Equality and Diversity Lecture


For many teachers, equality and diversity is mainly about inclusion. Respecting the equality and diversity of our pupils means recognising that children come from diverse backgrounds and so might have different learning needs. Being able to recognise diversity and promote equality is therefore part of a teacher's responsibility to ensure equal learning opportunities for all. However, as we have seen in other policy areas, the roles of schools and teachers goes beyond learning and teaching: our practices are woven into the fabric of society. Teachers therefore play a crucial role in promoting a respectful society, both through the curriculum and in our position as role models. This chapter looks at some of the key concepts you will need to build effective practice, including being aware of any unconscious biases you or others may hold. We also look at some of the tensions in recent policies. The tension between respecting diversity and being seen to promote non-traditional values is explored through a discussion of Section 28. The tension between respecting individual difference and upholding British values is also explored through discussion of the Prevent policy regarding extremism. Looking at these tensions will help you to understand the complexity of the role of equality and diversity in a teacher's practice, and how this goes beyond what we have already studied regarding inclusion

Learning objectives for this chapter

By the end of this chapter, we would like you:

  • To understand the distinct role equality and diversity plays in a teacher's practice
  • To understand the concept of unconscious bias and reflect on your own potential sources of bias
  • To pre-empt and plan for equality and diversity issues
  • To critically evaluate your role in situations where policy guidance is unclear or conflicting

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What is equality and diversity?

Planning for equality and diversity is part of a school leader's role in ensuring that the school fulfils its duties under the Equality Act (HM Government, 2010). If you would like to see the kind of guidance school leaders follow, there is official guidance published for schools (DfE, 2014). However, this is non-statutory guidance, meaning that schools are free to set their own guidelines, provided that they comply with the Equality Act 2010. Whether your school follows the non-statutory guidance or sets their own, the three main aims of the Equality Act are:

  • Eliminate discrimination;
  • Promote equality of opportunity; and
  • Foster good relationships.

Notice that equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome, but outcomes are usually how schools self-evaluate. For example, a school will want to make sure that pupils from all racial backgrounds achieve equally well (i.e., they have the same outcome). However, pupils might arrive at the school with different levels of achievement as a consequence of earlier disadvantages. Rather than looking at the actual outcome, such as average GCSE points score, we might want to look at a learner's 'value added' score or Fischer Family Trust data to see if pupils from different backgrounds have made the same progress, since this would indicate that equality of opportunity has been given. When you read guidance for schools, it is worth remembering that the vast majority of school leaders will have equality of outcome as their ambition, so schools will often go well beyond their legal requirements regarding equality and diversity.

On a related note, you will probably notice that schools promote a broad equality and diversity agenda. In legislation and guidance, however, there are seven "protected characteristics" based on:

  • Sex;
  • Race;
  • Disability;
  • Religion or belief;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Gender reassignment;
  • Pregnancy or maternity (DfE, 2014, p.8).

The Equality Act also includes age and marriage/civil partnership, but these are not part of the official guidance for schools (though marriage/civil partnership status may be something you need to consider if you teach adults). Age is specifically disregarded for schools as a protected characteristic, making schools/colleges free to group pupils by age even after they become legal adults.

You should also be aware of your dealings with colleagues and parents/carers in terms of these characteristics; for example, it would be discriminatory to treat a pupil differently because their parents were homosexual. Notice also that the legislation and guidance does not refer to other pupils needing to respect these protected characteristics, but it is the school's duty to treat all types of bullying equally seriously: to downplay the importance of bullying based on one of these characteristics would still be in breach of the Equality Act (2010). An example of how this might work is given in the box "The signals we send" a little later in this chapter.

Finally, as with inclusion, you are expected to behave proactively in promoting good practice rather than reacting to problems as they occur. A simple example is when choosing educational resources, you should try to find examples which include characters of different backgrounds to communicate that these differences are normal - you may have noticed this change in exam papers over the years, as a broader range of names are used in the questions. When evaluating a new textbook or other resource, this is one of the criteria to consider as part of your professional judgement.


If you have access to course readers or other textbooks, open a few at random and look at the questions (if you don't have access, choose a few resources from an online bank such as the TES). The vast majority of these will contain 'scenarios' of some kind to illustrate a specific point or idea - locate an example of this.

