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Creating Fairer Recruitment Processes by Reducing Unconscious Bias

Creating Fairer Recruitment Processes by Reducing Unconscious Bias Joanna Mercer

This session is aimed at Senior Leaders, Head teachers and Governors with responsibility for recruitment in schools, who want to address issues of unconscious bias around job application shortlisting and interviews.

Wednesday 19th September 3-5pm at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace

To book a free place please e-mail:

Session outline:


The session will begin with a discussion of why fairer assessments are so important in schools, in terms of increasing equality, diversity and inclusion. The legal and ethical reasons for fairness will be discussed but also the positive impact of diverse candidates on innovation and new ways of thinking. Some key studies highlighting the problems of fairness with recruitment will also be shared for discussion.

What is unconscious bias and how can we avoid it?

This part of the session will cover:

  • What is Unconscious Bias?
  • Attendees will learn about the scientific theory behind unconscious bias experientially by completing some short cognitive tasks. They will also hear about some interesting key studies and experiments and be shown some human perceptual illusions which illustrate the power of unconscious thinking on our behaviour. They will be introduced to the IAPT test, which can identify individual's unconscious biases.

  • What are the common biases that occur in the recruitment process?
  • Attendees will be introduced to the most common unconscious biases that can occur during the shortlisting stage and interviews.

  • What are the ways of reducing unconscious bias?
  • Attendees will be presented with an overview of the steps they can take to reduce unconscious bias in their recruitment process back at school. This includes ways of assessing more objectively.

    Joanna Mercer has worked in the field of occupational psychology for over two years, following a career in education, as a class teacher, Head of EYFS and Head of Inclusion. Whilst working in schools, Joanna became concerned with increasing the performance of staff and so embarked on a Masters in Occupational Psychology. During this time, Joanna worked for a consultancy delivering strength-based assessments to recruit potential senior leaders for organisations.

    Since 2016, Joanna has worked in the Selection team at Ambition School Leadership supporting the selection processes for the Future Leaders and Teaching Leaders development programme and following best practice guidelines from the British Psychological Society to do this. Joanna is passionate about ensuring fairness in the selection processes with a particular focus on tackling assessor unconscious bias, having witnessed first-hand the importance of selecting the most effective leaders for schools and the necessity of having an objective and fair process to do this.

    This session is fully funded by the DfE as part of the Equalities and Diversity Fund



    About the Expert
    View Profile
    Ellen Mulvihill


    Taught English at secondary schools in London, East Kent and West Sussex;

    As Head of Inclusion in London Borough of Bexley and Head of Behaviour and Attendance in Brighton and Hove she was responsible for alternative provision, Behaviour and Attendance Partnerships for primary and secondary schools and safeguarding in schools. She has delivered a wide variety of training sessions to staff on related subjects to facilitate improved outcomes, particularly for SEMH and disadvantaged children and young people in the classroom. Most recently she was the Head of Standards and Achievement for Brighton and Hove and liaised extensively with Ofsted with regard to school inspections and outcomes.

    In December 2018 Ellen was also appointed Sub Regional Lead (Sussex, Brighton and Hove) to the SESL Regional Team. More information on this can be found in the news blog.


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