Almost 90% of teachers are not trained to prevent racism in schools, report finds

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Almost 90% of teachers are not trained to prevent racism in schools, report finds
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There have been numerous high profile cases of black children facing hair discrimination in schools over the years

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Nearly 90 per cent of educators have not received training about how the Equality Act applies to Afro hairstyles, an increasing aspect of racial discrimination in schools which falls within uniform policies, a damning new report has revealed.

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While more than half (52 per cent) of respondents to a survey of over 500 educators across the country had very high confidence when discussing issues of race and ethnicity with students, almost one third (29 per cent) were unable to correctly identify a scenario involving Afro hair discrimination.

The Teaching: Diversity & Inclusion study, conducted by Shift Insight in collaboration with World Afro Day, found that only 8 per cent of respondents thought school uniform policies had a high or very high potential to discriminate against students in regards to their race or ethnic background.

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Michelle De Leon, founder of World Afro Day, said: “The report clearly shows that new diversity, equity and inclusion training for all teachers, could be an effective solution to end Afro hair discrimination in UK schools.

“After decades of black children being punished and told their hair doesn’t belong in school, and the ramifications of this on young people’s mental wellbeing, we hope that education leaders will quickly implement the required training for all school staff so that children with Afro hair can have a full education experience, where their identify is welcomed and included at school.”

While Afro hair is an intrinsic part of race, and race is a protected characteristic in the 2010 Equality Act, hair is not yet explicitly protected, like skin colour which has given rise to a growing disparity between the law and school policies.

There have been numerous high profile cases of black children facing hair discrimination in schools in recent years.

Jane Powell, managing director of Shift Insight, said: “Educators’ understanding of the discriminatory potential of hair policies is an under-researched area, so we’re really pleased to be able to contribute to the evidence-base with this study.

“The research we’ve conducted in partnership with World Afro Day highlights a gap in educators’ understanding which we hope senior leaders and policy makers can now work towards closing.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are very pleased to support World Afro Day and its aims and objectives.

“Our experience is that teachers and leaders are hugely focused on promoting diversity, equality and inclusion, and will welcome the insights provided by this excellent report.

“The more we can do to raise awareness about the potential for Afro hair discrimination the better, and ASCL is committed to working with World Afro Day to this end.”

We’re delighted to announce that we recently met with the CEO of @EHRC, alongside @KimJohnsonMP, @myah_sherae & @TheHaloCode. It has now been confirmed that we will be working with @EHRC in the New Year to look at strengthening national guidance against Afro hair discrimination. pic.twitter.com/XJcFQUTvua

— APPG Race & Education (@appg_reie) December 16, 2021

Last October, a group of parliamentarians, organisations and campaignerrs announced that they would be working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to look at strengthening national guidance against Afro hair discrimination.

The move came after they wrote a letter, arranged by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Race Equality in Education, arguing that such guidance could potentially encourage the government to update the Equality Act 2010 to recognise hair as a protected characteristic, thus making this form of racism easier to sanction.

Those supporting the move include include Lord Simon Woolley, Wera Hobhouse MP, Emma Dabiri, Glamour magazine, Dove and The Halo Collective. Ruby Williams, a London student who was told that her Afro-texture hair was “too big” and violated her secondary school’s uniform policy, is also among the group of signatories.

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

The call for action after a report found a black schoolgirl was strip searched by police while on her period after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

The “traumatic” search by Metropolitan Police officers took place at the girl’s Hackney-based school at the end of 2020 – without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, a safeguarding report found.

It concluded that the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

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