Diversity

The road to workforce equity in schools is still a long one

25 Jun 2021, 5:00



Edurio’s new report highlights how much work still needs to be done to break down barriers to equity, writes Leora Cruddas, and leaders should step up to the challenge

Our schools and trusts need to be places that build bridges in the creation of a better and more equal society. But while progress is evident towards that goal, there’s still a long way to go to achieve it. 

Edurio’s latest report provides an important overview of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues across the school system, and it has been a thought-provoking endeavour for me as a female educator and chief executive. This is an important step on a journey that we’ve been on for some time, and I hope it will help to bring about widespread and lasting change in the sector.

There were several elements that really stood out from the report’s findings. Overall, the results seem promising. Reassuringly, eight in ten school staff believe that their workplace is committed to promoting EDI. But what is important is how this differs between different groups.  

For example, only 69 per cent of minority-ethnic staff feel that their workplace is committed to it, compared to 83 per cent of white British/Irish staff. If lived experience between key groups can differ so heavily, can we really claim that we as school and trust leaders are creating an equal, diverse and inclusive workplace?

I was also struck by the gap in perception between school leaders and staff who do not hold a leadership position within their school. More leaders reported feeling confident that their workplace is committed to promoting EDI than the wider staff body. This gap is not altogether surprising, especially when we consider the demographics of leadership staff within schools. Indeed, Edurio’s study found that just 28 per cent of staff felt that their leadership team is diverse.

There is also a difference in how confident people feel that all staff are treated equally. An overwhelming nine in ten leadership staff feel this is the case, compared to seven in ten non-leaders. Leaders, by definition, lead the way in creating the culture of their workforce. It is vital that their understanding matches that of their staff. It is hard to solve a problem that you aren’t aware exists.

I was struck by the gap in perception between school leaders and their staff

Lastly, Edurio’s report reveals the extent to which staff are experiencing offensive comments, jokes or behaviours. Again, the overall finding is reassuring: just three per cent of staff reported that they have experienced these events quite often or very often.  

But again, this experience differs among staff with protected characteristics. We found that nine per cent of disabled staff, eight per cent of staff with a faith other than Christianity and seven per cent of minority-ethnic staff had experienced an event they perceived as offensive. And a single such event is one too many. So, to see three times as many disabled staff find themselves in that position as their non-disabled colleagues is yet another sign that the road ahead to equality is still a long one.

The issue of offensive comments, jokes or behaviours is also reflected in the most recent Ofsted review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges. It is concerning that the report finds that for some children, incidents are so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them. We need to create school cultures where offensive comments, jokes or behaviours are directly addressed – and that has to be modelled by the adults.

An organisation’s culture defines the way we behave in that organisation, from “the way we do things around here” to the underlying values, beliefs and principles that govern processes and behaviours. For me, equality, diversity and inclusion stem from that culture, which allows everyone to develop a sense of common purpose.

I see this report as a vital step towards creating a system-wide culture of equality, diversity and inclusion – one that will reach all staff and all pupils and in all of our schools. There are uncomfortable findings, and we must have the courage as leaders to face them head-on.

 

 Edurio’s full Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Among School Staff report can be read here home.edurio.com/edi-report

 

 



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