Press release

Free Schools failing black and Asian children, new research shows

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Free Schools failing black and Asian children, new research shows

Free Schools were supposed to put power into the hands of local communities but they are failing children from Black, Asian and minority Ethnic communities (BAME) and increasing inequality, according to a new report.

Building on previous reports by ROTA and NASUWT this new Report again finds that a substantial proportion of free schools are not operating fair and inclusive admissions policies. It also finds that Black, Asian and minority Ethnic parents face unfair barriers when they try to set up free schools of their own.

Evidence gathered from free schools opened in 2013 suggested 60% are breaking the law by not explicitly considering equality and inclusion in their admissions policies. In this Report we confirm this finding. It is of particular concern that many free schools prioritise the children of staff, founders or specific feeder schools. Interviews, auditions or testing pupils by ability or aptitude are also carried out by a substantial number. There is evidence that such selection tests can disadvantage or deter applicants who do not have access to specialist preparation or coaching.

The Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty exist to support schools to tackle unlawful discrimination, meet diverse needs, identify and address the reasons for different educational outcomes for different groups and create environments where pupils feel safe and free from all kinds of bullying and discrimination.

This Report shows that since the free school programme began, although there is some improvement of awareness about the need to address equality and inclusion, only a very small minority of free schools appear to be taking positive steps towards this goal.

The expectation that free schools would generate significant interest in opportunities for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to address some persistent educational inequalities is not being fully realised. The Report finds that barriers continue to affect BAME communities in their efforts to establish free school projects.

Andy Gregg, ROTA’s Chief Executive said: "We are very concerned at what these findings yet again show that free schools are failing in a core function to ensure that statutory duties are met, the Department for Education is also failing to make sure that free schools take promoting equality seriously."

Professor Gus John said: “The recent study by ROTA has found ‘widespread lack of compliance with the statutory requirement to publish equality information and equality objectives’ and a commensurate lack of knowledge and understanding of the Equality Act 2010.  David Cameron recently called for the teaching of ‘British Values’, including ‘Respect for the rule of law’, in every school. The Government should now make sure that academies and free schools demonstrate compliance with equality legislation and ‘respect for the rule of law’ in all their functions or face being shut down or put in special measures.”


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For more information or to request an interview, please contact our Chief Executive, Andy Gregg Tel: 0207 697 4066 email

Thank you.

Race on the Agenda (ROTA) is a London-based, BAME-led social policy organisation focused on issues affecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. All ROTA’s work is based on the principle that those with direct experience of inequality should be central to solutions to address it. Our policy priorities of health, education and criminal justice are shaped by the lived experiences of BAME communities and their organisations. 

Free Schools failing to demonstrate they are advancing racial equality, new report finds

Monday 15 September 2014

Free Schools failing to demonstrate they are advancing racial equality, new report finds

The Coalition Government’s free schools programme, contrary to its stated aims to address educational disadvantage and attainment gaps, is failing to do so, concludes a report commissioned by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK.

The report, Free Schools, Equality and Inclusion, researched and written by Race On The Agenda (ROTA) found that many free schools are not operating fair and inclusive admission policies and are failing to comply with their statutory obligations to equality.

Free schools failing on equalities, new research shows

Thursday 7 November 2013

Free schools failing on equalities, new research shows

Race on the Agenda (ROTA) has published new research that shows that free schools are failing to comply with statutory requirements on equality.

The research appears soon after the recent Ofsted inspection of the Al-Madinah free school in Derby, which found that statutory requirements, including those on equality, were not being met.

Open letter: Race Equality Duty

20 December 2012

In a response to Mrs Lawrence and Dr Richard Stone’s letter about the review of the Public Sector Equality Duty the Welsh Government clearly sets out their position. Read the response letter here.


Open letter: Race Equality Duty

15 November 2012

Doreen Lawrence OBE and Dr Richard Stone OBE, supported by ROTA and other members of the BME VXS coalition sent this open letter detailing their concerns about the Governments early review of the Public Sector Equality Duty. Read the open letter here.


Free Schools: Free to continue?

6 November 2012

The Coalition Government has widely promoted free schools as part of a process to eradicate unequal opportunities. Findings from Race on the Agenda (ROTA) suggest that participation from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (BAME), who are amongst some of the most acutely disadvantaged in education, is notably lacking.

London Tamil oral history project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

14 February 2012

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant to Race on the Agenda (ROTA), in partnership with the Tamil Community Centre (Hounslow), to carry out an innovative one-year oral history project with the Tamil community in London.  The project, called ‘Through the generations: untold stories of Tamil migration’, will give different generations of Sri Lankan Tamils in London the opportunity to contribute to the first ever oral history of its kind.

Coalition’s free schools project spells disaster for many already facing acute educational disadvantage

Press Release: 5 September 2011

The free schools agenda is coming at a high price to many communities that already face educational disadvantage, says Race on the Agenda (ROTA). There are worrying signs that local communities are losing out.

These include 20 voluntary organisations that will be displaced by the West London Free School, whose choice of premises, Palingswick House, is the building from which they have provided services to vulnerable groups including refugees and homeless people for the past 30 years. Additionally Ark Bolingbroke Academy, another new school, has had a rethink following criticism for initially drawing boundaries for its feeder schools that excluded a nearby primary school on an estate that has high levels of deprivation.

Girls left vulnerable to gang-related sexual and physical violence across the country

Press Release: 22 March 2011

Follow-up to ROTA (Race on the Agenda) Female Voice in Violence report that discovered the use of "rape as a weapon of choice" against women and girls in London finds more weapons, less choice for females suffering from serious violence across the country.

England is failing to protect girls under the age of 18 from sexual and physical serious violence, according to new research by ROTA (Race on the Agenda).

Joint Press Release Equanomics UK, Runnymede Trust, Centre for Local Policy Studies and Race On The Agenda

Press Release: 22 March 2011


A coalition of race equality organisations told senior MPs today that the government is not doing enough to tackle race inequalities in the UK.

They also expressed concern regarding the government's decision last week to re-open its consultation on the Equality Act 2010's specific equality duties, arguing that this could result in a watering down of the legislation. This is the third consultation on the specific equality duties.


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