Decade of Diversity: a cross-industry coalition of organisations and individuals supporting schools to increase diversity and inclusivity

Temi Akindele portrait

Written by Temi Akindele Barker

Inclusion Labs offers a custom programme for schools, grounded in research and best practice, but most importantly on the lived experience of students and families, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

During last year’s global BLM protests, I watched as friends and schools scrambled to find more diverse books to share with the children in their care. It struck a chord with me – the realisation that for many like myself this is a daily practice ignited from the moment you know you are bringing a child into this world.  As a mother raising two ethnically diverse daughters in a dual heritage home, surrounding my daughters with true representation: female empowerment, ethnically and culturally diverse stories and role models, is a necessity.  But I also passionately believe it is just as essential if you are not from an underrepresented group – it is about “windows and mirrors”.

 

When I think of my children, my hope for them really boils down to wanting them to know they have a place in this world.  That they truly belong.  That they are seen for who they are.  But for that to happen they have to recognise themselves in the world they inhabit.  They need to feel represented; they need to see others who look like them in leadership positions.  There can’t be a ceiling to their hopes and dreams.  And whilst I strive to emphasise this at home, I need the wider world to reemphasise this.

 

From my work with Inclusion Labs, I am acutely aware that the influence and impact a school have on a young person is profound, whether it is positive or negative.  And it endures.  From the moment they step into reception until their final day of sixth form, and they carry it with them long after that, shaping their perspective and expectation of the world around them.  Ideas and attitudes are formed simply from who and what is placed in front of them on a daily basis.  This is why representation of every form is vital.

 

The Decade of Diversity initiative is about representation.  It is a bold and ambitious call to action and a way for schools and organisations to plant a flag in the ground on its importance.  It is a visible and vocal commitment to do the work of diversity and inclusion, but significantly it is not an expectation that we do this alone.  This commitment is a two-way one: Inclusion Labs and our partners are committing to supporting and guiding schools that are brave enough to plant that flag.  We reached out to individuals and organisations of every kind and we all connected on this shared purpose and belief that we all have a part to play in the development of young people. “We were all children once – and we are now the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts of children” (Kofi Annan) and by virtue of that, we must all be invested in their development.  And so, a cross-industry coalition was formed, one to create inspiration and action around the Decade of Diversity pledges: 25% Diverse Literature and Diverse Governing Boards by 2030.

 

We asked ourselves the questions: “what needs to be done?” and “what part can we play in the answer?”  We recognised the work being done by many schools, individuals and organisations and knew we must contribute to making change happen, recognising that together we are more impactful.  It is a long-term commitment, a shared vision of a collective journey over the next ten years.

 

This coalition cannot end with words but must be about actions.  And our founding partners’ commitments cover a breadth of support, everything from creating support materials; workshops and training; access to diverse role models; developing programmes; and so on.  Each and every partner rallied around this initiative and committed to actions with only two stipulations: 1) they must be about diverse literature or diversifying governing boards, and 2) they must focus on supporting students and/or teachers as well as the overall school community.  Crucially, our support will evolve every year in response to what is needed by our signatory schools.

 

To embed diversity, equity and inclusion into every young person’s educational, cultural and personal development, Inclusion Labs focuses in on our four outcomes:

Learning: what they learn, how they learn and who they are learning from; 

Accessibility: having access to a diverse and inclusive community; 

Balance: embedding equity – the different elements of any setting in the correct proportions; 

Society: preparing them to be active participants in the world, including positive representation and interactions with those from underrepresented groups.

 

At Inclusion Labs, we believe that every teacher can have a role to play when it comes to leading DEI in their school.  For us, the literature pledge is the moment where a school librarian can lead, and we have ensured that our partners can support them and their colleagues.  From library management system organisations to independent publishers, booksellers, writer development agencies and authors – we bring them together to inspire, support and guide schools.  And of course, we are fundraising to donate diverse literature directly into our signatory schools.

 

Recently, a student questioned the role of their school governors and why they were invisible to students.  As the conversation progressed, many in the group raised the point that their school governors felt far removed from them as individuals.  Our governing board pledge partners are all working together with Inclusion Labs to increase the diversity of board leadership in our schools, with outreach campaigns across industries, including alumni and families – after all, parents can do more than bake sales! In addition, we are supporting schools to create the optimum environment in which both pledges can thrive for the long term.

 

The Decade of Diversity pledges are for our young people.  They deserve and need diverse literature and leadership, whether they inhabit a state or independent school, primary or secondary, in the centre of a city or somewhere rural.  Our initiative echoes their protest whilst being about ambition and action – “we are tired of talking about this” was a phrase that was aired in many of our focus groups as well as meetings with our founding partners. From these two pledges, we believe much else flows (diverse curriculums, diverse staff, a greater sense of belonging and awareness).

 

We do not claim to be the silver bullet – the truth is, there is no one answer, and no one way to solve these issues.  We have to apply different methods and involve as many as possible to actively work towards breaking down barriers and transforming our world to one that is inclusive for all.

Join our movement for change – let’s turn intent into action!

Find out more about the #DecadeofDiversity pledges and become a signatory school or a partner:

https://inclusionlabs.co.uk/decade-of-diversity/ 

Follow us for updates about this initiative and our partners:

Twitter: @inclusion_labs

Instagram: inclusionlabs

Linkedin: Inclusion Labs

#InclusionLabs #DecadeOfDiversity 

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Is the sketch "Gerald the Gorilla" on "Not the Nine O'clock News” racist?

