Professor Kay Hampton looks back on what has been achieved since the Macpherson report, and sets out the contents of a good race equality policy‘Education has a key role to play in eradicating racism and valuing diversity.

’ This was one of the conclusions announced by Sir William Macpherson in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry published in 1999. The report acknowledged the key role that education had to play and recommended that the national curriculum should better reflect modern Britain. It also recommended race equality strategies being put in place in schools – the aim being that, by building on examples of good practice that already exist, schools could make the goal of challenging racism and valuing diversity central to their practice.

But how far have we come?

There is much that has been done since Macpherson published his report. Since 2001 the Race Relations (Amendment) Act has placed an obligation on public authorities to address discrimination. Comprehensive guidance has been produced to support this process. This means that schools, colleges and universities must do whatever they can to eliminate unlawful discrimination, promote equal opportunities and encourage good race relations. This obligation is known as the race equality duty. Where implemented properly these measures have made a difference, but it is clear that schools and colleges in most parts of the country have a long way to go – the results speak for themselves.

Spur for schools to meet race equality duty

Schools came in for criticism for falling behind on their commitment to race equality in the government’s curriculum review on diversity and citizenship in early 2007. The review group was led by Sir Keith Ajegbo, the recently retired headteacher of Deptford Green School. Commenting on leadership, the group’s final report read: ‘The quality of school leadership is fundamental to cohesive education for diversity. In schools where we saw prominent diversity education, its success relied on the commitment, drive and energy of the headteacher and leadership team and on their ability to inspire and support other senior staff. Headteachers set the strategic direction for their school. Without their support, education for diversity will not be embedded at its heart. ‘However, there is evidence that issues of “race” and diversity are not always high on schools’ agendas. As a baseline requirement, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires schools to have a “race” equality policy. Yet, according to the Commission for Racial Equality, only 65% of schools have fulfilled this statutory duty. This raises questions not only about the checks and balances at school and local authority level, but also about the commitment of some headteachers and governors to even the basics of education for diversity. This situation must be rectified.’ The report went on to recommend that headteachers and governing bodies in all schools should ensure they meet the statutory requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and use the community cohesion guidelines as a check for their accountability. Current ethnic monitoring data reveals that there are consistently unequal outcomes by ethnic group across the education spectrum. For example, all ethnic minority groups within the black category and those from mixed white and black Caribbean heritage are consistently below the national average at all key stages; gypsy and traveller pupils, followed by black pupils, are faced with the highest rates of permanent exclusion and there are currently twice as many black men in prison as in higher education. This clearly indicates the need for open discussions where we can identify solutions to help speed up change, though debate on such a sensitive issue can be difficult. By monitoring on an ongoing basis, teachers, headteachers and LEAs can assess the impact of school policies and practices. However, change needs to happen outside the classroom too. For example, admissions policies need to provide all parents and pupils with a choice and universities need to widen access by encouraging and supporting people from minority communities to apply and address marked asymmetry in study patterns. Governors need to better reflect the schools and communities that they serve; we need more parent governors from ethnic minority communities. Schools in particular should aim to involve parents and communities by providing education that promotes shared ownership, participation, responsibility and accountability among pupils, teachers and parents. The drive towards achieving greater equality should be the responsibility of everybody involved in education. This is not just because we need to ensure better, more equal exam results and less exclusion, but because education is probably the single most important vehicle for social and cultural integration. Race equality is not just about monitoring data or writing a policy, it is about the way pupils and students are taught, how they are treated and the extra curricular activities that are offered them. If we are to reduce the disparities of outcomes that face ethnic minorities, teachers and lecturers will need to take responsibility for delivering change. While the race equality duty enables organisations to drive change, policies alone cannot motivate and inspire children. Irreplaceable in this role are committed staff, teachers and lecturers. We will need them to motivate pupils and make them believe that they too can achieve.

What is a race equality policy?

A race equality policy is a description of how you intend to prevent racial discrimination, promote equality of opportunity, and promote good race relations across all areas of your school’s activity. The policy essentially packages the specific duties into a coherent strategy and action plan. It should cover all relevant functions and policies, bringing them within a single framework. A policy must make clear how a school plans to meet both its general and specific duties. Ideally it should summarise the school’s overall approach to racial equality and how this links to its corporate aims and objectives. It should also be part of the planning arrangements you already make. The race equality policy should be a written statement of responsibilities and commitments. It could be linked to an action plan for putting the policy into practice. A good policy would:

  • be part of the school’s development plan;
  • give details of how the school will put the policy into practice and assess how effective it is;
  • clearly define roles and responsibilities so that people know what is expected of them;
  • explain clearly what the school will do if the policy is not followed.

What should a race equality policy include?

The race equality policy should reflect the character and circumstances of the school, and deal with the main areas that are relevant to promoting the general duty. Examples of these areas are:

  • pupils’ attainment and progress;
  • curriculum, teaching and learning (including language and cultural needs);
  • promoting good race relations in the school and in the local community;
  • care and assessment;
  • staff recruitment and career development;
  • the school’s values;
  • pupil behaviour, discipline and exclusion;
  • racial harassment and bullying;
  • admission and transfer procedures;
  • membership of the governing body;
  • involving parents and the community in the school.

We suggest that your policy should clearly set out:

  • your arrangements for building race equality into your processes for policy planning and development;
  • your arrangements for putting the policy into practice, including a timetable for regular reviews of the policy;
  • your arrangements for monitoring and assessing progress towards meeting any race equality targets you have set, and your race equality duty.

Your race equality policy must be compliant with section 71(1) of the Act.

Assessing your policy

The CRE has produced an assessment template for race equality policies (which is available on the CRE website at The template provides schools with a standard framework to make a self-assessment of their REPs, both in terms of compliance and in developing good practice.

Case study: an example of racial discrimination in education

One day, when Anthony was at his school in Yorkshire, he was racially abused. He told his father, who reported it to the deputy headmaster. His complaint was not investigated and his father did not receive an explanation from the school. Two weeks later, Anthony was excluded from school for five days for allegedly pushing a member of staff. Anthony’s father was extremely concerned at the exclusion and at the fact that his complaint of racial harassment had not been dealt with. He was later informed that the school had decided to exclude Anthony permanently. He appealed to the exclusion panel, who considered his case and overturned the school’s decision. The school appealed against this finding and the independent appeals panel upheld the ruling. Anthony’s father went to the CRE for assistance and submitted a claim of racial discrimination and victimisation on behalf of his son. Before the case could be heard at the county court, the council responsible for the school reached an out of court settlement. The agreement instructed that they should apologise to Anthony and acknowledge that it is essential to follow correct procedures when excluding pupils. The council was ordered to confirm its commitment to equal opportunities in both policy and practice, as well as to anti-racist education. The agreement stated that the council should pay Anthony a four figure sum in compensation for injury to feelings. (Names have been changed to protect the identity of our clients.)

Case study: an example of good practice

A small rural primary school with few pupils from ethnic minorities decided to encourage understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity by inviting a local black musician to the school. The musician, who specialises in songs and stories from different parts of the world, worked with pupils and staff, encouraging them to think about local and family connections beyond Britain. The school also set up links with an inner-city primary school with a large number of ethnic minority children. The schools agreed to run parallel themes in certain subjects and pupils were encouraged to talk to each other on the Internet, for example to discuss how they celebrate New Year. Groups of pupils from each school also got the chance to spend time in the other school, on an exchange.

Professor Kay Hampton has been chair of the Commission for Racial Equality since December 2006.