Conducted by Shift Insight, in collaboration with World Afro Day, the research surveying educators across the country, revealed that while more than half (52%) of respondents had very high confidence when discussing issues of race and ethnicity with students, almost one third (29%) were unable to correctly identify a scenario involving Afro hair discrimination.
While educators reported feeling very confident broaching conversations about certain aspects of equality, diversity and inclusions, such as gender inequality (59%), it appears progress is lagging in the context of race and ethnicity, which has ramifications for the Black community and students with Afro hair. Further, only 8% of respondents thought school uniform policies had a high or very high potential to discriminate against students in regards to their race or ethnic background.
This chasm reflects a growing disparity between the law and school policies and practices – because while Afro hair is an intrinsic part of race, and race is a protected characteristic in the 2010 Equality Act, hair is not yet explicitly protected, like skin colour. This grey area and the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) training may explain why previous research from World Afro Day found that Afro hair penalisation based on school policies has increased from 27% to 46% in just one generation.
In addition to providing students with subject knowledge and skills, education also plays a crucial role in establishing values, building confidence and shaping young people’s sense of self. Therefore, to successfully guide students and uphold the Public Sector Equality Duty, the findings build on a growing body of research which suggests it is imperative educators have expertise in applying diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
To address this, World Afro Day, a leading social enterprise working to achieve Afro hair and identity equality, is calling for the Equality Act and Afro hair to become standard in DE&I training for all educators so they can be empowered with the knowledge and resources to confidently navigate and correctly apply the law in school policies and practices.
Michelle De Leon, founder of World Afro Day, said:
“The report clearly shows that new diversity, equity and inclusion training for all teachers, could be an effective solution to end Afro hair discrimination in UK schools. After decades of black children being punished and told their hair doesn’t belong in school, and the ramifications of this on young people’s mental wellbeing, we hope that education leaders will quickly implement the required training for all school staff so that children with Afro hair can have a full education experience, where their identify is welcomed and included at school.”
Jane Powell, managing director of Shift Insight, said:
“Educators’ understanding of the discriminatory potential of hair policies is an under-researched area, so we’re really pleased to be able to contribute to the evidence-base with this study. The research we’ve conducted in partnership with World Afro Day highlights a gap in educators’ understanding which we hope senior leaders and policy makers can now work towards closing.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“We are very pleased to support World Afro Day and its aims and objectives. Our experience is that teachers and leaders are hugely focused on promoting diversity, equality and inclusion, and will welcome the insights provided by this excellent report. The more we can do to raise awareness about the potential for Afro hair discrimination the better, and ASCL is committed to working with World Afro Day to this end.”
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