The Race Relations Act 1976 as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 gives public authorities a statutory general duty to promote race equality. The aim of the general duty is to make promoting race equality central to the way public authorities work; and this includes schools. The general duty says that the body must have 'due regard' to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and
- promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups.
In addition the Act places specific duties on schools to help them meet the general duty. They are a means to an end; that is, they should result in and improve the educational experience for all children, in particular those belonging to minority ethnic groups. It should not become a bureaucratic exercise. These specific duties are:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (formally the Commission for Racial Equality - CRE) has power under the Act to enforce the specific duties by issuing a compliance notice. This is a legal document that orders the school to meet the specific duties within a certain timescale. Failure to comply could lead to a court order, and failure to comply with that could result in legal action for contempt of court. The general duty can be enforced by judicial review.
- to prepare a written statement of the school's policy for promoting race equality, and to act upon it;
- to assess the impact of school policies on pupils, staff and parents of different racial groups, including, in particular, the impact of attainment levels of these pupils;
- to monitor the operation of all the school's policies, including, in particular their impact on the attainment levels of pupils from different racial groups; and
- to take reasonable steps to make available the results of its monitoring.
This is a powerful tool that can be used to raise minority ethnic achievement. We have worked with the CRE to ensure that schools are supported to enable them to comply with the new duties. The CRE produced a Statutory Code of Practice (PDF 442KB) which gives practical advice on how to meet the duties. The CRE also produced a more user-friendly Guide for Schools (PDF 311KB) to help governing bodies, teachers, parents, pupils, and others with an interest to understand what they can expect from schools and what schools might expect from them.
As part of the specific duties falling on public authorities Ofsted, have published a Race Equality Scheme. Ofsted has been asked to ensure that inspection teams look specifically at the progress schools and local education authorities are making. The ultimate aim is to make these good practices fit comfortably into the routine work of the school.
Schools' race equality policies - from issues to outcomes - guidance
This concise guidance document aims to help schools to fulfil their obligations under this Act, and implement their statutory Race Equality Policy. It outlines practical steps that schools can take to mainstream race equality within existing work to improve pupils' attainment and to build a school community with a positive ethos that reflects the wider community.
Focussing on results, or outcomes, 'School's race equality programmes - from issues to outcomes' directs our attention to the difference that schools should be making in the lives of their pupils.
School's Race Equality Policies - from Issues to Outcomes (PDF 36KB)
Other useful linksStephen Lawrence Inquiry (Macpherson Report)