The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Championing diversity and equality in these challenging times

In these turbulent times, schools must ensure that their commitment to equality and diversity shines through. 

'It’s never too late to give up your prejudices.'  ~ Henry David Thoreau

As with our communities, our schools are diverse. Diversity is not abstract in any way. It is simply a reflection of reality.

In these turbulent times, it feels that society is shunning equality and cohesion. Where does this leave schools, custodians of future generations?

Many schools are multi-cultural environments. While staff have a duty to promote a culture of respect among pupils of different backgrounds and faiths, it’s also important to remember that cultural differences can enrich school life altogether.

Be pro-Active

The passing of the Equality Act 2010 brought together previously existing legislation on equality with a view to preventing discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity.

All staff share a responsibility to understand the legislation, and consult any guidance written specifically for your setting by local authorities or academy trusts. Don't wait for incidents to arise before you've taken note of the necessary guidance!

Equal value

Be alert to, and respond professionally to attitudes that challenge your school’s commitment to equality and diversity. It would be impossible for a school to be completely free from underlying prejudices and discriminatory attitudes. Young people may hold views or fears that they are uncomfortable sharing. However, teachers have a responsibility to to frame any classroom discussion with agreed ground rules and an adherence to the school's core ethos.

No matter what may be happening in the wider world, set positive examples for your pupils to follow.

Visible inclusion

Use any opportunity to highlight examples of inclusion, be it through literature, displays or your website.

Optimus members can download and adapt our single equality plan template to evidence your school’s commitment to inclusion.

Resourceful

When reviewing the resources used in your school, get rid of any that don’t support your commitment to equality and diversity. What messages, both explicit and implicit, do children get from their experience of a school day? How does the curriculum actively promote multiculturalism?

A sensitivity to language and terms, particularly when addressing controversial issues, is paramount.

Equal access

Make sure that all children can access the learning on offer in your school. Sounds glib, but improving accessibility is never a waste of time!

What information do schools need to publish?

Schools need to publish:

  • pupil diversity statistics
  • evidence that the school is implementing the Equality Act
  • staff diversity statistics (in larger schools). 

Broad horizons

Lessons should highlight examples of cohesion from around the world where appropriate, rather than the familiarity of what’s local. Broaden horizons!

Seek views

How do pupils perceive equality and diversity in school? If you have no means of knowing, you will ultimately never know if your ethos is getting through. 

Provide a forum for discussions and (if necessary) concerns.

Teachers themselves should avoid letting their own prejudices influence or perverse discussion. The Act states that 'where individual teachers are concerned, having a view about something does not amount to discrimination.'

However, this 'should not extend to allowing them to discriminate against others.' (3.32)

Find out more

There are many useful resources out there to help schools and teachers to promote diversity and equality and prevent bullying and discrimination.

  • Stonewall has some useful toolkits designed to prevent and tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for primary and secondary schools.
  • Amnesty International have school speakers who visit primary and secondary schools to talk about human rights, through real-life stories and films.
  • The DfE’s guidance to equality and diversity is worth a read. 

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