Those following Edurio’s EDI mini blog series will have already seen insights into specific protected characteristics such as Sexual orientation, Disability, and The Gender Gap. In this blog post, we will look deeper at the protected characteristic: Personal Faith and Religion.
In 2020-21, we ran England's most extensive study of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) among school staff. We reviewed the experience of over 16,000 staff members from 381 schools, thirty-three central trust teams, and fifty trusts. We asked these staff members about the whole workplace experience, from recruitment to on-the-job experiences and advancement, looking at how people with different protected characteristics feel about their time working in schools and trusts. These included sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, gender, religion, and disability.
In our EDI review, of the 16,000 people surveyed, 54% identify as having a religion. Interestingly, our research highlighted that across all staff, the majority feel that their workplace and employer are committed to promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion. Further inspection of different religious groups within the staffing body suggests this experience is not the same. For example, a smaller proportion of staff with a faith other than Christianity think their school/Trust is committed to promoting EDI than staff with a Christian faith or no specific faith; within this piece, we will explore this.
What does religion as a protected characteristic look like among England's school staff?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission report discusses the partnership of religion and belief as a protected characteristic. It suggests that one viewpoint is that the Equality Act offers support for all religious groups. Within our EDI review, a smaller proportion of staff with a faith other than Christianity thinks their school/Trust is committed to promoting EDI than staff with a Christian faith or no specific faith.
The main differences in staff experience when looking at personal faith and religion in schools
Career progression was one of the key areas highlighted by the survey as an area of disparity between groups of teachers. Whilst there are visibly lower levels of positive responses when comparing this question with others relating to career progression and development, those who identified as having a religion other than Christianity were materially less positive, with 62% feeling comfortable applying for promotion, compared to over 70% of Christians and Staff without a specific Faith.
PERSONAL FAITH AND RELIGION IN SCHOOLS: "HOW CONFIDENT WOULD YOU FEEL APPLYING FOR A PROMOTION THAT YOU WERE FORMALLY QUALIFIED FOR IN THIS ORGANISATION?"
Graham Chisnell's 2021 article in "Impact" on building a culture of career development in schools paints the picture of a challenging landscape concerning educator retention, with "over a quarter of schools in the UK struggling to fill their top positions". One factor highlighted by Graham that he thinks plays a large part in staff retention is career progression. In our survey, 14% of those with a faith other than Christianity thought their background/identity might be a barrier to advancement, compared to 5% without a specific religion.
Within the school environment, it is essential for staff to feel supported and respected irrespective of their background or beliefs; the Equality Act sets out to offer a benchmark of how to navigate this for HR professionals and employers and encourages the development of equal opportunities for promotion and employment. Within our survey, 22% of respondents who identified as having a religion other than Christianity did not feel confident that promotion decisions are free from bias in their workplace.
PERSONAL FAITH AND RELIGION IN SCHOOLS: "HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT DECISIONS AROUND PROMOTIONS ARE FREE FROM BIAS IN YOUR WORKPLACE?"
What does this mean for trust leaders looking to develop EDI concerning personal faith and religion in schools?
This blog has highlighted the experiences of those with varying personal faiths. Our EDI report has 25 key questions that Hannah Wilson of Diverse Educators provided that provoke reflection, discussion and action at a school and trust level. Below we have selected a handful to support career progression development in schools and some further questions to support the promotion of religion as a protected characteristic within schools through EDI.
How to Create a Culture of Career Progression and Support Within Schools?
- How will you increase representation at all levels?
- How will you encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds to put themselves forwards for internal promotions?
- How will you differentiate your communications and advertisements to include Individuals from diverse backgrounds?
- How will you engrain EDI in your school's ethos, so it does not feel tokenistic or like lip service?
- How will you ensure that the advancement opportunities are open to all staff to apply for?
How to Promote Religion and Personal Faiths as Protected Characteristics in Schools?
- How will you maintain a balanced focus on all protected characteristics?
- How will you celebrate diversity all year round instead of in different weeks or months?
- How is your school committed to diversifying its curriculum?
- How will you train staff to make inclusion a part of their everyday practice?
- How will you create listening spaces for your staff to inform your school's next steps?