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The training is intended to make employees aware of patterns of discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of race, sex, sexuality and disability. But Boris Johnson has decided to ditch the training, after a mounting backlash from Tory MPs that accused the Government of pursuing a “woke agenda”.
When announcing the move, ministers claimed the training does not work, and cited a report which found no evidence the programme changes any attitudes or improves workplace equality in the long term.
In a statement, Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said: “Unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims.
“It will therefore be phased out in the civil service.
“We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.”
She cited a study commissioned by the Government Equalities Office that found there is “no evidence” the training exercises improved equality in the workplace.
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One insider even claimed the training courses have led to unintended negative consequences in some cases.
Neil O’Brien, Tory MP for Harborough and a vocal sceptic of the courses, welcomed the decision to abandon the training on Whitehall as “great news”.
He told the Telegraph: “The scientific evidence suggests that unconscious bias training does not work and may be counterproductive.
“Taxpayers would much rather see their hard-earned money spent on more productive, less divisive things.”
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Unconscious bias training was first introduced as a requirement for all Whitehall staff in 2014, with online sessions provided for junior staff and face-to-face lectures for senior mandarins.
The compulsory curriculum has since been scaled up to include four modules in diversity and inclusion training, as well as a separate stand-alone course.
Nearly 170,000 staff across the civil service have taken part in sessions in the past five years, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of more than £370,000.
But the courses have been heavily criticised by Tory MPs over the years, with many saying the training is pandering to the “woke agenda”.
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Earlier this year Parliament ran a pilot of unconscious bias training sessions in response to Black Lives Matter protests.
It was offered to Liberal Democrat and SNP parliamentarians but dozens of Tory MPs said they would refuse to attend if asked.
In September, backbench Tory Ben Bradley refused to take part in voluntary unconscious bias training provided by the Commons – calling it “Orwellian”.
In response to the Government’s announcement today, he wrote on Twitter: “Sizeable step on the road back to common sense.
“Training built on the premise we’re all internally and eternally racist was hardly ever likely to unify; only to divide.
“Based on no science or evidence, studies have shown negative consequences. Good riddance.”
Ministers are currently reviewing what future diversity and inclusion learning should be provided for civil servants instead.
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