COVID-19: “Unequal Impact: Coronavirus and People With Protected Characteristics”

For the Attention of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, United Kingdom Houses of Parliament, Submitted on 1 May 2020.

BEA Decolonising Education Group  

  • Covid-19 has highlighted and exacerbated the existing disparity caused by the narrowing of the curriculum for members of the Black Community. Resources and curriculum content produced by schools and organisations are not culturally inclusive of our history, contribution and culture.  
  • Likewise, the disparity continues in the media’s communication and representation of black people’s contributions to the British society. According to recent statistics there were 193,000 BME staff working in the NHS. However, the contributions or the existence of this large number of people to the NHS has been ignored and never been acknowledged or highlighted during this pandemic. 
  • National newspapers recently published photographs which failed to represent the high numbers of Black people working to save the lives of people with the corona virus. There is an extensive list of health professionals who have cared for the sick and injured e.g. Mary Seacole. Over 150 years later, without the contribution of black people the NHS would struggle to survive. Significant contributions by Black communities continue to be undervalued and underrepresented.  Many of those who have died have migrated from their homes to work in Britain, some were refugees. Racial disparity must inform political policy. However, we are highly represented in the number of people dying from Covid-19. Politicians need to ensure the reasons are investigated and support put in place to alleviate the impact on Black Communities.  
  • We want to see Black people reflected in the historical future records of Covic-19, the contributions, the lost, the support as keyworkers, as teachers, NHS workers-doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers. 
  • Black coronavirus patients are dying at double the rate of white people in hospitals. We call on the government to urgently speed up a review into who is most at risk from the coronavirus. Over 20,732 people have died to date (April 2020). Black people make up 3.4% of the population, but 6.4% of deaths. Out of the 3,883 patients in critical care, 30% were BAME. Of the nurses who have died, BAME make up 71%. (Pricilla Robinson, Human Rights Barrister, April 2020).  

Recommendations 

  • We urge the government to urgently conduct a full independent public inquiry into the disproportionate Covid-19 deaths of Black and minority ethnic citizens.  
  • We further recommend the government put ethnicity on death certificates, so we have a more accurate number of Black and minority ethnic people that have died. Hospitals need to be required to record ethnicity. The review needs to be swift and not just touch the surface. All racial inequalities and social-economic disparities must be addressed immediately. 
  • To date there has been no data on deaths in the prison population and in care-homes. Note needs to be taken of the effect of Covid-19 on prisons where Black men are overrepresented.  
  • Finally, the government need to look at the impact on small businesses as Black women make up a high proportion of the labour in these shops. 

BEA Exclusions Group 

We are not all in this together – COVID-19 is not a great leveller.

Fortitude and a Churchillian approach ignores the circumstances faced by Black and economically disadvantaged minoritized communities. Lockdown is not a time of reflection for these communities as they face great hardship and a struggle for survival. 

The educational impact of COVID-19 is multifaceted and includes the exacerbation of existing structural barriers that limit Black pupils’ achievement, progress, inclusion, representation, voice, well-being and equal access to education. The digital divide has created a huge barrier to these rights as the inability of disadvantaged and marginalised families to access basic IT equipment and reliable internet access and been heavily exacerbated during this time. Excluded children have become the forgotten group in terms of home learning – creating an even larger disadvantaged gap.  

The approach to home learning and concern for the well-being of these young people requires more inclusivity. The recent announcement of up to £3 million package to support the so-called “digitally excluded” learners during the coronavirus pandemic is not universally applied and thus not fit for purpose. It will contribute to the attainment gap that is already in place as a result of 10 years of austerity policies that have hit women and equality groups the hardest. 

Recent media reports only those identified as ‘disadvantaged’ in year 10 or having a social worker. What about the remainder of the pupils? 

We have grave concerns regarding the proposals for awarding students final grades for Summer 2020 exams as very little has been done to counter the existence of unconscious prejudices that affect Black Caribbean pupils and those from poorer backgrounds.

Research continues to show that among a teaching population that is 86% White, black and disadvantaged students continue to suffer the soft bigotry of low expectations in the form of under-predictions that often have lasting effects on their future possibilities. 

We are equally concerned with the arrangements made for the appeal process for parents and carers since they will essentially not be allowed to challenge the grades.   

Recommendations: 

  • Continue to ensure provision of free access to digital learning – laptops, broadband, and training – to ALL children and families as well as paper-based resources without an expectation that learning from home can or should ever replace learning in school. 
  • Listen to the recommendations of Black educators, Black parents and race equality organisations on teacher assessment and unconscious bias to ensure no child is disadvantaged by the decisions made in the Summer of 2020. 
  • Issue Local Authority additional powers to ensure schools are able to adhere to their statutory obligation in providing delivery of National Curriculum subjects to all pupils whilst in lockdown and hold to account those that are failing to do so. 

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