Safeguarding considerations for Schools: Inclusion / allegations of discrimination

Perhaps reflective of broader global trends, we have seen an increase in pupils and former pupils reporting their experiences of discrimination at school, and calling out particular incidents, reflecting both recent experiences and instances from some time ago. These issues sit squarely within the frame of safeguarding and is explored by Ofsted / ISI:

  • For maintained schools and academies, the Ofsted inspection handbook (November 2019) has a clear emphasis on inclusion. For instance, judgements on behaviour and attitude will look for an environment in which pupils feel safe, and in which bullying, discrimination and peer-to-peer abuse (online or offline) are not accepted and are dealt with quickly, consistently and effectively when they occur. One of the 5 examples given of ineffective safeguarding is where incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour are common.
  • The Ofsted inspection handbook (October 2019) for non-association independent schools also has a clear emphasis on inclusion and will look at whether incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour are common and whether these are indicative of ineffective safeguarding practices.
  • For independent schools which fall within the remit of ISI, the recent July 2020 update ‘Inspecting Discrimination’ (here) states: “When inspecting schools, we consider whether they actively encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Act.  This includes the effectiveness with which schools deal with discrimination, including racism, in all its forms. Inspectors review policies and, crucially, evaluate the efficacy of their implementation through interviews with pupils and teachers, anonymous questionnaires and opportunities to speak individually with inspectors. Inspectors look at the curriculum as a whole and how it deals with diversity and discrimination.  The culture of a school impacts directly on safeguarding and on attitudes and behaviours of all members of the school community.  Where a school is found to be failing to encourage respect for others and/or to deal effectively with racism, it will be judged as not meeting the standards and the DfE as regulator will take any appropriate action.”

It is therefore important for schools to consider where they are in relation to the creation of an inclusive ethos, how the school’s expectations and management of issues when they arise are made clear, and how they ensure that procedures are effective in practice.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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