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  1. #1
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    Default is this discrimination lawful

    my grnaddaughter was to do work experiace at a doctors surgery but her placement there was refused by her school becuse she is white and they had decided that all such placements would only be available to black pupils.

    Now the law states that you cant discriminate against any ethnic group but then there is a get out that syas if a particular characteristic or group is under represented you can discriminate. As she wants to be a doctor and has the brains to pass her exams this placement would have been ideal and necessary to get into med school (try applying without such experience and soo how far you get).

    Also white poeple are under represented in the NHS as doctors so what basis could the school or surgery claim under representation of black potential students?

    When she told the school she thought their approach was unfair and discrimintory they phoned my daughter and accused her (granddaughter) of being rascist for challenging their decision.

    How would you progress a complaint is what advce I seek.

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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    The law doesn't say that you can discriminate. Discrimination on the grounds of protected characteristics is always unlawful. What you CAN do is take positive action to encourage under represented groups. Based on what you are saying here, I can't see that this is positive action.

    So question one is, how far is SHE willing to take this? Because if she's old enough for a work placement, old enough to know she wants to study medicines and has the intelligence to pass the necessary skills (and had read the news headlines today about discrimination in doctors pay!) then it should be her (with the support of her parents) who does this. And she's the one who has to take the stick for it, as you've already seen.

    Assuming she's willing to fight, then get hold of the schools complaints procedure and submit a formal complaint is the "right" way to do it. And she does need to do that.
    There will be several layers of complaint procedure, and she'll have to follow them all until she wins.
    However, I'd also suggest that she rallies this into a bigger campaign.

    Are there women councilors and MPs in your area?
    Is there a women's organisation that fights for equality?
    Local papers - or possibly even national ones?

    Organise the pupils - young people have immense power in organisation, as toy can see from the events in the USA, where only students have ever managed to dent the gun lobby. Tell the school you're going to be seeking advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (and do that!).

    if the school can bury it or intimidate her into dropping it, they will.
    Because it's no longer going to be about her rights, but about them NOT being accused of racism themselves.

    So you have to fight fire with fire and being "fair" or "correct" in your approach is unlikely to work.
    I would threaten to blow this to the stratosphere if they don't comply
    - if it were me they would get one chance to fix this before it goes formal and very, very public.
    And that would be what I'd be telling them.

    And I'd also Google "public sector equality duty"....

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  3. #3
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    I don't think they can discriminate in this way. There should be a clear policy about how work experiences are decided. E.g First applicant gets the placement, names out of a hat if more than one person is interested.

    I would understand discrimation, if it were a women only clinic, where only a girl was to be placed.

    I would suggest that a threat is made that a complaint will be made to local education authority and secretary of state for education. This will cast the school in a bad light which you wish to avoid. Suggest that they ask the Doctors practice to take two work experience pupils, because a problem has arisen.

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Hi ericsbrother,

    I've got some experience of this - particularly hearing complaints! - as secondary school Chair of Governors. Can I clarify a couple of points first?

    How old is your granddaughter - is this a Year 12 work experience (so she's about 17)?

    How did your daughter find the work experience opportunity? Did she contact the GP surgery and arrange it herself? Or did the school find the placement? In most secondary schools there's a mixture of both. The school will have made arrangements with some employers for placements (and then have a system for assigning pupils to them - often first come first served) but if pupils don't fancy any of those they can make their own arrangements if they are able to find an employer themselves. If pupils find the work experience placement themselves it would have to be approved by the school for suitability and for safeguarding reasons.

    Has an alternative work experience placement been arranged?


    Is the explanation that "her placement there was refused by her school because she is white and they had decided that all such placements would only be available to black pupils" only coming through your granddaughter? Even at 17 pupils' accounts of what has been said are not always reliable, especially if it's something they are very unhappy about. I've been involved with many secondary schools over the years and that explanation sounds a very unlikely thing for a secondary school to say. Did the school repeat those actual words (or similar) to your daughter as well? How senior is the staff member who said these things? From the head? Or this coming from someone much lower down, not in the school leadership team - form tutor or work experience co-ordinator? Have the school put it in writing?


    Assuming your granddaughter is under 18 it's your daughter who needs to progress a complaint.


    First get hold of the schools complaints policy - by law it must be on the school website. Follow the stages in the procedure. It won't help, and will delay matters, to start all guns blazing with complaints to local media, MPs, Equal Rights Commission, Secretary of State etc etc. That can come later if needs be but don't start there until you have established some basic facts. What is the headteacher's version of events? What's their reason why your granddaughter can't do this work experience placement?

