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Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: a second update


Race and equality

First evidence session

The Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has held its first evidence session with influencers and expert witnesses.

We previously wrote about this Commission here and here. A reminder that this Commission, led by Dr Tony Sewell CBE, was established in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in the US and the global BLM movement.

There is not a great deal of information about the first evidence session that has been held or who attended it, though the government webpages (see here) say:

  • The Commission heard from a range of voices across different age groups and ethnic backgrounds; and

  • Participants focused on race, history, class, impact of policy and the terminology and language used.

The Commission have said they will publish an open call for evidence in due course (no date given yet).

New policy paper: focus on education, health, criminal justice and employment and enterprise

On 14 September 2020 the Commission published a new policy paper outlining their priority areas. The policy paper says that the Commission will consider the causes of “persistent disparities and barriers different groups face” across four areas:

  1. Education

  2. Health

  3. Crime and policing

  4. Employment and enterprise

For the purposes of this briefing, focusing on two of those areas, ‘education’ and ‘employment and enterprise’, the Commission have said the following.

Firstly, the education sub-group will focus on “the disparities in compulsory education for pupils up to 16 years old”. They will look at the following areas:

  • Early years and family structures: (including family services, family structure and the attitudes towards education);

  • Attainment: (examining existing disparities and educational attainment and exclusions, considering the impact of geography, socio-economic status and school types);

  • Ensuring success: (exploring diversity and what works in improving educational outcomes for different groups and ethnic communities);

  • Modern Britain: (considering how the curriculum could currently highlight the contributions of the different communities and regions in the country).

The education sub-group will also consider other reviews as follows:

  • The Timpson Review of school exclusion (report here). This review was commissioned to explore how head teachers use exclusion in practice, why some groups of children are more likely to be excluded including, Children in Need, those with special educational needs, children who have been supported by social care, are eligible for free school meals or are from particular ethnic groups. This review made 30 separate recommendations;

  • They will also consider the Children’s Commissioners “Best Beginnings in the Early Years” review (see here). This review was published in July 2020 with 7 key recommendations for early years support and a challenge to the government to commit to a new guarantee to support children and their families in the earliest years to ensure that “every child, no matter their starting point, is able to have the best springboard possible into school”.

On the employment and enterprise side, the sub-group focusing on this area will be exploring five areas including:

  1. Opportunities for young people (with a focus on 16-24 year olds);

  2. Barriers to entry and routes to progression;

  3. How the use of artificial intelligence plays a role in race disparity;

  4. Access to capital and other success factors for entrepreneurs; and

  5. Public sector procurement.

This sub-group will consider a number of reviews that have been carried out in respect of race and the workplace and race in business, including the following:

  • Race in the workplace – the McGregor Smith review (see here for report and Government response). Published in February 2017 this review is a useful (almost toolkit style) resource. It reviews the data, makes a case for action and makes recommendations throughout the report with case studies from specific companies;

  • Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards: the Parker review (report here). The final report from this review was published in October 2017 and includes an examination of the FTSE 100 data, and examines the key business drivers for a more diverse board and makes a series of findings and recommendations. This review has a very useful “questions for directors” section, with eight key questions addressing ethnic diversity, with directors’ statutory duties under the UK Companies Act and UK Corporate Governance Code in mind. At Appendix B of this review, there is a very helpful “directors resource toolkit” and again, good use of case studies throughout the review;

  • Finally, the Commission will also consider, under this heading, the Social Mobility Commission’s annual report (see web pages here).

With an increased focus this year on race and ethnic disparities in society, issues of diversity and inclusion should remain high on the agenda for all businesses and organisations. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities will hopefully produce useful output but in the meantime, for schools and other businesses, having a look at the previous reviews and their recommendations on race and equality that are mentioned above, would certainly be time well spent.

If you require further information about anything covered in this blog, please contact Maria Strauss, or your usual contact at the firm on +44 (0)20 3375 7000.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, September 2020

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Maria Strauss


Maria advises a broad spectrum of clients including private companies, not-for-profit organisations, independent schools, banks, sports clubs, Churches and faith-based organisations on employment law and safeguarding matters.

Maria advises a broad spectrum of clients including private companies, not-for-profit organisations, independent schools, banks, sports clubs, Churches and faith-based organisations on employment law and safeguarding matters.

Email Maria +44 (0)20 3375 7259
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