Government rejects youth committee strategy to tackle racism in schools

By Neil Puffett

| 06 February 2017

The government has opted not to act on a series of recommendations to address racism and religious discrimination in schools suggested by the youth select committee.

Children's minister Edward Timpson was present at the launch of the report in November 2016. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

In total the youth select committee made 16 recommendations in its report, which was published in November, in a bid to address issues they had identified.

Among these was a call to make personal, social and health and education compulsory, and for teaching of it to include the issues of racism and religious discrimination.

In addition to this, the committee called for:

  • Government to work with young people, the police and race and religion organisations to agree definitions of racism and religious discrimination
  • Teachers to receive better support to tackle and report incidents
  • Government to produce guidance for schools on how to develop such a partnership with their students to raise awareness within schools of discrimination
  • Teacher training on racism to be strengthened
  • A government study into the effectiveness of online tools for reporting racist incidents
  • The appointment of a government minister with sole responsibility for government work tackling racism and discrimination

However, in response to the vast majority of recommendations, the government did not commit to acting on the recommendations - instead listing policies that have already been implemented or are due to be implemented. 

In relation to making PSHE statutory, the response states that: "PSHE is an evolving and vital area of education that needs to be fit for children growing up in modern Britain.

"The Department for Education is actively considering the case for further action on PSHE, with particular consideration being given to improving quality and accessibility to ensure that provision is high-quality and age-appropriate."

Responding to calls for the creation of a ministerial post with responsibility for tackling racism, the government states: "Each part of the government, and organisations within society more generally, need to be aware of their own responsibilities for tackling discrimination and promoting equality.

"We believe, therefore, that the best way to ensure that there is clear responsibility for tackling discrimination is to mainstream equalities considerations in policymaking," the response adds.

"This is why we consider that inter-departmental bodies are the best way to encourage ownership of responsibility and to initiate change."

The government response does, however, make a commitment to supporting schools to produce their own codes of practice setting out the principles for a whole-school approach to inclusivity and tolerance.

The government has also welcomed a proposal by assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton's to establish a national hate crime advisory group.

Bronagh Hughes, chair of the youth select committee said: "Whilst we do wish that more of our recommendations could have been supported, we were particularly pleased to read of the Department of Education's consideration of further action on the teaching of PSHE, and the government's welcome of the establishment of a national hate crime Independent Advisory Group for young people."

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