Fairness in the Classroom; ONE of the Key Ways to Ensure That the Principles of Fairness and Equality of Treatment Are Enshrined within Our Society Is to Address These Issues within Our Education System, Says JILL DONABIE of Muckle LLP

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THE Equality Act 2010 contains specific provision for schools and colleges in relation to how such institutions must address equality and diversity issues in terms of providing access to education for children and students irrespective of their protected characteristics. Many schools and colleges are willing to share their ideas and experiences in order to promote good practice in this area. Two such examples are highlighted below: BISHOP AUCKLAND COLLEGE The college has received recognition at the North East Equality Awards for its good practices relating to equality and diversity.

The college has established an equality and diversity committee which meets regularly and is chaired by the manager for equality and diversity and reports to the principal and corporation.

One of the most important aspects of ensuring that equality and diversity principles are enshrined and promoted in any organisation is to ensure full commitment and clear leadership at the most senior level.

The committee consists of members of the management team, the directorate and key members of staff.

The college recently established a team of student ambassadors who work with staff to ensure that the opinions of the students and learners are represented when decisions are being made at strategic and operational levels.

The chief ambassador, Nicola Cottrell, has been involved in working with a number of departments on various issues. They meet once a month with staff to discuss any matters of concern in order to identify any improvements in operational practice.

Nicola says: "I have just started my role as the chief student ambassador but already I am working with key members of staff with regard to equality and diversity."

The college has also produced a student's pocket guide to anti-bullying.

The input of the student ambassadors was important in producing the content for these booklets which are distributed during the induction process and are used throughout the year in tutorial programmes. A similar student guide has been produced for safeguarding issues.

An annual equality and diversity competition for students takes place in the spring term. This gives the students the opportunity to express themselves while promoting equality and diversity in curriculum areas.

The college also encourages members of staff to volunteer to be equality and diversity champions. The champions work with equality and diversity manager Jane Brown to promote best practice within the college.

A variety of training on equality and diversity issues is offered to all members of staff within the college's continuing professional development programme.

All members of the college's HR team have completed at least a level 2 equality and diversity qualification.

Jane says: "Equality and diversity is an integral part of college life. Staff and students are expected to recognise, respect and value the contribution every individual makes. We are committed to equality of opportunity for all to allow each individual to achieve his or her potential."

The college operates a familyfriendly policy which works exceptionally well to support staff, including flexible working as well as allowing time off for urgent domestic days for emergency childcare responsibilities.

The college also operates an effective return to work programme in order to support employees back into work who have been absent due to ill health. Each case is assessed on a one-to-one basis to establish whether any reasonable adjustments can be made for members of staff who may need to return to work in a different role if they have developed a disability.

In order to ensure the widest pool of candidates are made aware of vacancies within the college, all vacancies for jobs are advertised via the Equality North East website at www.equality-ne. …


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