Which forenames are used for the characters? Are all the characters the same race or gender? Are there any physically disabled characters? If you do find any differences, is this part of the question or is the difference normalised? It may seem like a trivial detail when you have so many other criteria to use when choosing a resource, but a publisher who has taken care over these details is also more likely to have woven equality and diversity themes throughout their resource.

Why is promoting Equality and Diversity such an important part of modern teaching practice?

As part of inclusion and ensuring equal learning opportunities, teachers need to be aware of any systematic disadvantages pupils may have. Planning to mitigate these disadvantages is crucial to being an effective teacher for all your pupils. Knowles (2011) points out that disadvantages are not just about deprivation, but about how pupils from particular backgrounds are treated by the school system: for example, pupils may be more likely to be excluded from school or identified as having 'behaviour problems' if they are from certain types of economic or social backgrounds.


Before you read on, what would your assumptions be regarding the kinds of groups or individuals who are at the greatest risk of being excluded? Take a moment to think about some possible explanations for this. You might want to think about:

  • Social/parental expectations;
  • Prior attainment;
  • Consistency of home life.

Your school will monitor the progress of pupils from particular backgrounds (at the very least, they will monitor progress based on the protected characteristics given above) as part of its inclusion strategy. Often, the means by which progress is monitored will be referred to, rather than any particular characteristic. For example, as a teacher, you will be expected to know which pupils in your class are entitled to free school meals (a marker of possible poverty/disadvantage) and be able to explain how you are ensuring their access to learning. However, eligibility for free school meals could cover pupils from a wide range of backgrounds and situations, so does not relate to a specific aspect of equality and diversity. Part of any school inspection will also check for any groups of under-performing pupils, particularly Looked After Children, travellers, and certain ethnic groups. Due to persistent patterns of underperformance on a national level, it is also increasingly common to monitor pupils from white working-class backgrounds, even though the disadvantages faced by this group are more closely related to social factors rather than how they are treated as an ethnic group.

You should pay attention to this kind of statistical monitoring at whole-school level, but also have an assessment strategy which will help you keep track of progress within your classes. It might also be helpful to reflect on equality and diversity in other areas of practice. The reflection box (above) asked you to think about which pupil backgrounds were associated with increased school exclusion rates: the answer to this is "Gypsy/Roma, Traveller of Irish Heritage, Black Caribbean, White and Black Caribbean, and Other Black pupils" (DfES, 2006 p.6). Are any of your behaviour management strategies challenging this trend? Travelling communities are a good example - what provision do you make in planning so that pupils can still make progress, even if they are absent from school for extended periods of time? If a pupil is likely to change schools several times, how good are the communications between schools? Do you have any plans for ensuring that coursework marks can be transferred? Is there a school uniform loan scheme? The more you try to understand the different ways a pupil can face disadvantage, the more you will identify ways to adapt your practice.

Finally, your teaching practice should prepare pupils to participate in society. This means learning the expected behaviour in the world of work, where equality and diversity is arguably taken much more seriously than in schools. More importantly, schools are a place where we often get to meet people from very different backgrounds, but are united in pursuit of a common goal. Your teaching can therefore play a key role in developing positive relationships between different groups in society.

Example: planning for teenage pregnancy

Kim is an administrator at a large comprehensive school on the south coast of England. They serve a mainly white working-class area, as well as a large Traveller community during the tourist season. Kim has noticed a gender difference in GCSE participation rates: while girls who are entered for the exams perform to the national average, a significant number of girls are not entered. On closer investigation, Kim finds that many of these girls did not take the exams because they were either pregnant or new mothers. The school has a strong sex education provision, but decides that more is needed to proactively support pupils who are pregnant or new mothers. They put the following provision in place:

  • Early entry for exams is now standard in year 10 for all pupils, ensuring that some achievement can still be awarded a certificate even if pupils do not take exams at the end of year 11.
  • Previous pupils who successfully managed motherhood whilst continuing their studies are brought into the school: the core message is that they wish they had waited, but that having a child does not necessarily mean giving up on your education.
  • Childcare provision is offered to enable pupils to come to special after-school classes in core subject areas.
  • Representatives from a local college visit the school to talk about flexible study options and the support they offer for new parents.
  • Coursework-based qualifications are promoted as a way to support flexible study.
  • Extra support is offered during exam periods, including transport services.
  • Exam arrangements are made so that pregnant pupils are in more comfortable seating and have easier access to bathroom facilities.