Ninni Makrinov portrait

Written by Ninna Makrinov

Organisational Psychologist with over 20 years' experience in Higher Education. Currently the Chair of Governors at Water Mill Primary School.

Someone I respect, who works in education, recently shared the sketch on a social online meeting as one of the best comedy sketches of all time. My immediate reaction was physical discomfort. It felt totally inappropriate. I strongly believe this material is racist and we need open conversations about why people still find it funny. In this blog, I share the reason for my reaction. My aim is not for you to watch the sketch (although I have added a link below), but to share some points that might help a conversation if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

About the sketch

Gerald the Gorilla is a short sketch that portrays an interview where a white professor talks about his work on communication with a gorilla. The gorilla is a white man dressed in a gorilla suit. The gorilla acts as a human and acts as more intelligent than the professor acts. The professor dismisses every comment the gorilla makes.

My reaction

I suppose it is useful to know I am white; I was born and grew up in Chile. It is also useful to know that I have been learning about anti-racism for the last 4 years. I should also point out that I share the view that we are all racist because we live in a racist society (if you want to know more about this, explore Critical Race Theory). I am not judging the individual who shared this, but the specific choice to have shared this material. I am quite sure I might have had a different reaction to the sketch had I watched at some other point in my life. I take this as a sign we can all learn to be more sensitive to the lived experience of people of colour.

When I watched Gerald the Gorilla now I reacted with disgust and disbelief. My visceral reaction was so strong that my body ached for an hour after the meeting. Even as I was experiencing this, I doubted myself. Was the material inappropriate or was I being racist for seeing the link between a man dressed as a gorilla and a black man?

My immediate actions

I did not call the sketch out as racist during the meeting. I wish I had. But I did not. Instead, I looked shocked on camera. I also sent a message off meeting to a friend who was also there to gauge if I was overreacting. They did not see anything wrong so I downplayed my reaction and was saved by the bell, as I had to leave for another meeting.

After 1 hour, I was still uncomfortable. So I Googled: Is the sketch “Gerald the Gorilla” on “Not the Nine O’clock News” racist? I did not find a response. I learnt a little bit more about the programme. I also learnt that people seemed to agree it was very funny. This did not sit right with me.

I then contacted two other great friends who are involved in anti-racism. They both thought the content was shocking and inappropriate. I am sorry I did this, as I caused them additional pain. They both have mixed race children. But I am also glad I shared it with them, as their conviction gave me the energy to take the next steps.

 

Why the sketch is racist

Historically, black people have been compared to (non-human) apes. This has been used as an excuse for slavery and genocide. You can find out more in this great article on the Historical Foundations of Race by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. For a more specific example, read the article “The man who was caged in a zoo” in The Guardian.

Black people are still mocked by being called monkeys. The term ‘monkey chanting’ is defined by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as “rude and offensive comments shouted at a black player by white people who are watching a contest, especially a football (soccer) match.”

I am focusing my reaction on racism. As this was the most obvious to me. I also noticed homophobic and misogynist comments. I might have missed others.

Being anti-racist

The day after the incident, I took action. I posted a comment on the meeting chat. I said:

Dear all, anyone who saw my face on camera during one of the skits shared yesterday will know I was shocked. I will not explain further here. However, if you want to know more about what I felt, or just drop me a line or call. I did not raise yesterday as I did not feel comfortable about it, but I have been reflecting since and cannot leave this unsaid.

Also, if anyone else felt there was something inappropriate and would like an ally, an informal chat or even a confidential one, please let me know.“ 

This has sparked conversations. At various levels. Mostly very personal. I am glad that I felt safe to share. I also wonder if others, particularly people of colour, felt othered or directly offended; I imagine they might also have felt that they could not speak up. I hope the conversations keep going. I still have questions: What conversations do we need? How can we understand the lived experience of others? How can we be allies?

Moving forward – how can we prevent this happening (again)?

To finalise, my top ideas on what we can do to prevent situations like this:

  1.       Make a point of meeting and understanding people who are not like you, whatever ‘what you’ means to you. I have learnt a lot about how judgemental I could be through my friends. Those who don’t have the same level of education, who come from different places, who look different, who disagree with my views.
  2.   Organise conversations about race. For me, participating in the anti-racist pedagogies forum at the University of Warwick has been life changing. I have since also organised an anti-racist book club with my (white) friends. I am thinking of an anti-racist film club at work, it feels more relaxing. For those who work in Further or Higher Education, this Box of Broadcast curated list on Law, Race and Decolonisation by Dr Foluke Adebisi is a great starting point.
  3.   Ensure your organisation’s diversity policy is clear on behavioural expectations, available support and formal procedures for complaints.
  4.   Let people know that you support antiracism.
  5.   Be an active bystander, I took the step a little later than I would have wanted. I hope next time I will speak on the spot. Think back to occasions where you have acted, what happened? When you did not, what could you to when you experience something similar again?

I thought this YouTube video proves my point. You can see a family’s reaction while watching the original sketch. Spoiler alert: they were not shocked. Please beware that the contents might be sensitive (it angered me so much I wrote this blog).

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Taking an intersectional approach to understanding mental health and self-identity

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

During my time serving as a school leader, I cared deeply about our culture and ethos. We spent a lot of time reflecting on our school values, and how they shaped our inclusive behaviours. As a school we were committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, at the same time as being committed to mental health and wellbeing – both underpinned our strategic vision and our approaches for our curriculum, our staffing, our policies and our practices. This intersectional approach to who we are, how we feel about ourselves and each other, our awareness of our place in the world as global citizens, created our sense of belonging as both individuals and as a community.    

