New report suggests UK schools are discriminating against pupils with Afro-textured hair

A study led by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has found that one in six children with Afro-textured hair are having a bad experience at school.

Working with campaign group World Afro Day, researchers conducted a survey with 1,000 people, including parents and pupils, to determine whether current school policies are discriminating against Afro hair.

 World Afro Day

Currently neither the Department for Education nor Ofsted monitor school uniform policies, which cover hair, so they do not know how many schools are breaking UK equality laws.

“This is a really important issue that needs to be highlighted,” said Sarah Younie, Professor in Education Innovation at DMU. “Nobody should be discriminated against because of their natural appearance and we wanted to find evidence that this was happening in UK schools, because we had heard anecdotal stories that it was.

“The education research team at DMU worked collaboratively to support World Afro Day by creating the survey and gathering a large sample in a short period of time.”

Of the children responding, nearly half (46%) had issues with the hair policies, compared with just 27% of adults saying it was an issue when they were at school.

The report showed a 66% rise in negative hair policies towards Afro hair, while 95% of adults surveyed said they would like to see the introduction of hair protection laws – similar to those in the USA – brought to the UK.

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“There has been an overwhelming need to evidence the consequences of hair discrimination not just in individual cases but also quantitative research to look at the school system as a whole,” said Michelle De Leon, World Afro Day founder.

“The findings reveal that black and mixed-race children are under constant pressure to fit into a school and a society that doesn’t understand or value their Afro hair type. This has been a generational burden that needs to be lifted.” 

World Afro Day organisers are calling for school hair policies to be independently monitored and for greater enforcement of the current law and removal of unlawful policies. They also want to see an amendment to the 2010 Equality Act to further protect Afro hair in society.

“Any policy which impacts disproportionately on pupils with particular protected characteristics is likely to be unlawful, unless it can be shown to be necessary and for a good reason,” said Melanie Field, executive director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Posted on Thursday 16 May 2019

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