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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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. 

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