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There has never been a more important time for teaching and promoting equality and diversity in Britain’s classrooms. Out of over 13 million registered disabled people currently living in the U.K., 800,000 are children under the age of 16.
With the U.K.’s non-British population estimated to include around 6.1 million people in 2018, over 14% of the country’s population are classed as foreigners. Six different religions are being practised by various ethnic groups spread across Britain, and 18 ethic groups are recommended for use by the UK government.
Statistics in 2017 revealed that over 1.1 million U.K. residents over the age of 16 identified as LGBT, which equates to almost 2% of the overall population.
In a society so varied in terms of race, disability, and sexual orientation, equality and diversity must be promoted throughout U.K. schools.
In this guide, we will discuss the meaning of equality and diversity and the fundamental principles that schools should follow in their pursuit of multiculturalism and understanding in the classroom. Next, we’ll look at the reasons why equality and diversity are essential, and how you can promote this in your school.
We’ll move on to outline a range of classroom activities designed to raise awareness of and promote multiculturalism. We’ll also provide a checklist of questions for you to use as a point of reference as you work to promote equality in your school environment. Finally, we’ll discuss the 2010 Equality Act and its nine characteristics.
The information in this guide will provide a point of reference for any teacher wanting to promote equality and diversity in the classroom.
What is equality and diversity?
Equality and diversity, sometimes called multiculturalism, is the concept of accepting and promoting people’s differences. The fundamental goal when promoting equality is to raise awareness and make sure that all individuals are treated equally and fairly. This is regardless of their age, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or race.
When you promote diversity in the classroom, you can use a range of activities and principles to help students recognise and respect people’s differences, creating an all-inclusive atmosphere. The promotion of diversity and equality in education is paramount for both students and teachers.
The goal is to create an inclusive classroom environment – a safe place without prejudice – where students have the opportunity to thrive. Successfully teaching and raising awareness of diversity works to highlight individual characteristics and traits that make people unique rather than different.
Young people need to have an understanding of equality and human rights. This knowledge helps them to understand how they should be treated and how to treat others. When you promote equality and teach these topics, you create a safe environment for students to challenge, discuss, explore, and form lasting values, morals, and opinions.
When students are taught to respect diversity, they gain knowledge and understanding that can help them to improve relationships, tackle prejudice, and make positive decisions throughout their lives. In today’s challenging and diverse society, you must instil young students with positive and open-minded attitudes.
What key principles should schools follow?
While many schools will take a unique approach to promote equality and diversity in the classroom, some principles can act as a basis for this promotion.
As you discuss and plan your approach to encouraging and embracing equality in the classroom, you should consider the following principles:
1. All students are equal regardless of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, race, gender, and gender identity.
Although this is an important principle, you should teach your students that this doesn’t mean everybody in the classroom is treated the same. Occasionally, it means that people require extra help so that they are provided with the same opportunities and outcomes as others.
2 Differences are respected, recognised, and valued because diversity is a strength.
In your school, all differences are taken into account as you work hard to eliminate the disadvantages and barriers with which some people are faced. These differences may relate to ethnicity, gender, faith, disability, or sexual orientation. You believe that diversity is a strength, and it should be celebrated and respected by all the school’s students, teachers, and visitors.
3. Positive relationships and attitudes are fostered throughout the school.
Your students, staff, and visitors will benefit if you actively promote mutual respect and positive attitudes between communities and groups that differ from one another.
4. A shared sense of belonging and inclusion is encouraged in the classroom.
You want all members of your school community to share a sense of belonging in both the school and the wider community. This will help each individual to feel respected as an individual and to respect one another. This feeling of mutual respect makes it easier for students to participate in school life fully.
5. We actively observe and promote equalities practised for our staff.
All school policies and procedures are designed to benefit all employees and potential recruits in every aspect of their work. These procedures are active throughout a member of staff’s career, from recruitment and promotion, through to personal development.
6. We have the highest expectations for all our students.
You believe that all pupils can achieve good progress and attain their highest potential.
7. We work hard to raise standards for all our students, especially those most vulnerable.
It’s part of your school’s ethos to improve the quality of education throughout the most vulnerable groups of students. This helps to raise the standards throughout the whole school while actively promoting inclusion and respect.
8. We challenge stereotyping and prejudice.
In your school, all incidences of prejudice-based bullying are reported and challenged. This includes racism, homophobia, or the bullying of somebody due to a disability. You also actively challenge gender-based and any other stereotypes than are causing concern.
As you work to create your own principles for your equality and diversity policy, your objectives may include.
