very real, practical difficulty compliance with some uniform policies may pose to black children and their parents”, the DfE will work with the Equality Hub to create a “resource on pupil hairstyles and uniform policy”. The department will also work with leading schools to “showcase best practice in uniform policy specific to the diversity of acceptable hairstyles in school to avoid unfair treatment of ethnic minority children whose hair type may not be like the majority”.

 

The response addresses discriminatory exclusion claims

 

The response addresses accusations that black pupils are more likely to be excluded than their white peers due to racial discrimination. It claims that data shows black African pupils are less likely to be excluded than white and black Caribbean pupils.

It stated that this “does not mean racist attitudes or racist incidents do not exist anywhere in schools”, but it “does suggest that other factors play a more significant role in determining different exclusion rates”.

The report also warns against “misinformation” caused by a “conflation between race and ethnicity”, which “also confuses the complex reality that even ethnic groups who share the same race have different outcomes and face different challenges”.

The government restated that it will publish “new and improved” guidance on behaviour and exclusions later this year. The guidance is currently in consultation – read a summary of the proposed revisions here and here, and have your say here before 31 March 2022.

 

The upcoming SEND review will address outcomes for pupils in AP

 

The response claims that the government’s upcoming SEND review will include “proposals for transforming outcomes for young people in AP”, in recognition that outcomes for pupils in AP are “not good enough” and that “some ethnic minority groups” are disproportionately represented in the sector.

The reforms will make “early support the norm for all young people who need it in mainstream schools and ensure stable and high-quality education is available throughout a young person’s time in AP”. They will also “incentivise early support in mainstream schools that will help reduce preventable exclusions and ensure overrepresented groups of children who are permanently excluded remain safe and supported in high-quality education”.

 

What’s next?

 

  • Read the government’s response in full here.
  • Read our article on tackling the issue of racism in schools here.

Bibliography

Department for Education, Equality Hub, Race Disparity Unit, etc. (2022) ‘Inclusive Britain: government response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inclusive-britain-action-plan-government-response-to-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities/inclusive-britain-government-response-to-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities> [Accessed: 18 March 2022]