I now work independently – I am the Founder of Diverse Educators and I consult, coach and train with these two specialisms in mind. When I am commissioned to do a piece of work with a school, a trust, an educational organisation or training provider for one of these areas, I interweave the other focus back in as I find it hard to speak about one without reflecting on the other. For me this intersect is really important as we often consider mental ill health in isolation from one’s identity, and we need to remember that individuals with a protected characteristic are more vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues, as a result of how authentic and accepted they feel.  

Various factors make up a person’s actual identity, including a sense of continuity, a sense of uniqueness from others, and a sense of affiliation based on their membership in various groups like family, ethnicity, and occupation. When we have a positive view of our identity within a group, we are more likely to relate well to other others in that group and feel positive emotions about ourselves. This social identity fulfils the psychological need for esteem from others.  

Struggling with various parts of our identity is also natural and normal. It takes time to develop an identity or sense of self and the traits we desire to nurture in ourselves may be challenging. Not having a strong sense of self or struggling with identity issues can lead to anxiety and insecurity. Our sense of self comes from our self-esteem, something I worked on with many of my students over the 19 years I spent teaching and leading in schools. The value we place on ourselves creates a positive self-image which in turn creates our sense of self-worth. When we feel loved by others and by ourselves, we also feel trusted and accepted which boosts our self-esteem. A strong self-identity increases our self-confidence and enables us to assert ourselves and exercise good boundaries with our family, friends, and partner. 

Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people which can include depression, anxiety and conduct disorders, often as a direct response to what is happening in their lives. But what does the data tell us about children and young people and their race, their gender and their sexual orientation and the intersect with their mental health?

A significant risk factor for a mental health problem manifesting is the experience of race, religion or sexuality. Anyone experiencing a mental health problem should get both support and respect. However, for many people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities this is still not the case. The reasons for this are complex but include systemic racism and discrimination as well as social and economic inequalities and mental health stigma. People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities living in the UK are more likely to: be diagnosed with mental health problems; be diagnosed and admitted to hospital; experience a poor outcome from treatment. The disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities has further highlighted the inequalities in the system and has made many people’s mental health worse at an already difficult time. Furthermore, research has found that children of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority heritage are suffering disproportionate damage to their mental health, as a result of the pandemic than their white peers. There has been a large rise in anxiety, stress and self-harm in non-white under 18s. 

Some questions to consider as a school regarding the intersect between race and mental health:

  • How engaged are children and young people from black and minority ethnic communities in your mental health and wellbeing activities?
  • What are the barriers which put young people from black and minority ethnic groups off from accessing mental health services in your context?
  • How culturally sensitive are your mental health processes and services in being appropriate and acceptable to children and young people from diverse families?

Returning to the risk factors, we also need to consider the layers to our identity which are not always visible nor known. Young people establishing their self-identity do not always feel the psychological safety at home and at school to be out but one in every 25 Britons aged 16–24 years old identifies as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Cross-sectional studies consistently report that sexual-minority young people have poorer mental health profiles than their heterosexual peers, including higher prevalence of self-harm and suicide attempts. The pandemic has exacerbated many existing dangers, and introduced a few new ones, in particular, social isolation may have been especially challenging for LGBTQ youth. They may have been quarantining with rejecting family-members and have lost contact with supportive social networks. The nature of quarantining means that these problems may have been invisible to the school. Even before COVID-19, LGBTQ youth were at higher risk for depression, suicidality, and tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use than their heterosexual peers. Moreover, this increased risk stems from increased rates of rejection, discrimination, and victimisation. During the pandemic, risk was further compounded by loss of relationships in school, clubs, or other community venues where LGBTQ youth find support and affirmation. 

Some questions to consider as a school regarding the intersect between sexual orientation and mental health:

  • How engaged are children and young people from the LGBTQIA+ community in your mental health and wellbeing activities?
  • What are the barriers which put young people from the LGBTQIA+ community off from accessing mental health services in your context?
  • How have you made efforts to address gender and sexuality-based inequities so that they might be appropriate and acceptable for children and young people who identify as being LGBTQIA+?

As our schools fully re-open and our support systems are mobilised once again, we need to consider how we can support our marginalised youth groups to rebuild their sense of belonging. Some ways we can do this:

  • Recognising that representation matters and that we need to be intentional about the make up of our teams so that there is increased visibility of diverse role models in our schools. 
  • Reviewing school policies and practices for how inclusive they are in meeting the needs of all our children and young people so that they do not harm nor further alienate individuals with diverse lived experiences.  
  • Creating safe spaces for young people to explore their self-identity and to surface their lived experiences to be supported and signposted to appropriate interventions. 
  • Developing resources and peer advocacy programmes that will empower young people to nurture their own resilience whilst at the same time engage them in supporting others. 

Which is why Diverse Educators are collaborating with Worth-It CIC on their Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme as we believe that by nurturing peer to peer relationships that we can build trust and increase feelings of belonging and connection for individual young people. The programme coaches them to develop the internal resources and strategies to learn how to develop positive relationships and positive support networks. Come and join us for our free webinars on April 27th to find out more.  

