In this section, explore in more detail how Equality Pathfinders worked on obtaining their awards and the learning they acheived by completing their chosen Equality Challenge. The case study below is from Active Schools Fife. If you have any queries or would like to learn more about the programme, do not hesitate to contact us!
Within Active Schools Fife we wanted to ensure our young leadership programmes were accessible to all young people in our schools and that our recruitment practices promoted equality and diversity.
Following Equality Pathfinder training with Fife Centre for Equalities, we decided to focus on this challenge. For instance, we could visibly see there was a gender imbalance within several our programmes but did not have a systematic way of gauging how fairly the opportunities were allocated.
By introducing a new Equal Opportunities Monitoring process at the recruitment stages, including a new form which covered protected characteristics, we were able to monitor a number of factors and identify possible barriers faced by young people in taking up the opportunities we offer. With our new equality evidence, we can review of our recruitment processes and practices regularly to make them more inclusive and accessible.
What was the Equality Challenge or issues you wanted to tackle?
At the Silver Equality Pathfinders workshop, we covered the topic of Overcoming Unconscious Bias. In 2017/18 within our flagship programme ‘Young Ambassadors’ 69% of the pupils participating were female and only 7% of participants lived within the most deprived areas of Fife (SIMD deciles 1 & 2). We wanted to address this gender imbalance and review our recruitment processes to ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds had an equal chance of successfully gaining a place on our programmes.
What has changed in the way the Project operates?
We piloted the use of the equalities monitoring form through our Platinum Ambassador programme and used the form at each stage of the recruitment process to see if any of these stages had an effect on the number of pupils applying;
Stage 1, January; Platinum Ambassador information evening
Stage 2, March; Platinum Ambassador selection day
Stage 3, June; Platinum Ambassador first meeting
We had the following number of pupils attend at each stage;
Stage 1, Male 6 / Female 19
Stage 2, Male 5 / Female 15
Stage 3; Male 5 / Female 8
Compared with the previous year the overall number of Platinum Ambassadors that met the criteria and were recruited was lower. However compared to the 2018/19 numbers of Male 2 / Female 17 the percentage of males to females increased from 12% to 33% this year.
We can attribute this to an increased focus within our team following the Equality Pathfinders workshop and guidance provided to the team by the Young Leader Lead Area Group.
This resulted in double the number of male pupils attending the information night and then supporting them to apply for a place on the programme and prepare for the selection day where they met the selection criteria.
At the start of the new academic year in August we will issue the equal opportunities monitoring form to all of the pupils in our other leadership programmes; Young Ambassadors, Young Leaders and Fife Sports Stars.
The Young Leaders Lead Area group will collate, review and share the results annually at our planning day in March ahead of Young Leadership recruitment in June.
What challenges or barriers did the Project encounter?
Our application process was the subject of a lot of discussion. Initially pupils are asked to complete a written application and we are aware that not all pupils’ literacy skills are the same and as such this may be a barrier that puts pupils off applying from the outset.
The second stage was normally a formal interview and again we were conscious that pupils might find this quite daunting and either withdraw their application or again not apply from the outset.
Following a lot of discussion around alternatives and the pros and cons of each we felt we were unable to remove the written application form. What we did agree was that we needed to speak with pupils individually and informally that were interested in applying and work with PE, guidance and other school staff to ensure the pupils who wanted to apply were supported to do so at the initial application stage.
It was also agreed that it wouldn’t solely be based on their application whether they progressed to the next stage or not as other factors such as a reference from a member of staff or experience of working with them previously could all be considered.
We also changed the format of the second stage from a formal face to face interview to a selection day. This meant pupils could attend together and would take part in tasks in a group so they are able to work as part of a team and support each other.
Following this they would then be given a number of scenarios that they would work on together and then feedback to us and the wider group about how they would deal with each of the scenarios.
Lastly towards the end of the day where they would hopefully feel more comfortable having got to know us over the course of the day we would have an informal chat with them individually where they would be able to tell us in more detail why they would like to part of the programme, what they hoped to gain from it and have the opportunity to ask us any questions they may have.
We assessed the pupils throughout the day in each of the three sections giving us a chance to see how they dealt with each task and how they worked both on their own and with other people. This meant that even if they struggled in one section they may have done very well in another.
We felt this was a better process and that it gave all pupils a greater opportunity to gain a place on the programme.
Another challenge we faced is that we have 18 high schools in Fife and so ensuring the approach to the leadership opportunities is disseminated consistently to both our team and the young people is a challenge on its own.
The Young Leader Lead Area Group utilised team meetings to update the team and followed this up with information and guidance sent via email. We also hosted a dedicated Young Leader morning where three former and current young leaders shared their experiences with the team and we reinforced the processes and guidance to support the young people in their schools.
What lessons did you learn? Is there any advice you could share with others?
We learned about positive discrimination, by trying to increase groups of individuals from one characteristic may result in us unfairly discriminating against another.
We had to be aware of positive discrimination and ensure that we didn’t allocate places to pupils of a certain gender or who lived in a certain postcode. We had to ensure our processes remained robust and that places on our programmes were allocated on merit.
We had to review our existing processes to identify what we needed to change & improve to achieve our desired outcome.