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FE and Skills sector reaction to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

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FE and Skills sector reaction to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – comments from @PatrickR_NASUWT, @PaulWhiteman6, @cyclingkev, @cbimatt 

Responding to the publication of the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic DisparitiesDr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union and Chair of the TUC’s Anti-Racism Taskforce, said: 

“The reality is that structural racism continues to blight and scar our country and our economy, holding back our communities and undermining life chances. 

“Black communities have been systematically failed by a Government response that was supposed to protect us all during the pandemic, the refusal to publish evidence of their race equality impact assessments and by a Government Commission that has failed to grasp the realities. 

“The evidence of racism in Britain today is there for all to see. 

“Black workers are working in unsafe jobs and 3-4 times more likely to die as a result of Covid-19. 

“Black workers remain two times more likely to be unemployed. 

“Black workers continue to be paid less than their white counterparts and are disproportionately working in precarious jobs, on zero hours contracts or in agency work. 

“Young people from Black backgrounds are also more likely to be unemployed than white workers at every qualification level. 

“This evidence is not anecdotal. Racism is real and it is systemic. 

“Unless and until the Government accepts the facts of systemic racism, it will continue to fail Black workers and communities, and further deepen the scar of racial injustice in our country.”

Government race report does not reflect the reality of many people’s lived experiences, says NAHT

Today (Wed 31 Mar) The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has published its report.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“NAHT has already heard from many members that they are deeply disappointed by this report. Those members have told us that they feel let down, and that it does not accurately reflect their experiences. We have already seen from the reaction so far that the report simply does not reflect the reality of so many people’s lived experiences. To many, the findings will come as an insult.  

“It is clear that there remains a huge amount of work to do when it comes to tackling issues surrounding racism and race equality in the UK.

“Schools are rightly proud of the work they are already doing in this field and progress has certainly been made, but we know that they are far from complacent. Schools and school leaders remain determined to do all they can to tackle all forms of inequality.  Education remains one of the best tools we have to tackle the scourge of racism and inequality in this country, but this must be set alongside a wider societal approach.”

Commenting on the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, published today, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“We do not need more reports like this. The evidence about racial disparities and race discrimination in employment exists from other inquiries and is well documented. The Windrush Review recommendations must be taken seriously by the Government. We have already got comprehensive data showing the barriers for Black children and the need for a more inclusive school curriculum and better progression through the workforce. Many schools themselves are already showing the lead on this and decolonising their curriculum, but today’s report misses the point that schools are doing this in the absence of support and despite the Government. 

“We are witnessing a huge push forward with schools doing innovative planning around their curriculum because schools want the positive contribution and achievements of Black communities recognised and represented. It is urgent that all Black students can access a positive, engaging and representative curriculum in their school or college. The Government isn’t listening on the need to review the curriculum. Adding content to the curriculum isn’t straightforward and must not be piecemeal but the Westminster Government should be looking at Wales where they are adapting the curriculum. Black staff face discrimination and there is an ethnicity gap in education, and so we need to be open and upfront when talking about racism, its roots, and the deeply embedded discrimination that is still prevalent because of racism in Britain today.  

“This report today is out of step with public opinion, with the teaching profession, and with Black parents. There is a huge call from the public to tackle inequality around racism and sexism and to build a fairer world after this pandemic.  The NEU has recruited many schools to use our anti-racist framework and we publish teaching materials which advance race equality. 

“Education must be a space where the stereotypes and myths that cause racism and racial profiling can be talked about and challenged. Teachers need much more training, especially student teachers, so the profession is confident to respond to these important social issues. Many young people experience racism. Every student needs an anti-racist education, especially when you consider the hateful and harmful content online which is being targeted at young people.  

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“46% of Black children are living in poverty so the conversation about racism and poverty must go hand in hand. And urgent action on living standards and secure jobs must be centre stage. It is disingenuous and misleading to seek to divide Black working class communities and white working class communities. Leadership and collaboration on reducing child poverty is needed. Ending poverty and racism requires action by everyone. It is true that Black children often face two obstacles – one racism, the other poverty, but far from using this to say racism doesn’t matter, it should be a clarion call to act on both. This Government is failing on both.” 

CBI RESPONDS TO COMMISSION ON RACE AND ETHNIC DISPARITIES COMMISSION REPORT

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:

“When it comes to supporting the career progression of ethnically diverse employees, transparency is the watchword. And while progress has been made, there is a long way to go.

“Closing the UK’s ethnicity pay gap is about making our society fairer and more inclusive. But there’s a strong business case too. Diverse companies perform better on every metric.

“Disclosing ethnicity pay gaps is one of the most transformative steps a company can take to address race inequality at work. Publishing a clear action plan to tackle any disparities – and reporting on progress made – is key to turn momentum into lasting change.”

Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University, in response to today’s report, said:

Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University: “Following the publication of today’s long-awaited report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, we will be considering its wide-ranging recommendations so that public services like our university can do more to break down barriers and tackle racial inequality.

“We continue to work proactively on bringing about change and driving equality for the diverse staff and student communities we serve. We are committed to Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter and have already started implementing some of the recommendations from UUK’s Advisory Group on Tackling Harassment in Higher Education.”

