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School equality

Information and guidance for Somerset schools on the Public Sector Equality Duty


This section explains the steps that schools need to take. Schools already collect and hold equality information in many forms, for example information on progress and outcomes of pupils from different groups. The process of obtaining data is not as onerous as it might first appear.

The importance of evidence

Evidence about the needs of protected groups, or about good relations between groups, is a crucial starting point, without which action taken by schools may not be well targeted or successful.

Collecting and using equality information will help you to identify equality priorities and to understand the impact of your proposals and decisions on people with protected characteristics. This data will help you to set useful objectives and measure progress against them. It can also help you to base your priorities and decision-making on sound evidence rather than assumptions or stereotypes.

Proportionality and use of evidence from sources other than the school

Using data and other evidence will vary between schools, due to their differing size and context. For example, what would be reasonable for a large secondary school would not be for a very small rural primary school. The key is to obtain data and other information that is likely to be genuinely helpful to school planning and to use it in an appropriate way to meet the aims of the general equality duty.

For some Protected Characteristics schools may well need to rely partly on what they know are equality issues identified nationally and locally, in order to identify their priorities. This would be because statistical data about some pupil groups may be less likely to be available for some protected characteristics for example religion, and sexual orientation.

Step 1: Consider what information you already have

There is no point in trying to look at all possible data and other evidence available in a school. Ask yourself what the key outcomes you are trying achieve are and then identify what evidence might suggest issues for particular groups. For schools this is likely to include at least some of the evidence listed below (proportionality would mean that smaller schools could focus on a much smaller range of evidence).

Evidence about the needs of children and young people

  • End of KS attainment.
  • Progress measures.
  • Teaching and learning issues in the classroom, identified by Ofsted or through other routes.
  • Behaviour, exclusions and time outside mainstream lessons due to behavioural issues.
  • Attendance.
  • Bullying and social relations more generally (for example playground behaviour, evidence of social isolation of some groups).
  • Curriculum coverage and materials (how well they promote pupils’ understanding and positive attitudes towards diversity).
  • Participation in extra-curricular activities.
  • Career aspirations (especially gender stereotypes).
  • Involvement of pupils in decision-making, for example through school councils.
  • Qualitative evidence of pupils’ experiences, fed back formally for example through questionnaires, pupil voice activities, information from peer mediation training about what is happening in the playground and informally. Social or emotional evidence, though difficult to quantify, may be of high significance.
  • Qualitative evidence of parents’ or carers’ concerns about children and young people, fed back formally (for example through complaints, questionnaires) and informally (such as concerns raised verbally).
  • Qualitative evidence of governors’ concerns about children and young people, fed back formally (for example through questionnaires) and informally (such as at meetings).
  • Qualitative evidence of staff concerns about children and young people, fed back formally (for example through questionnaires) and informally (such as raised at meetings).
  • Qualitative evidence from community users of the schools building (such as accessibility and wider local community issues).

For some aspects it will be useful to triangulate evidence, so that different types of evidence or data help create a well-informed picture for a particular potential issue. For example, relevant information about good relations between pupils from different groups could come from behaviour logs, discrimination incident reports, pupil council discussions, questionnaires, informal staff feedback and many more.

Identify data

Having decided what evidence it would be useful in principle to look at, you can identify what is easily available, what could be obtained with a reasonable amount of effort and what is simply too difficult given current resources.

For schools, data on attainment and progress are likely to be the most detailed and easily accessible. It may be possible to do some comparison between different groups such as boys, girls, different ethnic groups. Remember that children learning English as an additional language are likely to make much more rapid progress than other pupils. They build on fluency in their first language and the conceptual understanding they have already developed in their country of origin (so if evidence just showed similar rates of progress this could be an area for concern).

If such analysis is not possible in your school, for example because of small numbers, you could make use of national and local evidence to identify priorities.

Step 2: Reviewing your data and identify any relevant information gaps.

This requires you to pull out the key equality themes arising from the evidence (at school, local or national level) and decide which ones are most significant for your school and which you will therefore seek to address. It is a good idea to record your decisions, as if you are challenged you will need to provide evidence that you have shown due regard to the general duty. You will then need to decide what steps to take to address the issues you have identified.

An example provided in the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) guidance is: “A school can have a positive impact on closing the gender pay gap by helping girls and boys consider non-traditional career choices”.

It is worthwhile at this stage considering how you will monitor the success of any action you take, also bearing in mind any specific and measurable objectives you have decided to set.

This will also be the point when you will establish if you have any gaps in the data you currently are reviewing. The next step will provide examples on how these gaps could be filled.

Step 3: Take steps to fill any information gaps. Use in-house information and local, regional and national research, including publications from the Commission.

If you lack evidence of pupil views, you could organise in-class discussions of possible issues or focus group discussions with particular groups. This could be with girls, boys, pupils with impairments or Special Educational Needs (SEN), pupils learning English as an additional language (EAL), Travellers or from minority ethnic groups more generally.

In addition this may be the point where you look to local, national or Trust wide data and evidence to provide guidance on questions to ask yourselves or work that might need to be taken.

Last reviewed: December 20, 2023 by Jenny

Next review due: June 20, 2024

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