As a result of these changes, the school improves its participation rate and many more girls advance to further study. Whilst this results in a reduction in the school's overall average GCSE performance, the school can show its impact on value added scores. As they prepare for the next year, the school's senior leadership has challenged itself to add more inclusive provision so that the girls do not feel so separate from their peers.

What is unconscious bias, and why does it affect my teaching?

One of the easiest ways to unknowingly disadvantage learners is to simply not know about their needs. Knowles and Lander (2011) give a simple example of reception teachers in a diverse classroom realising that their pupils knew a variety of nursery rhymes from home. Whilst some of these were common, others were not - including some rhymes and stories which the teacher did not know. If the teacher did not find out about this difference before planning her teaching, some of her pupils would have immediately found her stories more recognisable and easier to understand. In this small way, another group of pupils can feel marginalised, or be seen as slower to understand than their peers.

Aside from a pupil's learning, the way a teacher communicates can also affect a pupil's sense of identity. Simple instructions such as recommending that pupils ask their dad for help with some homework could subtly reinforce a sense of non-belonging for pupils with single mothers, two female parents, carers, etc. Often such phrases are innocent and the alternatives can sound awkward, but giving thought to the background of all pupils will help to create a more inclusive classroom. As a school, you might even establish certain stock phrases such as "someone at home", which will soon sound natural as more teachers use the phrase. You should also never underestimate the potential of showing interest - asking carers or foster parents how they wish letters home to be addressed, for example, is a small but significant gesture of consideration.

Some subjects will also be aware of gender assumptions in broader society; just as it is important to avoid only expecting strong performance in physics from boys, it might seem patronising to overly-praise girls for the same performance. Ultimately, your unconscious biases will be difficult to challenge precisely because they are unconscious. By regularly reflecting on your own practice, or even asking pupils privately how they feel about your use of language, you will be able to catch those habits and assumptions that you wish to challenge in yourself.

The signals we send: "That's so gay"

De Palma and Jennett (2007) argue that homophobia should not be thought of as specific violent acts or acts of bullying, but can be pervasive throughout culture. Challenging homophobia therefore requires "systematic and proactive social change" (p.20). In particular, there is a need to challenge the typical "ambivalent school response" (p.21).

Consider the example of "gay" being used as a general term of abuse. A slow computer, wonky chair, or boring worksheet could all be described as 'gay'. If, as De Palma and Jennett argue, this becomes so common that teachers do not challenge such language or even regard it as homophobic, there is a tacit signal to pupils that this kind of language is thought to be acceptable. It is, then, only a short step to thinking that homophobic bullying is less serious than other forms of bullying (De Palma and Jennett report the common view that racist bullying is treated most seriously by schools). As you learnt above, this inconsistent treatment of different types of bullying would be in breach of the Equality Act.

How do you challenge language use that is so firmly established? It would seem inconsistent and overly strict if schools started to treat pupils in the same way as if they had used a racial slur. However, if we let 'gay' slip, then it becomes difficult to reprimand pupils for using similar words. Even though the word 'gay' seems to have fallen into common usage as a mild expression of annoyance or disapproval, the word when used as an insult for a person still carries clear connotations of calling "into question not only their sexuality, but also their femininity or masculinity" (De Palma and Jennett, 2007, p.22).

Suggestions include:

  • Emphasising the role teachers play in preparing pupils for the world of work: this type of language would be completely inappropriate and taken very seriously by an employer, so we need to start thinking about it early.
  • Looking specifically at LGBT role models across the curriculum. The work of Alan Turing, in particular, has received significant recent attention in science and computing; Chuck Palahniuk (the author of Fight Club) is an excellent example to use in literature classes, as his writing has traditionally focused on conceptions of 'masculine' traits.
  • Finding ways to openly discuss sexual preferences and gender identities without specifically discussing sex acts. This helps to avoid the risk of undue offence, but more importantly addresses the over-sexualisation of discussing homosexuality.


If you are currently undertaking a placement or working full time in education, find your institution's bullying policy. Are certain types of bullying specified as worse than others? If records of sanctions are kept (many schools do so through SIMS software or a simple spreadsheet), see how often different types of bullying are recorded and what the sanctions are. Does this match your observations around the school? Do you think there are any implicit values in how the school behaviour policy treats different types of bullying or inappropriate language use? If an inspector asked you about how you specifically address issues of a specific type of bullying, would you be able to answer the question? If not, what data would you need and how can you make sure that you have it available?