Offices for Students spokesperson said:

‘Reducing inequality in one stage of the educational system often leads to new frontiers at another. We are seeing great progress on Black, Asian and minority ethnic students getting into university, but they experience worse outcomes once they get there. As well as being less likely to achieve a 2:1 or higher, some of these groups of students are less likely to find graduate level work or progress to academic careers. This is why the OfS regulates participation as well as access, and we work with universities to tackle the specific challenges they face for their own mix of students.

‘We make clear through our regulatory guidance that universities and colleges should focus on individual characteristics and intersections between them, rather than aggregating through categories such as ‘BAME’. We also focus strongly, both through our regulation and our outreach funding, on support for white students in the parts of the country where there are very low levels of progression to university, which are mostly post-industrial towns and parts of cities across the north, midlands and coastal towns. It will be crucial to open up opportunities in areas like these if we are to meet the government’s ambition of levelling up the country.

‘We will consider carefully the Commission’s advice on the priorities and approach for university outreach, which builds on the findings of our own evaluative work and the steps we are taking to strengthen this.’

BFELG Statement – The ‘No-CRED’ Report

The preview of the Commission on Race & Ethnic Disparities Report – perhaps best referred to hereafter as the ‘No—CRED Report’ – is disappointing but not surprising, given the publicly stated positions of both the Chair and the Head of the No.10 Policy Unit who appointed him. It’s not surprising because if you’ve reached your conclusion before you start your investigation, it’s likely that you’ll look for the evidence that supports your narrative and will ignore or downplay any evidence to the contrary. So, the Chair of the Report – trailed but not published – glibly talks about opposing view as being ‘anecdotal’ and therefore dismissed from consideration.

The experience of the BFELG is indicative of the Commission’s approach. We tried repeatedly to make contact but received not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement. Our evidence-base of the clear disparities in terms of opportunity and outcome in our sector, which has been widely accepted as credible and authoritative, was therefore missing from the discussion, but arguably would in any event have been dismissed. It would appear that, in publishing such a highly politicised report, the government has chosen to kick the can down the road, rather than deal with a tricky issue with such potentially negative long-term implications for UK society in general, and our future prosperity in particular. We will continue to work with other progressive stakeholders to progress our aims of Anti-Racism.

BSA Response to Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities:

Following publication of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report by the government’s Race Disparity Unit (published 31 March 2021) the BSA wants to make clear that the conclusion of this report contradicts a considerable body of scientific research by sociologists (and other disciplines) that evidences the structural factors affecting racialised groups in the UK. This critical body expertise on race in the UK appears to be absent from the Report. Consequently, the underpinnings of the report are deeply flawed, particularly with regard to institutional racism, the ongoing legacy of colonialism and slavery, the processes that link race and ethnicity to , education and employment, the day-to-day experiences of living with discrimination and racism, and the depth of social change that is required for the UK to actually become a beacon of race equality.

For now we will focus specifically on the issue of education, since the report gives so much weight to this and presents the UK as a glowing success story, for some individuals. However, the relationship between educational attainment, race and ethnicity, and transitions into employment is more complex and troubling than a story of the benefits of aspiration and individual success. We remain concerned that the report falls into the trope that the real losers in the UK education system are white, working class, boys. This manages to simultaneously deny the experiences of minoritized students and fuel a politics of division that have come to characterise the Brexit . .

As a professional association, the BSA recognises the need to look at our own practices and the institutional setting of Sociology, particularly in Universities. Last year the BSA commissioned its own report, Race and Ethnicity in British Sociology, and its conclusions could not differ more starkly than the Commission’s report. As a result of this robust and rigorous piece of research, the BSA has identified the structural factors that we need to address to change the outcomes and drive towards equality in British Universities, notably:

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students are under-represented at Russell Group Universities.
  • There is an awarding gap of 14.9% between White and BME students in Sociology – higher than that across the sector as a whole (13.4%). This awarding gap is particularly high for students from Black African and Pakistani backgrounds.
  • The under-representation of academics of colour at all stages of the career ladder, but noticeably at Professorial level.
  • A quarter of courses made no explicit reference to race, ethnicity or racism and that Race and Ethnicity was often taught as an add-on rather than as something fundamental to the discipline.
  • Many respondents felt that resistance at institutional levels plays a deciding factor in the extent to which race and ethnicity was taught.
  • Staff reported a lack of institutional, departmental or course level, mechanism for documenting the presence or absence of race and ethnicity.
  • Several staff remarked that the lack of BME staff (and particularly professors) in proportion to the student population was a barrier to the teaching of race and ethnicity, and a problem for UK Sociology more broadly.
  • 50% of all respondents felt that the teaching of race and ethnicity was more challenging than the teaching of other topics, and BME staff report facing particular challenges due to their racial identities.
  • Only 10% of White staff and 20% of BME staff reported having received formal training related to the teaching of race and ethnicity topics and was inadequate as a means of producing significant change.
  • Staff reported that student resistance to the teaching of race and ethnicity served as a significant barrier, and this was in part a consequence of institutional and departmental failures to prepare students for discussions about race, ethnicity and racism.
  • Respondents noted that other staff posed a barrier to the teaching of race and ethnicity, often through defensiveness around, and denial of, issues to do with race, ethnicity and racism.

We support individual academics and organisations working on race inequality who are providing sound rebuttal of the Commission’s report and will produce a more detailed response to its underlying logic in due course. We are deeply concerned that this report represents a significant step back in UK government approaches to recognising the extent and rooted nature of racism in our society. An opportunity has been lost and it is the members of minoritized communities who will carry the cost.

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