- Developing an ethos that values and respects all people.
- Actively promoting the equality of opportunity.
- Preparing all pupils for life inside a diverse society.
- Fostering good relations amongst both the school community and the wider communities with which you work.
- Eliminating all forms of unfair discrimination, harassment, and other oppressive behaviour, using the School Disciplinary Procedures when appropriate.
- Delivering diversity and equality through school policies, practice, and procedures.
- Using all available resources to eliminate barriers which could discourage or limit access to school activities and provision.
- Taking positive action to offer support and encouragement to groups and individuals whose progress could be limited by cultural expectations and stereotypes.
- Monitoring the implementation of equality and diversity throughout the school.
- Setting targets for improvement and evaluating the impact of equality and diversity action on achieving the goals of the school.
Why is equality and diversity important?
When you provide an equitable education system within your school, you support an environment that helps all students develop core knowledge and skills. This development allows them to become more productive members of society from an early age.
By giving all students an equitable start, teachers and school staff can lead the way for better social and economic outcomes for students, regions, and society as a whole. If all of your students are given all that they need to thrive, a level of mutual respect can be formed between teaching staff and students. This leads to productive classrooms, with staff feeling good about their lessons and students actively engaged in learning.
As a teacher, some of your responsibilities when promoting equality and diversity may include:
- Making it very clear to students the level of conduct that you expect to see in their interactions and dealing appropriately and promptly with bad behaviour.
- Finding opportunities for students to work collaboratively in diverse groups within your teaching schedule.
- Paying close attention to the needs of students in diverse groups as part of your course design. As you develop your curriculum, you may wish to include an equality analysis. This will help you to make sure that proper consideration is given in terms of accessibility and inclusivity.
- Finding respectful and creative ways to use the diversity of your students to improve the overall learning experience for everyone.
How can we promote it at school?
It’s paramount that people understand equality from an early age. Teaching diversity and equality to young students helps to instil moral and social traits that will support their growth throughout their younger years and into adult life.
By teaching these topics, each student has access to a safe place to challenge, discuss, explore, and form their values and opinions.
To promote equality and diversity in your school, you should consider:
- Challenging negative attitudes amongst students.
- Avoiding stereotypes in curricular resources and examples.
- Setting clear rules regarding how people treat each other.
- Treating all students and staff equally and fairly.
- Creating an all-inclusive environment for students and staff.
- Actively using resources that have multicultural themes.
- Working to promote multiculturalism in lessons.
- Creating lessons that reflect and promote diversity in the classroom.
- Making sure that all students have equal access to participation and opportunities.
- Using a variety of assessment methods.
- Using a range of teaching methods.
- Ensuring that all procedures and policies are non-discriminatory.
- Making sure that classroom materials never discriminate against anyone and are accessible to all even if this means adapting to audio, large print, or video.
Checklist of questions for teachers on equality and diversity in the classroom:
- Have you incorporated a range of learning styles into your planning?
- Is the diversity of your students reflected in your lesson plans?
- Is your learning environment set up to be accessible to all students?
- Is the language in your learning materials non-racist/sexist/discriminatory?
- Do you review your resources/lesson plans regularly?
Policies and Procedures
- Have you provided clear instructions on how people should be treated?
- Are all staff and students treated equally?
- Do your teaching staff represent minority groups?
- Do any school policies and procedures discriminate against anybody?
- Are negative attitudes actively challenged?
- Do you provide immediate support for all students in need of extra help?
- Do you create and promote an all-inclusive environment for students and staff?
- Do you utilise a range of assessment methods?
- Do you provide a range of teaching methods?
- Do you promote multiculturalism in lessons?
- Are your teaching resources adapted into audio/braille/large print wherever necessary?
- Do your resources use multicultural themes?
- Do you actively avoid using stereotypes in classroom resources and examples?
- Do all students have equal access to participation and opportunities?
Classroom activities to promote equality and diversity
- Do you strive to include diversity in your various teaching methods?
- Do you actively reference and use examples from different traditions, cultures, and religions?
- Are you doing your best to challenge society’s stereotypes?
Below are some classroom ideas and activities that can be adapted to encourage equality and diversity in your school.
Provide resources that include diverse images
When you choose books, videos, activities, and worksheets for your students, they should include people from a range of backgrounds or people that have disabilities. This helps to teach students that these differences are perfectly ‘normal’. Shy away from any resources that use blatant stereotypes, as these reinforce negative connotations that are prevalent in society.