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Bitter Sweet Sugar

Caroline Verdant portrait

Written by Caroline Verdant

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) and Performing Arts Co-Lead. 40+ years of performing arts and dance choreography experience and 20+ years of experience teaching children.

After our London City Airport campaign win, the door opened for my school, St. Antony’s Catholic Primary, to engage with Tate & Lyle, where I found myself sitting at the table with Britain’s most iconic sugar company, based in our borough of Newham.

 

What immediately comes to mind when you hear the word ‘sugar’?

 

Sweets? Chocolate? Dessert? Perhaps, a diet.

 

For me – it’s sugar cane.

 

At the age of 4, I remember once standing in the middle of a field, watching my dad chop sugar cane. It was my first trip to Barbados, where sucking on fresh and raw, sweet sugar cane is one of my fondest memories. “White Gold” is what they called it; named so because of the great wealth, fame and status it produced for Barbados – the richest of all European colonies throughout the West Indies. However, I also learned many horrendous stories – about the treatment of my forefathers, who worked as slaves on plantations. Slave labour was of course the cheapest way to produce sugar, and turn a profit.

 

During the 18th century, sugar was a powerful commodity which came at a great human cost. Chained and crammed onto slave ships for journeys that would last anywhere between 6 to 11 weeks, it was expected that some slaves would die during the voyage from Africa. For those that made it to the cane fields of the Caribbean, they would be branded and spend the rest of their days beneath the hot West-Indian sun, planting and harvesting sugar cane, from dawn to dusk. Whilst suffering from malnutrition and tropical diseases, slaves were often whipped for not working hard enough. As the most labour intensive crop, 70% of slaves brought to the ‘New World’ were indentured to producing sugar. For this reason, it’s hard to separate sugar from slavery.

 

Even though the UK abolished slavery 188 years ago, its legacy still lives on to this day. It was only in 2015 where the debt incurred by compensation to Britain’s slave owners was finally paid off, at cost to the British taxpayer. This is a debt that I have contributed to settling for the past 32 of years of my life; a legacy I was born into, as a British-Bajan woman.

 

Being the only black person sitting at the table with the leaders in the UK’s sugar industry (since 1878), Tate & Lyle’s commitment towards paying the Real Living Wage speaks volumes to me. Their accreditation is far more than just a positive step towards economic equality, but very much also a step towards racial equality—a step towards reversing a cycle that has lasted for centuries by ensuring every worker is lifted up from in-work-poverty, and given back a sense of dignity.

 

While our students weren’t directly involved in this campaign, they were recognised by Tate & Lyle’s director and Local Affairs Manager; who both praised the children’s performance of their song ‘Realise’ and their campaign achievements. For my role as a mother and a teacher at St. Antony’s, it is essential that every child learns there are no barriers to what they can pursue or accomplish. By leveraging the power and unity of voices through Community Organising, neither their age, colour, cultural background or socio-economic status can dictate which path in life they choose to take.

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Deepening and Demonstrating an Understanding of Diversity - A Governor’s Journey

Mair Bull portrait

Written by Mair Bull

Former teacher and content writer for BBC Bitesize. Now works at Manchester Metropolitan University in the Curriculum and Rise teams.

When the pandemic hit, I had only been a governor for a few months. Therefore, I felt compelled during the lockdown to take advantage of the many free webinars and training sessions that became available as everyone flocked to zoom and other similar platforms. 

 

I particularly enjoyed the sessions by Hannah Wilson and Diverse Educators – the recordings can be found here if you wish to check them out. I made notes about diversity, inclusion, decolonising the curriculum and specific ideas for governance around diversifying the board and recruitment – to name but a few!

 

The style of the sessions meant they felt approachable and empowering – normalising the discussions around race, culture, identity and disability. In fact, the sessions made it clear it was strange not to be challenging and questioning the current position within our schools. This was galvanised only a few months later when the world witnessed the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter campaign.

 

Alongside these experiences, I was privileged to be part of a conversation about the importance of building a representative Drama curriculum in schools with the Royal Court Theatre, as part of my previous role with Open Drama UK.  Subsequently, the network published a really useful document for teachers on building a representative curriculum, which I highly recommend exploring.

 

During the governors meetings in 2020, I slowly felt more emboldened to ask those questions that Diverse Educators encourages us to pose; I triggered conversations about text choices and our curriculum, about the diversity and inclusion of staff and the recruitment process to our governing board, plus many more. As Hannah has said several times, it is uncomfortable to ask those questions, but they need to be posed. The status quo needs challenging. 

 

In December 2020 we had an Ofsted training session for governors across the Trust, and I was fired a question about the Equality Act in a mock-interview set up. I felt uneasy answering in front of a large number of senior leaders and hugely experienced governors, but I was able to outline what we had achieved in school, the provocations we had discussed, and our plans for the future. 

 

Then in March 2021, I experienced my first real Ofsted visit (virtual) as a governor. In my interview the importance of all that layering of knowledge and small but regular confrontations of the norm, felt acknowledged, important and relevant. I was able to talk about the value of diversity, inclusion, recruitment and curriculum with more confidence and power than I would have been able to a year ago. 

 

Like every school, we still have a long way to go but it is important to acknowledge the evolution and development from where we were before. I am really proud of the lovely school where I am a governor and the crucial progression that has been made on the journey out of special measures. It is important that I am educated and empowered to keep challenging the school to be the best version of itself as it can be. I am only small cog, but we as governors do have the power to enact change and empower others, steadily but positively. 