Caught between respecting and promoting: section 28


Before you read this section, think about how you would intuitively address the topic of homosexuality in your classroom.

While there are possibly contentious issues in several elements of equality and diversity, there is a particular risk in respecting diversity of sexuality preferences or gender identity, since this can be assumed to risk causing offence to other groups. In contrast with respecting disability or racial diversity, "sexualities equality is unique in being perceived as legitimately against someone's religion" (De Palma and Jennett, 2007, p.25). Respecting one group can therefore be seen to disrespect the other (e.g. some forms of Christianity or Islam). Often this can seem overwhelming to a new teacher who feels that they are 'walking on eggshells'.

However, following the principles of inclusion when promoting equality and diversity should always be a firm guide. Colleagues who object to material because it might offend some imaginary group are often using straw man logic - you do not have a duty to avoid offending everybody, only to avoid unreasonable or unjustified offence.

A good example of teachers being caught in a hot political debate is commonly referred to as section 28: this was legislation which forbade schools from promoting homosexuality, and implied that heterosexual marriage should be promoted as normal. The New Labour government eventually removed section 28, but the topic is still controversial: David Cameron famously spoke in favour of retaining section 28 and abstained from the vote, although after becoming Prime Minister he did state that he changed his mind on the topic. Nevertheless, language very similar to section 28 would be later featured in legislation prepared under Michael Gove as secretary of state for education. There remains a delicate linguistic balance in guidance, so that teachers should promote respect for people of different sexual orientation, but should not promote the sexual orientation itself. This kind of logic is criticised by De Palma and Jennett (2007) for focusing too much on the sexual aspects of homosexuality in a way that would be clearly inappropriate when discussing heterosexual relationships.

As an example of the political tension that still exists in this topic, compare the language used in two newspaper reports of the 'Gendersaurus Rex' project. This art/theatre project uses a dinosaur who is unsure if it is a boy or girl as a way to encourage young children to think about gender as something that is constructed rather than biologically assigned. The project specifically tries to challenge the uncomfortable idea that talking to children about anything related to sex has uncomfortable undertones of paedophilia, but this is exactly the kind of criticism levelled at the project in the Express report. How do you think your school would respond to this kind of publicity? Would you defend the project or cut it?


Express newspaper (McFadyen, 2016)

The Scotsman newspaper (Eaton-Lewis, 2015)


Nicola Sturgeon's SNP government funds sex education for two-year-olds

Imaginate Festival: Ideas for young, open minds


NICOLA Sturgeon's government and the EU is paying for children age two and up to be given lessons on sexuality and whether they want to identify as being boys, girls or gender neutral.

Eilidh MacAskill will launch Gendersaurus Rex, an Imaginate-funded research project exploring 'gender, feminism, sexuality, queerness and difference' in children's theatre

Sample text

Horrifyingly the 'Genderasaurus Rex' concept - which is promoted and paid for by the taxpayer through the Imaginate Creative Project - asks: "How do we talk about queerness outside of sexuality? How do we talk about sexuality and children in the same breath without being accused of summoning the spectre of paedophilia?"

A parent said: "The very idea that someone can access my child to put these ideas into their heads is frankly horrifying.

"I absolutely object to this and the fact that the public is funding it is sickening."

Gendersaurus Rex is not really about sex or nudity, or even bodies for the most part, but about diversity, representation, and challenging the expectations adults impose on children. For MacAskill, theatre is about "curiosity and a space where the rules are different". As a children's theatre performer, she has frequently worked in schools, and describes how teachers will sometimes warn her about particular children on the grounds that they are likely to be disruptive. And then the opposite happens. "Just because it's a different set of expectations they suddenly find their space, and they're totally engaged and ask questions. As I'm doing this I realise this is what I'm excited about."

Now look at the example of International Women's Day in the box below: notice how Sonal keeps to the principles of equality and diversity as she finds a solution to her project being criticised and refuses to be drawn into an argument or having to defend her ideas. She emphasises how International Women's Day and International Men's Day are both about promoting gender equality, not promoting a particular gender (which seems to be the basis of Ron's straw man argument).

