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Too many free schools failing on equality claims study

SHUT OUT: Black students suffer from unfair admissions policies

MANY FREE schools are failing black communities by breaking equalities laws, a study claims.

The study, from social policy think tank Race on the Agenda (ROTA) and teachers’ union NASUWT, said many free schools did not comply with key equality requirements and need to be held accountable over this.

The study, called Free Schools, Equality and Inclusion claimed: “Findings indicated that not only were most free school leaders lacking knowledge and understanding of the Equality Act 2010 and what it requires, but that there was widespread lack of compliance with the statutory requirement to publish equality information and equality objectives.”

It claimed that, for example, many free schools were not operating fair inclusive admissions policies, often excluding children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It went on: “60 per cent of free schools do not explicitly consider equality and inclusion in their admissions policies.” The report was compiled after reviewing the policies and websites of 93 free schools and a 2014 survey of 1,210 successful and unsuccessful free schools.

It added: “No free schools linked their admissions policies to their duties under the Equality Act 2010 or priorities that they had identified under these. Only a very small minority of free schools appear to be taking positive steps to make their admissions arrangements equal and inclusive.”

LITERACY

Consequently, the study said such practices might deter parents with limited literacy skills or knowledge of the British school system from applying, thereby reducing potential admissions of pupils from certain Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.


BARRIERS: Patricia Johnson

The report also claimed ethnic minorities ‘disproportionately’ faced barriers when trying to set up free schools.
Patricia Johnson, a mum who last year legally challenged the Department for Education (DfE) over its rejection of a free school proposal, agreed.

“There are too many barriers,” said Johnson, who accused the government of failing to consider Equality Act 2010 requirements when it rejected the proposal to establish the Diaspora High School. The proposed school in Lewisham, southeast London, was aimed at helping black boys. Johnson later won the right to a judicial review, successfully forcing the government to amend its free schools application process.

Johnson added: “The free school system basically seems set up for two types of applicants- those based on faith and those who come from a well-to-do middle-class background.”

The report claimed that Ofsted, the DfE and other authorities should better monitor free schools and tighten inspections to force these schools to adhere to equalities requirements.

It also wanted the DfE to do more to provide support for ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged communities that want to set up free schools.

But the DfE refuted the report’s claims. A DfE spokesperson told The Voice: “This is nonsense. All schools, including free schools, must offer a broad and balanced curriculum and are required to meet their obligations under equalities legislation. In addition, all mainstream, special and alternative provision free schools must abide by the school admissions code. Free schools cater for a far higher proportion of children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds than the national average.”

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