 

I am really pleased to say that we are now in a position to recruit new governors and are of course, determined to broaden the diversity of the board. If you are interested in a governance role in the Cheshire region please get in touch. 

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Empowering Change Through Education

Leslee Udwin portrait

Written by Leslee Udwin

Activist, filmmaker, UN Women for Peace awardee, and Founder and Executive Chair of Think Equal, a global non-profit.

‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite’. Nelson Mandela 

 

There is a profound chasm in our global education system – a missing dimension. How can we teach our children numeracy and literacy, yet not how to become loving, inclusive and empathetic human beings? In fact, even the most superficial glimpse of the values which bombard our children’s senses evidences a reality that needs to be effortfully countered if we are to disrupt the pretty archaic views of stereotypes which abound. Discrimination is the rule and at Think Equal we are determined to make it the exception.

 

So how do we educate inclusion, self-esteem (for all) and celebration of diversity? In fact, it’s so simple that if we continue to ignore it and neglect to implement the programmatic tools that exist, we should hang our heads in shame. 

 

It’s not rocket science, it’s neuroscience. We work with our children as partners to co-create pro- social neuropathways in their developing brains. This is why our programmes work exclusively with children aged 3-6. Quite simply put, this is when the brain is ripe with neuroplasticity. By focusing on this specific age group, we can co-create pro-social behaviours with the child, and empower long-term change. 

 

Embedding Social and Emotional Learning competencies and skills at an early enough age to be of material foundational value, is the key to unlocking the power of human kindness, inclusion, and connection, which is all too relentlessly overshadowed by divisiveness, sexism, racism, and deeply embedded bigotries. 

 

We are all aware of the issues that are plaguing society, and now is the time to act on this awareness by implementing social and emotional learning programmes, such as that which Think Equal has designed for both classrooms and homes, at a global scale.

 

Think Equal has developed an innovative early years SEL programme which tackles the root cause of discrimination and violence from the outset. With input from world education and though leaders, such as Sir Ken Robinson, the Dalai Lama and the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence, we have designed an evidence-based, scalable, and replicable SEL programme. Think Equal’s mission is to actively transform the fabric of society through this curriculum: from a world that is apathetic, to one that is empathetic, from a society of passive living, to one of active empowerment.

 

We have created a comprehensive set of children’s books, one for every week of the Think Equal curriculum, accompanied by step-by-step teaching plans. We set clear outcomes for each week of the Think Equal programme. These include showing responsibility towards our planet and acknowledging the interconnectedness of all living creatures. We actively draw from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to expand the breadth of existing social and emotional learning programmes.

  

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I had the privilege of speaking with Hannah and Isa about how my work and Think Equal’s disrupts and challenges the patriarchy. One week later, the UN’s statistic, citing that 97% of women aged 18-24 in the UK had been sexually harassed, went viral. This study, drawn from the UN Women UK’s Safe Spaces Now project, resurfaced in light of the tragic disappearance of Sarah Everard. Claire Barnett, executive director of women UK, writes that ‘This is a human rights crisis. It’s not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ – it needs addressing now”.

 

This is precisely what Think Equal’s social and emotional learning programme does: starting at an early age, we anchor values of gender equality and respect in children’s mindsets.  Think Equal urges you to recognize the genuine power that bringing teachers together can have in catalysing change. Teachers are the backbone of our society. It is by providing them with the training and distribution of Think Equal materials that we can really start to make a difference on our own doorstep, and as global citizens. 

 

If you missed our chat on International Women’s Day, you can learn more about how Think Equal is leading the change in our global education system by registering for our webinar.

 

Now, this change can also happen with the help of parents across the globe. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Think Equal worked hard to reach families in their homes. You can now order our free SEL home kits online

 

Finally, you can help us catalyse this change by donating to Think Equal today. A donation of just 2 pounds will provide a child with the positive life outcomes to make a real difference in society. 

 

 

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Why taking part in School Diversity Week can help LGBT+ young people struggling with mental health

Dominic Arnall portrait

Written by Dominic Arnall

Chief Executive of Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity.

The pandemic has hit us all hard – whether it’s through job losses, being furloughed, losing loved ones, loneliness or our lives simply turning upside down. However, new independent research by Just Like Us has found that young people who are LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans) are struggling significantly more.

 

LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to feel lonely and more than twice as likely to be worrying daily about the state of their mental health.

 

On top of this, one in four (25%) are facing daily tensions in the place they’re living and seven in 10 (68%) said their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, compared to just half (49%) of young people who aren’t LGBT+. 

 

Sadly, Just Like Us’ independent research found what we suspected to be true when the pandemic began – LGBT+ young people are facing far more challenges than their peers and this is having a devastating impact on their mental health. And we found that LGBT+ young people who are also Black, disabled and/or eligible for free school meals face even worse mental health.

 

While we’ve all had a tough time not being able to see our loved ones and socialise like we used to, many LGBT+ young people are having to cope with living with families who may not accept or understand them, while also being cut off from their usual support networks or safe spaces where they won’t be judged for who they are.

 

School, while it may have been virtual for much of the pandemic, can be a fantastic source of support for young people. Sadly, for pupils who are LGBT+, school still often isn’t a place they are able to feel safe, welcome or happy being themselves. 

