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

Carole Green

Three impactful steps schools can take to embed EDI into their settings

Ensuring we are engaging in equality, diversity and inclusion in an impactful way is crucial to the wellbeing of the whole school community. Carole Green shares three steps to take to reach this goal.

Settings that struggle to embed EDI are more likely to have environments in which discrimination and prejudice can thrive, which impacts the safety and wellbeing of all school community members (Soyei and Hollinshead, 2022).

However, embedding EDI within a school is not without its challenges, requiring both sustained commitment and resources. Below are three steps schools can take that are especially impactful in creating inclusive school environments.

Step one: discover the EDI needs of your setting

To fully understand the issues within the setting and dismantle any barriers to equality, schools need to have a clear understanding of the school landscape. One of the first steps in gauging the school’s current strengths and weaknesses is through consultation with the school community.  

Schools have a statutory duty to promote pupil voice and to involve young people in decision-making (DfE, 2014). Pupils are at the heart of the school community and so engaging with them as to the school’s current EDI provision and plans moving forward is essential. 

Many schools fall into the trap of writing objectives that are too broad

Some of how pupils can be involved include the following. 

  • Holding pupil focus groups allows schools to gain insight into the experiences of the young people within school. 
  • Online questionnaires completed by young people. 
  • Engaging young people to review PSHE materials and school policies which relate to equality, diversity, and inclusion. 
  • Providing a box in an accessible area where young people can anonymously post questions or concerns that they have about equality issues in school. 

Parents and carers are also a key part of our school communities, listening to their concerns and engaging their support is vital for successful equality, diversity, and inclusion work. Be open and transparent about your school’s drive for equality and welcome input. 

Many parents and carers may have experience and expertise which will support you in this work and concerns and worries can stem from misunderstandings and poor communication. Some initiatives to engage parents and carers are as follows. 

  • Drop-in sessions to ask questions and raise concerns. 
  • Regular updates about your EDI initiatives in newsletters and/or emails. 
  • Adding something about EDI into events that parents and carers are already attending such as parents’ evenings or school shows. 
  • Online surveys and questionnaires can suit parents/carers who are managing busy schedules or are less likely to be able to attend face-to-face opportunities. 

Finally, find avenues for school staff to share their experiences and ideas for improvement, where they are not worried about repercussions. Alongside staff surveys, include time for EDI in supervision and staff meetings. Consider creating an EDI Working Group within the team, providing members with dedicated time to focus on this area. 

It is important that consultation with stakeholders becomes a regular feature of school life, and that leaders take time to feedback to the wider school community on the changes made because of consultation. If this is not shared, it gives the impression that the time people have invested has not been worthwhile. 

Understanding the setting also involves taking steps to audit your current practice. Look at the curriculum and where different groups are represented. Collect and analyse monitoring data, such as:

  • admissions
  • attendance
  • attainment
  • rewards and sanctions
  • information about prejudice-related incidents. 

This will highlight where there are potential inequalities which we need to overcome.

Step two: formulate meaningful equality objectives

Under the Public Sector Equality Duty within the Equality Act 2010, schools are expected to publish information which shows they are paying due regard to their duties to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Good monitoring information with accompanying analysis will go some way to demonstrating this. 

Another requirement of the PSED is to publish meaningful equality objectives. Once armed with information about the current inequalities and areas for improvement in the school, senior leaders should meet with governors to agree on objectives that the school is looking to work towards. The number of equality objectives a school should set depends on the school size and what is reasonable and achievable. 

Many schools fall into the trap of writing objectives that are too broad, unrealistic or actions ‘to do’ rather than solution-focused objectives. An objective that simply re-states part of the Public Sector Equality Duty to ‘eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation’ is unrealistic, broad, and hard to measure. 

Training sessions can allow staff a safe space to become aware of their own biases

An objective such as ‘to train all staff on anti-bullying strategies,’ whilst laudable, is an action that can help achieve an objective, rather than an objective itself. 

Good equality objectives should be as follows. 

  • SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. F
  • outcome focused.
  • Aimed at eliminating discrimination, narrowing gaps in attainment, and fostering good relations
  • Based on equality monitoring data and consultations with parents, carers, pupils, staff, and governors. 
  • Clearly labelled with the protected characteristic with which they are concerned. 
  • Closely linked with the school improvement plan. 

(Adapted from Insted Consultancy, 2012 in Soyei and Hollinshead (2022)) 

It is not enough to simply set equality objectives. If any progress is to be made, the objectives need to be backed up by an action plan which outlines clear steps that the school will take to achieve them. 

The action plan should look at the following points.

  • What further information the school needs to identify to effectively work towards an objective.
  • How it can learn from the school community.
  • How it will engage the school community in its aims.
  • What will need to be put in place.
  • How much it will cost.
  • What success looks like and how progress will be measured.  

A member of the governing body should have a brief for equality and oversee the progress made. However, all staff should be aware of the objectives and recognise they have a part to play in this work. Including the school’s equality work as a standing item in meetings and training sessions will keep it high on the agenda and ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the other day-to-day business of the school.  

Step three: implement a programme of EDI training for staff

The power of staff training cannot be underestimated as a means for bringing about a more inclusive environment. Training sessions can allow staff a safe space to become aware of their own biases, stereotypes, and privileges, and learn strategies and techniques for overcoming these to bring about a more inclusive culture. 

Training should include all staff

Another area staff often lack confidence in is knowing the appropriate language to use. Staff training on inclusive language and the significance of using appropriate terms for people’s identities can bolster the team’s confidence in opening and navigating conversations with young people and colleagues around issues of equality, diversity, inclusion, identity, and human rights. 

Training should include all staff. Prejudice-related incidents amongst pupils will occur outside the classroom – in the playground and the lunch queue, so all staff must be equipped and supported to challenge such behaviour and know what process to follow, ensuring consistency throughout the school. 

Reception staff are often the first point of call for parents and carers and need to be upskilled in EDI. Providing training for everyone also ensures that staff are equipped when dealing with an issue that may come from a colleague.

By taking all these steps, schools can be confident that they are on their way to beginning the process of embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in their setting, and creating a culture whereby key stakeholders are always at the centre of everything they do.


EqualiTeach provides training and consultancy support for schools to help them to create environments where everyone feels safe, valued, and able to achieve. 

For more information, please visit:


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