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Equality, diversity & inclusion

Getting started on equality, diversity and inclusion


We all want our schools to be places where pupils flourish and everyone - staff and families - feels that they belong, but sadly we also know that this is not yet the case everywhere. There have been some truly shocking cases of discrimination and maltreatment which make the headlines, such as the recent Child Q incident, the 15-year-old girl who was strip-searched on school premises for ‘smelling of marijuana’ without parental knowledge, and about which a safeguarding report has said that ‘racism was likely to have been an influencing factor in the decision to undertake a strip search’. And then there are also the everyday smaller incidents which are likely to remain invisible to those in power, especially those who do not ask the right questions.

There have been many commitments made to improve this, some laid out in a published statement of intent by national organisations and grass roots movements. This might look like a bureaucratic document, but it is the manifestation of the real desire of those of us in positions of influence to make progress, to make a difference, to move from talking to action.

Governing boards have a really important role to play in ensuring a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is threaded through all the school or trust is and does – from setting values, ethos, culture and policies to monitoring how that plays out in practice. How is that reflected in all sorts of data? But also how is life in school experienced by individual pupils and members of staff? That fourth core function of governance of ‘ensuring the voices of stakeholders are heard’ is a crucial part of this work.

There has been universal agreement from many partners, leaders and experts that boards needed to know more than the their legal responsibilities and the fundamentals of equalities compliance. While many governing boards are considering EDI across their schools and trusts, research through NGA’s annual surveys identified a request for help in understanding how to go about taking practical action.   

Last year NGA published research on increasing participation in school and trust governance: in that report we made a recommendation that training needed to be offered to volunteers and governance professionals on developing the necessary behaviours to create an inclusive environment. As that gap has persisted, we announced in January that we’ve partnered with Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) to help plug it.  

The aim of the training is to give boards the confidence, understanding and tools to create an inclusive culture in their school or trust through effective EDI practice. We know there is often a real will to make changes, but coupled with a hesitation - not wanting to use the wrong language, pick the wrong approach or prioritise the wrong aspect. Where do we begin?

So the first in the new programme of e-learning modules published last week aims to provide that place to begin in addressing EDI issues; it should also be useful for those who want to review their approach, ensuring they are using an EDI lens across their governance work.

Providing this through e-learning means it can be made widely available to governors, trustees, governance professionals and executive leaders in schools and trusts across England without any barriers. It is now available to all Learning Link subscribers in the usual way and freely available to everyone else through our Learning Link trial site.

In the coming year, we will add to this collection with 3 more modules:

  • Module 2 – Beyond compliance
  • Module 3 – Taking action
  • Module 4 – Measuring impact when the assessment that users undertook in module 1 will be repeated.

NGA is also hoping to add bitesize modules looking more specifically at each of the protected characteristics.

I am really keen to hear what governors and trustees think of this first module – feel free to email  Your reaction can help shape the rest of the series.

This is of course only a small step in making a difference. However, ensuring an emphasis on EDI should have such a significant and positive impact on not just the here and now, but by demonstrating what equality, diversity and inclusion can look like in a school community, it will surely help shape the values of pupils and their families and thereby even the culture of our broader society.

NGA has plenty of other EDI guidance, resources and tools to support boards, especially in terms of recruiting and involving new members.

Emma Knights OBE
Emma Knights OBE

Co-Chief Executive

As NGA’s Co-Chief Executive, Emma promotes the interests of the school governance community nationally with legislators, policy makers, education sector organisations and the media. Emma is an accomplished writer and speaker on a range of school governance policy and practice topics.