 

Our research shows that half (48%) of 11 to 18 year olds say they have received little to zero positive messaging at school about being LGBT+ in the last 12 months. One in five (18%) young people say they have received no positive messaging from their school about being LGBT+, which suggests that a significant number of schools are not taking action to meet Ofsted requirements of preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

 

It’s a real shame to see that Section 28 is still having such an impact on LGBT+ young people’s experiences of school. As adults, we could be forgiven for thinking that things have moved on – after all, we have far more legislation to protect us these days – but education still has a long way to go in being LGBT+ inclusive. 

 

No child should feel scared to be themselves at school. And pupils in primary schools should know that there’s no shame in having LGBT+ parents or families either. Growing up bisexual, if I’d known and could’ve seen that my school accepted me, my journey would’ve looked very different.

 

We know that teachers and school staff are doing an incredible job in an overwhelmingly challenging environment. That’s why we are doing everything we can at Just Like Us to make taking the first step to LGBT+ inclusion in education as easy and accessible as possible. 

 

This summer is School Diversity Week. We’re asking all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges to please sign up to take part. It’s free, you’ll get a toolkit of teaching resources for all key stages, across the curriculum, and celebrating means your pupils will know they can be safe, happy and accepted at your school. 

 

We’ll be running free online masterclasses that you can stream, there’ll be Rainbow Friday where pupils can dress up as a colour from the Pride Progress flag, and we have many new resources for staff to inspire your celebrations. LGBT+ young people are facing disproportionate mental health challenges and need to know who they are is not something to be ashamed of – please sign up for School Diversity Week and celebrate with us and thousands of schools and colleges taking part 21-25 June. 

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Enough is Enough: Tackling Sexism and Sexual Harassment in Schools

Kate Hollinshead portrait

Written by Kate Hollinshead

Head of Operations, EqualiTeach

The last few weeks have seen an outpouring of grief, fear, concern and anger after the details of the murder of Sarah Everard have emerged. Feelings have run high in the political sphere, on social media and in schools, with more and more women contributing their experiences of sexism, sexual harassment and violence to the wider call for action against these pernicious and pervasive acts. 

In the wake of the Sarah Everard case, the National Education Union have once again called on the government to implement a strategy to tackle sexism in schools, expressing their disappointment at the Department for Education’s action when the NEU’s report into these behaviours was first published in 2017. The report, written in collaboration with UK Feminista, found that almost a quarter of female students at mixed-sex schools had been subjected to unwanted physical touching at school and almost a third of teachers witness sexual harassment in school on at least a weekly basis. The website, Everyone’s Invited, was set up by Soma Sara after her post sharing her experiences of sexual abuse on Instagram caused a huge number of responses from others highlighting similar experiences. In the past few weeks, this website has been inundated with thousands of allegations about sexual harassment at British schools and universities. 

At EqualiTeach, we have seen an increase in calls from teachers who are dealing with these conversations in schools, wondering what to say in response and what resources exist to combat sexism and sexual harassment in their classroom. There have been incidents where girls have been upset and angry and boys have been dismissive of the severity of the situation, suggesting that girls are ‘over-reacting’ or that it’s ‘not all men.’ One school has approached us to share that girls have been expressing their upset at the historic behaviour of some of the boys in their class. In another, a year 6 boy has been internally excluded for making comments about rape. Many of the conversations and incidents here are an extension of those happening on social media or in the press, highlighting that young people are consuming news and need help in dissecting the discussions effectively in a safe and open environment. 

The suggestion that the incidents women are sharing online are overreactions or the dismissal that sexism and sexual harassment isn’t as big an issue as women think comes from a place of privilege; of a life lead without constant fear of abuse in public spaces or of a lack of understanding that incidents that appear ‘small’ or ‘low level’ are often so regular that they build up into a picture of continual harassment for a woman from a very young age. Someone might only witness sexism or sexual harassment of a woman a couple of times in their life, but the same woman may have many experiences of such behaviour, just not within the same line of sight. What is often missing in the response about women ‘overreacting’ is an understanding of how seemingly low-level incidents feed into a societal acceptance of sexist behaviours and sexual harassment, which, left unchecked, can escalate into the levels of violence against women and girls we experience in the UK. According to a 2021 survey from UN Women UK, 97% of women aged between 18 and 24 said that they had been sexually harassed and 80% of all women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

Such a normalisation of sexism and sexual harassment can disguise the true prevalence of behaviours. Sometimes, experiences may simply go unnoticed by targets as behaviours can be so normalised or the expectation that someone will take a complaint seriously is so low. A colleague of mine has spoken about being inappropriately touched throughout her school life, but only realised that this wasn’t acceptable when she was in her mid-twenties. Speaking about these issues can often educate those experiencing the behaviour that the behaviour isn’t something they should have to tolerate. Those young people in schools who are now speaking up about historic incidents of sexism or sexual harassment perhaps didn’t realise that this was unacceptable behaviour at the time or didn’t see the point in speaking up about it. Either way, these incidents should be dealt with seriously and robustly now. They should be investigated, and education and punitive measures should be administered accordingly. It is important for the school to adopt a robust and consistent approach to challenging sexism and sexual harassment in the same way it would approach challenging any other prejudice or misbehaviour.

Whole school education on sexism and sexual harassment is vital to prevent incidents occurring again. This should be comprehensive and woven not just into the PSHE and citizenship curriculum for each year group, but opportunities should be taken throughout the curriculum; in English, RE, History and beyond to highlight and interrogate stereotypes, sexism and sexual harassment within the taught content. Stand-alone assemblies will not do. Education should focus on what sexism is, how it manifests and what reporting procedures are in place at the school for pupils. It should focus on understanding boundaries between people, consent and how to hold others’ behaviour to account if someone witnesses something unacceptable. It should focus on stamping out sexist jokes or ‘banter’, abolishing name calling and the different expectations between girls and boys with regards to sexual behaviour, and showcasing how to be an ally to women in the fight against these behaviours. 