    The first stage of the complaints procedure will almost certainly be that your daughter must discuss it with the headteacher. Make an appointment asap (it's probably half term this week) to see the head. Firm but polite, this is what granddaughter has been told, it's not acceptable. What's school got to say? Be clear how you want the complaint resolved (presumably by granddaughter going on the placement as originally planned if that's still possible).

    If there's no satisfactory outcome to discussing with head the next step is formal complaint to the governors, the procedure will be in the complaints policy


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Its a work placement not a job; im not sure what youd sue for loss of. A theoretical future benefit?

    There is also merit in teaching white people its an ethical thing to level the playing field.

    And i am not sure the school would have phrased it like the girl has... what did they actually say?


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmzzi View Post
    Its a work placement not a job; im not sure what youd sue for loss of. A theoretical future benefit?

    There is also merit in teaching white people its an ethical thing to level the playing field.

    And i am not sure the school would have phrased it like the girl has... what did they actually say?
    actually I would not say its a ethical thing , what about merit and that's as far as I will go with this


  7. #7
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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Itís a complex issue. But time after time, study after study, research tells us merit matters less for white, and male, than any other group.

    So... no. I donít think it is about merit.


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Ok to answer a few questions- she is 15 and doing a normal sort of work placement pupils do at this age, my wife has had a couple working with her this year and I used to have them when I worked, usually chosen to encourage people to do science A levels.

    She applied for this particular placment by choosing it from a small number offered and was then verbally rejected because this particular placement was for black pupils only so she told the teacher responsible for this response that this was unfair and discriminatory. It was the leadership office that phoned my daughter to tell her that gd was being rascist for questioning their behaviour/action . All this happened last thursday. As it is now half term nothing has been done since.
    the equalities Act makes it clear that such discrimination is unlawful but they then say there is an exception where it is desired to encourage certain under represented groups to apply but does this mena it is lawful to go as far as a blanket ban on those who are not in a particular group? This is the essence of my question. I have looked up the stats on employment of different ethnic groups in the NHS and with doctors there is no case to argue that black people are under represented so that particular reasoning fails. I dont know what the placement provider have said about who they will accept but I doubt if they are the ones making decisions on what pupils they will accept as i would imagine anyone stating they dont want people from this group or another would soon be in massive trouble but well meaning idiots working in the public sector seem to be immune from such approbrium.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    What EXACTLY did the school say? They will not have said "this is just for black people."


    Until we have their rationale this is going to be a pointless discussion.

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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    It is direct discrimination.

    You cant do a course because your white.

    Same as you cant do a course because your black or female or male or gay or muslim or christian or Jewish or transgender.


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Quote Originally Posted by sgtbush View Post
    It is direct discrimination.

    You cant do a course because your white.

    Same as you cant do a course because your black or female or male or gay or muslim or christian or Jewish or transgender.
    Legally it might be a lot more complex than that, which is why I want to know the school's stated rationale. It may be entirely legal. Positive action is legal. It is not the same thing as discrimination.

    So what matters is the school's stated rationale. Not lots of opinions about the merits or otherwise of a really vaguely worded situation.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Quote Originally Posted by ericsbrother View Post
    the equalities Act makes it clear that such discrimination is unlawful but they then say there is an exception where it is desired to encourage certain under represented groups to apply but does this mena it is lawful to go as far as a blanket ban on those who are not in a particular group? This is the essence of my question.
    The essence of your question back in post #1 was "How would you progress a complaint is what advce I seek" and nothing in the additional information changes my advice earlier that to do anything about this the next step is to invoke the school's complaints policy and make an appointment to see the head next week.

    Your question about race discrimination is hypothetical until you establish what the school actually said and what the head's explanation is of why your gd wasn't allowed that placement. Even if you end up in disagreement with the school about what actually happened you still need to hear the school's version of events first. TBH the language reported by your gd - "becuse she is white and they had decided that all such placements would only be available to black pupils" - sounds to me like a 15 year old's interpretation of what they were told, not a verbatim quotation. And many years of hearing pupils' versions of events at complaints and pupil discipline hearings has taught me that 15-year old's versions of events should not be relied on without corroborating evidence, certainly not without hearing the school's explanation, and especially not when the 15 year old is in trouble for her behaviour when told she couldn't go on that placement.


    Most disputes in schools need to start with establishing as best you can what, on balance of probabilities, actually happened before reaching for legal principles.


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    And, you see, that is where my experience would differ, in that I see exactly this sort of thing happening around where I live all the time, and both schools and their staff do say exactly this sort of thing, and only when directly challenged do they change their tune. Maybe our 15 year olds are more truthful than others of their age? Can we assume that the parent here is also unable to understand facts, since the school went to the trouble of phoning them to tell them that their child is a racist for challenging the decision to only permit black students on this placement - if what the 15 year old said was not true, one assumes that the school have informed the parent of the true facts when phoning to tell them that their daughter is a racist?!!! And I certainly wouldn't ever assume that being a 15 year old "in trouble" for their "behaviour" is any indication that the school is in the right either - all too often our schools operate on the basis of treating young adults that their opinions and beliefs are of no value and they are not supposed to challenge the views of those in authority. That's the reason why so many adults spend their lives believing everything that they are told - many schools do not educate and they certainly don't teach people to think.