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Deputy headteacher Sonal wants to organise a series of events promoting International Women's Day (March 8th). She has asked heads of department to theme their lessons for the day to celebrate the achievements of key women in each subject area. However, the head of mathematics, Ron, has complained that last year's theme over-stated the importance of Ada Lovelace, and he has jokingly referred in meetings to the lack of celebration for International Men's Day.

Sonal weighs up the risk of offence or resentment against the value of promoting the role of women. She decides to use this as an opportunity to start dialogue in the school, taking the following actions:

  • The history department will organise a debate on the representation of Ada Lovelace, using it as an opportunity to look at source reliability and historical uncertainty.
  • All departments will be challenged to look at different women so that nobody is repeated from last year.
  • Sonal offers to support Ron in organising events for International Men's Day (November 19th), pointing out that one of the aims of International Men's Day is promoting gender equality.
  • Sonal privately reminds Ron that he is a role model for many of the male pupils, and that his subject area traditionally struggles to engage young women. She offers to support him in finding the best way for him to support the promotion of female role models in mathematics.
  • The school's Head Boy and deputies are challenged to find examples of men who are role models for their promotion of gender equality, so that their contributions are also celebrated on International Women's Day.


Think about an equality and diversity issue which you would like to discuss in your school. List some of the anticipated objections to it, using the Gendersaurus Rex and International Women's Day examples to guide you. Which of these are valid concerns that you could address? Which are concerns based on an over-simplification of your project? As you work through your list, think about how following the principles of promoting equality and respect will guide your responses and help to prevent you being drawn into an argument.

Caught between celebrating and monitoring diversity: The 'Prevent' policy

Knowles and Lander (2011) point out that promoting equality and diversity of refugee and asylum-seeking pupils is one of the most under-recognised agendas in UK schools. One practical reason for this is that these pupils are often settled in specific areas, meaning that the majority of schools will have very little experience with pupils from these backgrounds (or at least, not until they are more established and have relocated to other parts of the UK). As part of this relative rarity, teachers in schools might not have many opportunities to meet such children. This risks teachers failing to understand the educational needs of refugee and asylum seeking pupils, or worse being influenced by "negative headlines in newspapers which indicate that there are too many people in England seeking refuge", and confusing these groups with economic migrants (Knowles and Lander, 2011, p.111).

Terminology check

In practice, phrases are often used interchangeably - particularly by people who disapprove of these groups. However, being precise about your language will help you to challenge ignorant or inaccurate views and act as a useful filter when searching for teaching resources.

Asylum seeker: someone fleeing war, or fearful of persecution (e.g. for religious or racial reasons). Note that persecution does not necessarily mean violence.

Refugee: someone who has been granted asylum; typically granted a 5-year stay in the UK.

Economic migrant: this can mean anyone moving to a different country for work, but the term is typically used to refer to unskilled or low-wage workers (professionals tend to be referred to using the more positive term 'expat').

As you will see from the terminology box above, pupils from each category will have very different learning needs. Asylum seekers and economic migrants in particular might be fearful of their temporary status; indeed, they may well be forced to leave at short notice, meaning that their learning opportunities should help to enable them to develop flexible skills suitable for a wide range of possible schools. Perhaps even more importantly, your classroom might be the one safe and vaguely recognisable place these children get to experience, and their interactions with you and the other pupils might be their first significant contact with people in the UK. Do not underestimate your potential to have a dramatically positive influence on these pupils, even in a short space of time.

The public and political anxieties around economic migration is important background to understanding the 'Prevent' strategy review. This government guidance (HM Government, 2011) is a direct response to increased threat levels of terrorism in the UK, but differs from earlier guidance by specifically addressing the need to be proactive about extremism. The guidance also changed the Prevent strategy to be distinct from other government policies of inclusion and integration - this was now to be a strategy entirely focused on preventing extremism and radicalisation.

Part of the Prevent Strategy is already supported by the work schools do to promote inclusion, working on the principle that encouraging people to feel a part of British society will help them to share British values. The Prevent Strategy goes beyond promotion of values, however, into actively challenging ideas which are linked to extremism. The most relevant risks a teacher might notice are:

  • radical changes in appearance or behaviour;
  • feelings of isolation or failure;
  • secretive internet behaviour;
  • a belief that violence can solve problems in society.