Host ‘Indian week’, ‘Disability week’, or ‘LGBT awareness week’ to educate your students about the chosen theme in a safe and non-discriminatory environment. During these themed weeks, you could listen to music, try different foods, play themed games, watch appropriate videos, and teach relevant facts to normalise these themes in the minds of students. We recommend incorporating the theme into all areas of the curriculum as this helps to maintain interest and reinforce the topic.
Set up an American diner, Italian restaurant, or Spanish Tapas cafe in your classroom and provide sample foods and drinks for your students that are typical in these cultures. How do these foods differ from what students would normally eat? What do they dislike or like about the foods? Try to teach the students how these foods have become part of the corresponding culture and why some foods are not eaten in certain cultures/countries.
Teach your students a few words in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese to raise awareness of the different languages around the world. If there are any bi-lingual students in the class, see if they can help. Discuss the benefits that speaking more than one language provides and the world’s most popular languages.
Utilise appropriate current news events
Promote healthy discussions and debates by referring to contemporary issues to determine your students’ views and understanding of various situations. For example, find a news story about a Paralympic success or overcoming stereotypes – What do your students think about this? Try to encourage positive discussion around a range of interesting and diverse topics.
Discuss items that come from abroad
This is a great activity that can be completed at the beginning of a lesson to introduce multicultural themes. Encourage your students to list all the things in their lives that come from abroad. As they read out their responses, note how many of them are surprised at the results.
Hold regular quizzes
Each week, question students on a predetermined theme to find out how much they know about different disabilities, cultures, religions etc. Some teachers ask a couple of students to research and write the quiz each week. This helps to teach the importance of research and also gives students a sense of responsibility.
Male or female?
This activity helps students to explore the idea of stereotyping. Teachers can provide students with a list of 15 different professions and ask them whether each one is a ‘woman’s job’ or a ‘man’s job’. Next, their answers can be explored as a class to see which stereotypes people harbour.
Hold discussions and debates
Split your students into two teams. Give one group a statement, e.g. “I’m the oldest member of staff in the office, and I’ve been sacked because of my age”. While this team defends this statement, the other team should be encouraged to challenge what has been said.
- How do both teams feel once the discussion has finished?
- Which of the teams would students prefer to have been on and why?
Visual/auditory/physical impairment games
Use classroom games to raise awareness of various physical disabilities. Can your students guide a blindfolded classmate around the classroom? Are they able to lipread what is being said on a muted video? Can they do up their school tie using just one hand? Use these activities to display the difficulties faced by people with disabilities and how such people learn to adapt and overcome their differences.
Find a range of stories that challenge stereotypes and perceptions, such as David and Goliath, which proves that first impressions are deceptive. Stories and anecdotes similar to this will encourage your students to challenge their beliefs and look at the world from a new perspective.
Involve the community
Your students and their families can provide and share a wealth of knowledge about themselves. Consider inviting family members or parents into your classroom as community experts. Encourage them to read a book or show a short film about an issue that is relevant to their culture or a topic about which they are passionate.
Invite members of the wider school community to visit the class as guest speakers and talk openly about a topic that explores equality and diversity. The more students are exposed to diverse people and groups, the more prepared they will be for life beyond the classroom.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act has been active since 1st October 2010. It combines more than 116 different pieces of legislation into one single Act. This Act was developed to provide a legal framework that protects the rights of individuals and promotes equal opportunities for all U.K. residents.
The Equality Act 2010 provides Britain with a discrimination law that protects individuals from being mistreated and encourages a more equal and fair society.
The Equality Act includes nine characteristics that must be considered when promoting diversity and equality in the classroom:
- Gender reassignment.
- Marriage and civil partnership.
- Pregnancy and maternity.
- Religion or belief.
- Sexual orientation.
These characteristics can act as a point of reference as you plan lessons and create source materials to encourage equality and fairness in all your teachings.
In this piece, we’ve outlined the importance of teaching students about equality and diversity from an early age. We’ve suggested ideas ranging from challenging negative attitudes in the classroom, through to inviting diverse guest speakers to share their experiences with the school community.
We’ve listed a range of classroom activities designed to raise awareness of and celebrate the differences that make people unique. We’ve also highlighted the importance of inclusion, and how students should be taught that some people require more help than others.
The idea of promoting equality and diversity in the classroom is that it helps equip students with the attitudes and skills required to thrive throughout their lives. By instilling positive outlooks and challenging stereotypes from an early age, students can mature with an all-encompassing, unbiased view on life.
By implementing the suggestions mentioned throughout this piece, you can help make a difference in the lives of your students, their communities, and society as a whole.