    Whilst I can see the point of the advice here, and I certainly don't have as much experience as some here may, I can see that you may as well forget it if you are dealing with complaints procedures and bureaucracy. She'll probably actually be at university before she gets to the end of that process, and I doubt she'll ever see the placement as it will have come and gone. It seems to me a very simple issue. The school have either said such placements are only open to BME students or not. If they have said it, then I can see utterly no justification for such direct racism, and I would be telling them that this is their one opportunity to put this right now, not in weeks or months, or I would be taking it as far as it can go and a bit further.


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Quote Originally Posted by Sangie595 View Post
    Maybe our 15 year olds are more truthful than others of their age? Can we assume that the parent here is also unable to understand facts.

    I've no idea because we're hearing from grandad, not parents, and he hasn't been back to clarify.


    It IS a complex area of the law. You can keep development for marginalised groups if "all else is equal." c.f. Springboard programmes. And if no one has exam results yet, then all else is equal.


    Also this is not an employment issue, so I wonder if it is on the right board? Using a test of "would this stand at ET" is not the right test.

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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Quote Originally Posted by Sangie595 View Post
    Can we assume that the parent here is also unable to understand facts, since the school went to the trouble of phoning them to tell them that their child is a racist for challenging the decision to only permit black students on this placement -
    They way I read ericsbrother's post the school did not confirm to gd's mother that the placement was only open to black pupils and so did not confirm gd's version of events. Happy to be corrected if I read that wrongly. It would certainly make it harder for the school to deny what happened if they repeated the words to the mother. It's not just a question of 15 year old's being deliberately untruthful, they frequently have a way of interpreting what they hear which isn't what was said. Any teacher will have plenty of experience of that.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Emmzzi View Post
    I've no idea because we're hearing from grandad, not parents, and he hasn't been back to clarify.


    It IS a complex area of the law. You can keep development for marginalised groups if "all else is equal." c.f. Springboard programmes. And if no one has exam results yet, then all else is equal.


    Also this is not an employment issue, so I wonder if it is on the right board? Using a test of "would this stand at ET" is not the right test.
    I certainly agree that this is not an employment issue. So I wasn't using the test of whether it would stand at ET. I'm not sure where I said I was using that?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ethel Street View Post
    They way I read ericsbrother's post the school did not confirm to gd's mother that the placement was only open to black pupils and so did not confirm gd's version of events. Happy to be corrected if I read that wrongly. It would certainly make it harder for the school to deny what happened if they repeated the words to the mother. It's not just a question of 15 year old's being deliberately untruthful, they frequently have a way of interpreting what they hear which isn't what was said. Any teacher will have plenty of experience of that.
    That's certainly one interpretation. But many of us have plenty of experience of teachers interpreting what they hear as a a challenge to their "status". It does cut both ways.


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Quote Originally Posted by Sangie595 View Post
    I certainly agree that this is not an employment issue. So I wasn't using the test of whether it would stand at ET. I'm not sure where I said I was using that?

    You didn't. Oddly, that part of my post was not all about you! But the discussion felt like it was heading that way to me, and it is helpful to remind ourselves that the law applies differently in an education environment.


    I can't add anything more useful unless OP updates so that's me for now.

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    Not just a 15 year olds interpretation, I diod point out that the school phoned my daughter as well to accuse gd of rascism for questioning the "positive discrimination".
    Well, there is now an end to the matter, gd has been offered a work placement elsewhere and a financial settlement she is happy with so she doesnt want to take the matter any further. Her decision now closes the matter regardless of rights and wrongs.


    Now with regard to whether any credence can be given to the word of a 15 year old, well she is a hard working pupil, top marks in SATS for maths and most sciences, english etc so hard working and focussed on waht she wants from life. My daughter is an accountant so again not one to state something that is incorrect and certainly bright enough to not misunderstand what she was told by the school. My other daughter's fianceicon is a doctor and not of white british background so gd will be aware that making baseless statement about race wont do her any favours so I do believe both of them . As for conversation between school and daughter, from what was relayed to me the school did confirm the placement was only open to black pupils. The manner of ending of this suggests that the errors lie in one place as well.


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    Default Re: is this discrimination lawful

    I dont doubt the credibility of your family.
    One point to remember is its actually not what was said and more how it was perceived.

    Just taking itva stage or maybe a couple of stages further----
    You cannot give offence.
    Only take.



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