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The NASUWT – the Teachers’ Union has secured a significant legal victory over the Government regarding the publication of evidence on the equality impact of its Covid-19 emergency measures for schools and colleges.
 
Following legal action by the NASUWT, the Department for Education (DfE) has been forced to release Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) prepared at the height of the pandemic in 2020 which show how the re-opening of schools would impact black and minority ethnic children, young people and adults. The Government’s EIA should have been readily available to inform and assist schools and colleges to plan for safe reopening during the pandemic.
 
At the time, the Government refused the NASUWT continual requests for the DfE’s EIA to be published and maintained that it was “not in the public interest” to publish these reports.  It was plainly wrong to do so.
 
The NASUWT has maintained throughout that, where life and death decisions are being made by Government, Ministers must explain the impact of those decisions, whether they will give rise to discrimination and how any discriminatory impacts will be prevented or minimised.
 
Following the legal challenge by the NASUWT, the DfE has now been forced to release the four EIAs.
 
NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “This is a victory for equal rights and equal treatment, and for the legislation that exists to advance equalities at work and across all areas of our society.
 
“The Government must be held accountable for its decision-making and for demonstrating whether or not its decisions will lead to widening disparities on the grounds of their race, gender, disability or on other grounds.
 
“For too long, the Government has taken the view that it can duck its legal obligations on equalities, which has encouraged many school and college employers to take the view also that the Equality Act is irrelevant, that it doesn’t apply, or that it won’t be enforced.
 
“Rather than being open and transparent, Ministers sought to hide behind legal devices to prevent publication of their own assessments and have wasted taxpayers money on its attempt to hide the impacts of its own policies.
 
“We have witnessed over the course of the last two years the disproportionate impact and deaths from the Coronavirus pandemic on particular communities. We were especially concerned about how the easing of restrictions in relation to school re-opening would impact on black and minority ethnic pupils and staff, given the evidence that these communities were 3-4 times more likely to die from Covid-19. It is wholly unacceptable that at the time when the Government was claiming to be reaching out to these communities, they were also saying that Ministers’ decisions were not open to question.
 
“The belated publication of analyses from 2020 is welcome, but it will provide cold comfort for those whose lives have been seriously impacted during the pandemic.
 
“Our victory confirms that even despite dogged and determined refusal by Ministers over an 18 month period, the NASUWT will never hesitate to hold THE Government to account.
 
“This is a significant victory for our members and their rights to fair and equal treatment at work.
 
“It remains important that regulators also step up to ensure that Government and employers do the right thing and not their own thing when it comes to their equalities duties. The Public Sector Equality Duty must be used rigorously by regulators in ensuring that Government and employers do not discriminate, that they take action to advance equality, and that they work to secure good relations in the workplace and across society generally.
 
“The action taken by the NASUWT once again shows our determination to fight for the rights of our members and to do everything possible to protect teachers from discrimination and unfair treatment at work.”
 
 

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