The first three risk indicators might be observed by a teacher, but the fourth might come up as part of the curriculum. For example, one of the most popular texts for GCSE English is Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, in which the main characters find themselves in a hopeless situation and one kills the other to prevent him being lynched by a mob. Pupils who would rather the men fight their way out or attack the mob might simply have missed Steinbeck's crafting of hopelessness and isolation, but this might also be an indication that these pupils are vulnerable to extremism. There are highly persuasive predators online, so be vigilant for any pupils who are vulnerable to this type of persuasion: a sense of injustice or hopelessness and openness to violence as a solution might be enough.

One of the key challenges to the Prevent strategy is taking it seriously enough whilst still respecting civil liberties. For the vast majority of teachers, encounters with radicalisation and extremism will be very rare. However, your duty is to pass on any relevant concerns - other staff are trained to decide an appropriate response. As an example, Wilberforce College (2015, p.1) in Hull insists that concerns are passed on "immediately and no later than the end of the working day" to relevant child protection/safeguarding staff. Coupled with the likelihood of police involvement, teachers might be discouraged from reporting their concerns until they are more certain. However, as with safeguarding, you need to remember that investigating is not part of your role - pass on any concerns immediately, and let the appropriate staff make such judgements.


As we have seen with the section 28 example, teachers and schools are increasingly in the public eye and therefore vulnerable to the kind of scrutiny normally reserved for politicians. As much as schools are increasingly asked to play a role in wider society, schools and individual teachers can also be criticised if they are seen to either fall short or over-step their roles (see Chapter 2 for more on the principle of in loco parentis).

We have seen that teachers can have a significant impact on the values promoted in schools, even through subtle language use or the educational resources we choose. More significantly, teachers have a duty to challenge ignorance and prejudice. At times, this may become confrontational. As we have seen in the examples, responding to concerns and criticism from the principles of respect and tolerance will help to avoid some of the key challenges in promoting equality and diversity. As in the safeguarding chapter, we have also seen how teachers are increasingly working as part of a multi-agency team. The Prevent strategy shows how a rare but extremely serious situation should be managed, and where you as a teacher need to be clear on your specific role.


Now we have reached the end of this chapter, you should:

  • Have a good understanding of why you need to consider equality and diversity as part of good teaching practice
  • Have reflected on potential unconscious bias in your practice
  • Formulated some proactive, rather than reactive, strategies
  • Thought about your own practice in relation to sensitive or contentious equality and diversity issues

As you work through the scenario at the end of this chapter, think about how your decisions will be driven by principles of tolerance and respect.

Reference list

De Palma, R. and Jennett, M. (2007). Deconstructing heteronormativity in primary schools in England: cultural approaches to a cultural phenomenon. In: Barry Van Driel and Lutz van Dijk [eds.], Challenging Homophobia: Teaching About Sexual Diversity, Stoke-on-Trent: Institute of Education Press, pp.19-32.

DfE (2014). Equality Act 2010: Guidance for Schools. London: HMSO. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/315587/Equality_Act_Advice_Final.pdf [note that this guidance was due for updating by April 2016, but was still not updated as of November 2016]

DfES. (2006). Ethnicity and Education. London: HMSO. Available from: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DFES-0208-2006.pdf

Eaton-Lewis, A. (2015). Imaginate Festival: Ideas for young, open minds. The Scotsman. May 12th. Available from: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/culture/theatre/imaginate-festival-ideas-for-young-open-minds-1-3770540

HM Government. (2010). Equality Act. London: HMSO. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/pdfs/ukpga_20100015_en.pdf

HM Government. (2011). Prevent Strategy. London: HMSO. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97976/prevent-strategy-review.pdf

Knowles, G. and Lander, V. (2011). Diversity, Equality and Achievement in Education. London: Sage.

McFadyen, S. (2016). Nicola Sturgeon's SNP government funds sex education for two-year-olds. Express. November 10th. Available from: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/730924/Nicola-Sturgeon-SNP-government-funds-sex-education-for-two-year-olds

Wilberforce College. (2015). Policy to Support the Prevention of Extremism and radicalisation (PREVENT) [online]. Available from: http://www.wilberforce.ac.uk/uploads/generic/PREVENT_Policy_-_V1_-_Jan_15.pdf

'Hands on' scenario: introducing a new pupil


A new year eight pupil will be joining your form group and maths classes after Christmas.  You have been told that Iman has a form of muscular dystrophy which began at the age of ten. Iman uses a stick and there are some days where the condition does not affect his everyday life. However, on some days his muscles are weaker and he may need extra support with physical movement. His breathing can also occasionally be affected. This condition will also mean Iman deteriorates as he becomes older, so he may eventually need a wheelchair before he leaves Secondary School.