Being an ally is about listening to women’s experiences. All too often the response to women speaking up about such behaviours is that ‘not all men are like that.’ I understand that many men will want to distance themselves from sexist behaviours and sexual harassment, that in itself is a good thing to want to do. However, this is a defensive response which can prevent people from listening. It dismisses women’s reality. Women are aware that not all men are like that but articulating that does nothing to help address the men that are like that.  It allows the conversation to be focused only on the ‘few monsters’ out there, those who have committed terrible crimes, without highlighting how smaller acts by lots of men can contribute to women’s unsafety. As Jameela Jamil put it in a recent Twitter thread:

“Do all men work to make sure their fellow men do not harm women? Do they interrupt troubling language and behaviour in others? Do they have conversations about women’s safety/consent with their sons? Are all men interested in our safety? You don’t get to exclude yourself from the wrong side unless you’re actively fighting on the right side.”

But this shouldn’t be a blame game. Men are a product of societal norms and values, just as women are. The focus needs to be on re-educating people away from sexism and sexual harassment and reforming schemes of work in schools to begin discussions from an early age. Not doing so does a disservice to men, women, everyone. Instead, we want to create a society where everyone feels safe, valued and able to succeed. 

The following resources may be useful to beginning these conversations with young people:

EqualiTeach Outside the Box Guide for Educators: Promoting Gender Equality and Tackling Sexism and Sexual Harassment in Schools: https://equaliteach.co.uk/for-schools/classroom-resources/outside-the-box/

EqualiTeach Outside the Box Workshops for KS2-5: https://equaliteach.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Outside-the-Box.pdf

UK Feminista How to Take a Whole School Approach to Tackling Sexism in Schools https://ukfeminista.org.uk/resources/wsa/

Further Reading

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: advice for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principals, senior leadership teams and designated safeguarding leads https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719902/Sexual_violence_and_sexual_harassment_between_children_in_schools_and_colleges.pdf

End Violence Against Women https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/about/data-on-violence-against-women-and-girls/#:~:text=%20Data%20on%20violence%20against%20women%20and%20girls,and%20internal%20child%20trafficking.%20The%20vast…%20More%20

Gender Matters. Toward’s Women’s Equality in Scotland https://gendermatters.engender.org.uk/content/education-training/

Girl Guiding (2013) Girls’ Attitudes Survey https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/globalassets/docs-and-resources/research-and-campaigns/girls-attitudes-survey-2013.pdf

Murray, J (2021) The Guardian. Government still has no strategy for tackling sexism in schools, say teachers. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/mar/20/government-still-has-no-strategy-for-tackling-sexism-in-schools-say-teachers

NEU and UK Feminista (2017) ‘It’s Just Everywhere! Sexism in Schools’ https://neu.org.uk/advice/its-just-everywhere-sexism-schools

UN Women UK and YouGov (2021) Prevalence and reporting of sexual harassment in UK public spaces https://www.unwomenuk.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/APPG-UN-Women-Sexual-Harassment-Report_Updated.pdf

Women and Equalities Committee Report (2016) Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmwomeq/91/91.pdf

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It is about time Initial Teacher Training and Education embraced diversity and inclusion

Davinder Dosanjh portrait

Written by Davinder Dosanjh

Executive Director Leicestershire Secondary SCITT

Thirty-five years in education as a teacher, senior leader, Her Majesty’s Inspector, senior lecturer, teacher educator, I had hoped we would have moved much further forward when we talk about Diversity, Equity and inclusion. I am still not seeing Initial Teacher Training and Education embracing the diverse voices and representing BAME. The decision makers and those on the working groups advising the Department for Education, are the same white faces, from the same organisations.

Policies and initiatives such as the Core Content Framework, Early Careers Framework, have missed opportunities to embed diversity. We are still wedded to the Teachers’ Standards. Teacher Standard 3 and Part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards make no strong statements about embedding diversity, equity and inclusion. The Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework opportunities have merely amplified the Teachers’ Standards into ‘Learn that..’ and ‘Learn how to..’ statements. Examples of systemic racism. These frameworks are a minimum entitlement, so they imply diversity is not part of that prerogative.

Those that train teachers are predominantly, white and middle class. I have been involved with teacher training at a university and a SCITT. Whilst working with both organisations I have asked and sought to be on national bodies which represent these sectors. Never managed to get through the red tape and procedures which maintain the institutional racism. I am just as qualified, have the experience and the track record. Still working out what I am doing wrong or to flip it the other way, what are these national organisations doing which perpetuate these barriers? You have got to be voted on, seconded and then your mates vote you in because you have had the time to network with them. Time to re-examine the criteria for national bodies, working parties, time to have a transformation, give others a voice.

If you have been on a national working group, advisory once, you are to be commended, then pass the baton onto someone else. Insist these groups are diverse and heard at a strategic level. 

We need to undertake a more wide-ranging review at the trainee’s journey from pre-application, application, interview, the programme and actual training experience. We need to ask ourselves some critical questions. Then follow the sequence of auditing, action planning, accountability and assessing impact. A starting point are some self-assessment questions below:

Pre-application

Is the marketing diverse and showing a range of positive diverse role-models?

