Government Sewell report response: 9 actions for schools

Ministers have responded to the commission on race and ethnic disparities

Ministers have responded to the commission on race and ethnic disparities

Sewell report racism

Ministers will ask schools to report on the diversity of their governing boards, extend a careers advice duty to all secondary pupils and publish new guidance aimed at preventing discrimination against pupils with afro hair.

The government has published its response to the Sewell report on race and ethnic disparities, which was published last year.

Many of the actions pledged in the response are based on previous commitments by ministers, while others are new or more detailed than what has been set out before.

Here’s what schools need to know.

1. Model history curriculum by 2024

Ministers confirmed last year that they would create a model history curriculum to equip teachers to teach about “migration, cultural change and the contributions made by different communities”.

In its response to the Sewell report, the government said the curriculum would be developed by 2024 with the help of “curriculum experts, historians and school leaders”.

The DfE will also “actively seek out and signpost to schools suggested high-quality resources to support teaching all-year round on black history in readiness for Black History Month October 2022”.

However, the response does not address a controversial suggestion in the original report that children be taught that slavery was “not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain”.

2. Schools asked to report governor diversity data

In its response, the government said diverse boards, “giving a voice to the wider school community help ensure that decisions taken are in the interest of all pupils”.

As a result, ministers will recommend schools collect and publish data on the diversity of their governing boards.

Once the new edition of the governance handbook is published “we will reflect this guidance in future iterations of the ‘understanding your data’ guide”.

3. Careers duty extended to year 7s and academies

Although “most” ethnic minority pupils outperform their white peers at school, they are “more likely” to drop out of university, have lower levels of attainment and earn less after graduating.

The government is supporting the backbench education (careers guidance in schools) bill, which will extend the existing duty on maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units to secure independent careers guidance for pupils.

Currently the duty only applies from year 8 onwards. The bill will extend it to all secondary pupils, and to cover academies and AP.

4. New guidance to tackle afro hair discrimination

The government said it was “concerned that some black pupils are experiencing discrimination because of their hair”.

The case of Ruby Williams vs Urswick School “has meant that some school leadership teams are increasingly looking for guidance on this issue”.

Williams, who was repeatedly sent home because of her afro hair, received an £8,500 out-of-court settlement after claiming she faced discrimination based on race.

The government acknowledged the “very real, practical difficulty compliance with some uniform policies may pose to black children and their parents”.

The DfE will work with the Equality Hub and leading schools to help create a “resource on pupil hairstyles and uniform policy”.

This will “showcase best practice in uniform policy specific to the diversity of acceptable hairstyles in school to avoid unfair treatment of ethnic minority children whose hair type may not be like the majority”.

5. DfE to analyse pupil attainment

To “drive up” attainment for under-performing ethnic groups, the DfE will carry out a “programme of analysis in early 2022”.

This aims to “understand pupil attainment and investigate whether there are any specific findings and implications for different ethnic groups to tackle disparities”.

6. MAT strategies probed for best practice

The DfE and the government Race Disparity Unit will investigate strategies used by multi-academy trusts that are “most successful at bridging achievement gaps for different ethnic groups and raising overall life chances”.

The lessons learnt “will be published in 2022 and will help drive up standards for all pupils”.

7. DfE to look into publishing more data

The government will investigate the publication of “additional data on the academic performance of ethnic groups”, alongside “other critical factors relating to social mobility and progress at school level, in post-18 education and employment after education”.

This will happen “by the end of 2022”.

8. SEND review to make ‘early support the norm’

The government accepted outcomes for pupils in alternative provision were “not good enough”, and that “some ethnic minority groups” are over-represented in the sector.

The report said the upcoming SEND review would include “proposals for transforming outcomes for young people in AP”.

This transformation will make “early support the norm for all young people who need it in mainstream schools and ensure stable and high-quality education is available throughout a young person’s time in AP”.

Reforms will also “incentivise early support in mainstream schools that will help reduce preventable exclusions and ensure overrepresented groups of children who are permanently excluded remain safe and supported in high-quality education”.

9. New exclusions guidance this year

The government pointed to claims that black pupils are more likely to be excluded from school because of racial discrimination.

But it said data showed black African pupils were less likely to be excluded than white and black Caribbean pupils.

This “does not mean racist attitudes or racist incidents do not exist anywhere in schools”, but it “does suggest that other factors play a more significant role in determining different exclusion rates”.

The report also warned of “misinformation” because of a “conflation between race and ethnicity”.

Poor reporting “also confuses the complex reality that even ethnic groups who share the same race have different outcomes and face different challenges”.

In the report, the government recommitted to publishing “new and improved” guidance on behaviour in schools and on suspensions and permanent exclusions this year.

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