Iman has just moved from an Inner-city London school which had a modern and accessibility-friendly design. All areas were spacious and all classrooms were on one level with a variety of exits and toilets to choose from. However, your school is an older building which is much less accessible and no modifications for physical impairments have been currently made within this provision. Iman is able to move with the help of his walking stick, but it is advisable that he isn't made to do any unnecessary strenuous movement which may cause him to become uncomfortable. Many classrooms are currently on the first and second floors, which require walking up flights of stairs. Some floors are also without toilet facilities.

Additionally, Iman has come from a multi-cultural area in London where many ethnicities live but your school has predominantly white pupils. Iman previously lived in a mostly Muslim culture, so it is important to consider his religious beliefs and how this could also impact his day, for example organising praying and food preferences at lunchtimes.

What strategies should be employed to address equality and diversity issues for Iman? How can you do this without it seeming like it is an inconvenience, making sure that Iman feels comfortable and settled in his new school environment? With careful planning before Iman's arrival, there are many ways that you can ensure his environment is suitable for him. Many of these decisions will relate to inclusion strategies rather than equality and diversity. However, these inclusion decisions will raise equality and diversity issues which you should try to pre-empt.


Ensuring that Iman has reasonable access to school facilities such as the canteen and toilets will probably mean moving his classes. Iman may stay in only a few rooms, with teachers moving rooms for his classes rather than pupils going to a teacher's room. One of your first equality and diversity issues is therefore making sure that your colleagues do not complain about the inconvenience of these changes. Remind them of Iman's right to equality of opportunity, and point out that it is the building that has disadvantaged him. You might also want to address similar concerns from pupils and remind them that Iman will not want to feel like he is an inconvenience. You might wish to encourage some pupils to act as buddies, particularly if Iman needs to leave classes slightly early to avoid crowds. This will need to be carefully planned for subjects which cannot easily move rooms, such as music and PE.

If possible, you would want to meet with Iman and his family to tour the school and talk about provision. Remember that Iman's preferences should be respected, so even though it may be more convenient for the school if he uses a wheelchair, he might prefer to use his sticks whenever possible. Take time to listen to their concerns more generally, as they may be apprehensive about moving to a new area.

You should also pre-empt the need for assistance. Friends might be able to help Iman on a daily basis, but there should be support staff or an on-call provision when extra support is needed. It is important that Iman does not feel like a burden either to his peers or to staff. At the same time, Iman might need to plan his own needs more carefully in advance, recognising that tasks such as going to the bathroom might take more time than they did in his previous school.

You should also pre-empt storage needs so that these do not take up too much time and attention at the start of each class. If Iman has brought a wheelchair or respirator with him on a particular day, this should not be a surprise for teachers - they will need to have anticipated such needs well in advance. Again, the principle to follow is ensuring that Iman's dignity remains respected just as you would meet any other pupil's needs.

As Iman's form tutor, you should be vigilant that he feels included in the full range of lessons. You should also think about any routines which might make him feel uncomfortable - for example, if pupils are expected to stand whenever an adult enters the room. Think about common classroom routines and instructions and any language that might need to change. You may also wish to address in advance certain words or phrases which pupils should not use. A simple and highly engaging activity is to ask pupils to list all the words which they think they are not allowed to use at school, and then actually look at the definitions or connotations of these words. This could be a good opportunity to re-assert your anti-bullying policies. At the same time, be aware that Iman should not be regarded as different from other students - think in advance about potential misbehaviour and how this will be treated (communicate with his previous school if possible).

More generally, over-friendliness and a patronising approach could also make Iman become more aware of his differences, so it is important for staff and pupils to get the right balance. To create more empathy, create a lesson where pupils recognise an instance of being new somewhere and had to have something specially done for themselves, focusing on how uncomfortable this may have made them feel. In advance, one designated pupil from each class should be encouraged to help Iman settle in and help him where needed, but should be advised not to be over-the-top with this.

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