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Race Equality Commission hears evidence of racial inequalities in education

Both public hearings on Sheffield's education sector were held this week to discuss the racial inequalities within the sector and what’s being done to tackle them.

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Benjamin Elliott (Unsplash)

The Sheffield Race Equality Commission was established in 2020 to gather evidence of racial inequalities in a range of different areas, including health, education and the justice system. The Commission will run for one year and provide an independent assessment of racial inequalities and their impacts in the city.

Once all the evidence has been submitted, heard and assessed, the Commission will make recommendations for tackling these issues, including short and long-term measures that are needed to deal with systemic and structural issues concerning race, racism and racialised inequalities.

Chaired by Professor Emeritus Kevin Hylton from Leeds Beckett University, this week’s hearings focused on the evidence from witnesses in the education sector.

A range of people and organisations discussed and answered questions about the racial inequalities within their institutions and what’s being done to tackle them. Organisations included the Race Equality Charter, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

One of the overarching issues in the evidence given was the difficulty in 'mainstreaming' racial equality across the board - and doing so without placing the burden of this work on people from racialised backgrounds.

For students, some of the key issues brought to the Commission were around the attainment gap, decolonising subjects and curriculums, racial or cultural incompetence when it came to support services, and significant shortcomings in complaints and disciplinary processes.

But racism and racial inequalities don’t stop with students - they also have a significant impact on staff. Evidence included reports of a lack of people of colour in leadership roles, issues around recruitment and retention, discrimination in funding, and shortcomings in disciplinary processes when a complaint of racism is received.

Witnesses also discussed some of the actions they’d begun to take to tackle racism and its inequalities, with both challenges and good practice, such as dedicated student networks, being taken on board by the Commission.

The next public hearings will be 15 and 17 June and will focus on racial inequalities within civic life and communities. The Race Equality Commission is still accepting submissions of evidence if your organisation wishes to get involved.

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