Are we appealing to a diverse range of communities, using a range of networks (Asian radio) not just the traditional career fairs, university, school events?

Application

Who interviews?

Are all interviewers trained beyond safer recruitment, such as Diversity training?

Do we interrogate the data? (those made an offer, rejected, reasons why)

Teacher Educator and Placements

Who are the teacher educators?

Are they diverse?

Can we talent spot and seek out diverse teacher educators?

Are we carefully matching the right teacher educator to the trainee?

How do we deal with any issues of discrimination?

Curriculum

What is the golden thread of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

Where is it? What is it?

Who is delivering/facilitating?

Are the role models diverse?

Do we share the mic and encourage allyship?

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

Are the trainee’s voices being heard?

What questions are we asking about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

Governance

Is the Steering/Partnership Group diverse?

How can we seek out colleagues from our partner schools to be part of the group?

Is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion a regular agenda item?

I would hope we have moved forward and that any teaching training provider, whether school or university could not ignore a trainee being called a ‘paki’ by pupils like I was. Despite me raising objections, I was told to get on with it, despite this being a regular occurrence. We have policies and procedures to formally report such incidents which were not in place when I undertook my training. More importantly, great communities such as Diverse Educators and BAMEed Network.

I am proud to say the Leicestershire Secondary SCITT has increased the diversity of its cohort from 29% in 2015 to 49% in 2020.

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Education to End Violence Against Women and Girls

Natasha Eeles portrait

Written by Natasha Eeles

Natasha is the Founder of Bold Voices. She is a passionate advocate for the rights of women and marginalised genders.

The world young people are growing up in today is changing rapidly, bringing with it a need to think more broadly about the education young people require. In the past week the UK has had its eyes opened to the urgent need to challenge the seemingly harmless attitudes towards women and girls that contribute to a culture within which gender based violence is normalised and even accepted, a culture that unfortunately schools are not exempt from.

On Wednesday 3rd March Sarah Everad went missing while walking home in Clapham, south London. She had taken a well-lit, public route, she had called her boyfriend to let him know when she’d be home, she was wearing bright clothes and trainers. She followed all the unspoken ‘rules’ that women and girls follow to keep themselves safe, but it wasn’t enough. Since that day, Sarah’s kidnap and murder has sparked an outpouring of grief and exhaustion from women and marginalised genders across the country who are tired of being harassed, objectified and assaulted with little to no accountability for the perpetrators. The media coverage of Sarah Everad’s case coincided with the release of a UN Women UK report finding that 97% of young women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment. 

 

Unlike the #MeToo movement of 2017, the moment of the past week has not left young people behind. The Instagram account Everyone’s Invited has gained unprecedented traction, with thousands of school pupils and university students submitting their testimonies of harassment, abuse, assault and speaking to the rape culture that pervades within our educational institutions. As teachers and parents it can be difficult to know what to do in the wake of such a horrific outpouring from young people, how to keep them safe. But if this last week has taught us anything, it’s that to bring up a new generation who do not continue to perpetuate a culture of violence against women and girls is a number one priority. 

HOW DO WE DO THIS?
THE ANSWER: EDUCATION. 

Keeping our young people safe and healthy means ensuring they have the right spaces for learning about and discussing these issues. We appreciate that terms such as ‘gender based’ or ‘sexual’ violence can be challenging and daunting, or even extreme, particularly when it comes to discussions about pupils. But, as this past week has shown, young people are not protected from this violence and so we must ensure we move towards a preventative as opposed to reactionary approach. 

At Bold Voices we’ve been delivering education on gender inequality and gender based violence to young people in schools and universities for three years. We’ve worked with over 2000 people through talks and workshops. We are a youth-led team who identify closely with the experiences young people face and understand the many influences that shape their beliefs and outlook on the world. Our education is designed to empower young people, both boys and girls, to see themselves as agents of change. We do this by approaching topics that are often uncomfortable and emotive with an objective, critical lens. In particular, our education focuses on challenging key attitudes and beliefs such as the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, dismissal of casual sexism as harmless and use of language that degrades and objectifies women.

This education is not a ‘nice-to-have’ addition to the curriculum. It is urgent, critical education required to keep young people safe and to disrupt the patterns of harassment, abuse and violence that have pervaded the lives of women and girls for centuries. Bold Voices are here to support you in becoming better equipped to have these conversations with your pupils, your children, and other educators and parents. As experts in delivering this critical education we have all the knowledge and expertise you need – resources, talks, workshops and a community where young people themselves can learn from each other and find support from others on this journey. 

HOW CAN WE HELP? 

Resources: Activities for the classroom, toolkits, blog posts and lesson plans for discussing gender inequality and gender based violence. Sign up to be the first to hear about new resources we create through our newsletter.

Talks and Workshops: Discover our talks and workshops, led by experienced facilitators and delivering on key topics relating to gender inequality and gender based violence including:

  • Thinking Big About Gender Inequality: From Misogyny to Gendered Violence
  • Preparing Our Teens for the Unspoken at University: Cultures of Gendered Violence within UK Universities
  • Online Sexual Harassment: How Gendered Violence Adapts to New Environments

Delivering Gendered Violence Education: Sign up for early access to our self-paced online course for teachers supporting you to deliver this critical education. 

www.boldvoices.co.uk
natasha@boldvoices.co.uk
@bold_voices

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