Race on the Agenda (ROTA) has published new research that shows that free schools are failing to comply with statutory requirements on equality.
The Equality Act 2010 requires all schools, including free schools, to fulfil the public sector equality duty. By 6 April 2012, all schools should have published information to demonstrate their compliance with the duty, and should have published one or more specific and measurable equality objectives.
The equality duty exists to support schools to tackle unlawful discrimination, meet diverse needs, identify and address the reasons for different educational outcomes for different groups, and create school environments where all pupils feel safe from all kinds of bullying and harassment.
Race on the Agenda’s report, based on a survey in October 2013 of the 78 free schools that opened in 2011 and 2012, finds that:
The research findings indicate that free schools are failing to be transparent on equality issues. By not publishing equality information and objectives, they make it impossible for parents and local communities to know how they are promoting equality and tackling discrimination, and to hold them to account.
In the report, ROTA makes several recommendations, including:
“We are very concerned at what these findings show. Not only are the governing bodies of free schools failing in a core function to ensure that statutory duties are met, the Department for Education is also failing to make sure that free schools take promoting
“We have noted that Ofsted has recently judged the Al-Madinah free school in Derby as inadequate and has required it to meet statutory equality requirements on racism, disability and special educational needs. Our research shows that these failings appear to be much more widespread than in those free schools that have attracted recent media attention.”
Professor Gus John said:
“It would seem that in addition to freedom from the National Curriculum and from the need to employ qualified teachers, with ‘free’ schools comes the freedom to ignore the Equality Act 2010 and the safeguards Parliament intends that it should provide, especially to the most vulnerable in the schooling system.”
“The evidence from ROTA’s research shows that free schools are, for the most part, simply neglecting duties that exist to ensure public services can be held to account. If public bodies are not transparent and accountable on equalities, then we shall start to see a pick and mix culture where the needs of particular groups of children will be ignored, and the disadvantages they face will not be tackled.”
Picture (home): “School’s Out” by saf eins (Flick – CC BY-NC 2.0)