Working with Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Young People

Karen Self portrait

Written by Karen Self

Karen joined the NYA in late 2020 as a Youth Work Specialist. She is a JNC professionally qualified youth and community worker and qualified trainer. Karen has worked in the youth and community field for over 25 years, including managing and leading activity across a range of sectors and environments.

Karen Self, Learning and Development Manager, National Youth Agency, describes why she is so passionate about the new Gypsy, Roma and Traveller CPD course for youth workers and others working with young people looking to ensure their services are inclusive.

‘’The most important piece of advice for any youth service hoping to engage with young Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is to go out and meet and talk to the young people, their families and others in the community.’’ This statement, from our recently launched CPD course ‘Working with Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Young People, might seem obvious if you’re a youth worker, but how well do you really understand Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities? 

Perhaps you’re already working with Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller young people but not realise that you are because, contrary to the common misconception, some 78% of Gypsy, Roma, and Travellers in the UK live in permanent bricks and mortar housing (according to the 2011 Census)

Furthermore, do you fully appreciate the challenges the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities face? 

This question takes me back to my work directly with young Roma people, as well as managing teams that have worked with the local Roma community.  I recall that it was essential that the team gave their absolute commitment to building trusted relationships within the community over a period of months, even years. Yes, we faced many challenges, the young people we connected with were often discriminated against by peers and members of the community, a mutual lack of cultural understanding often led to conflict with other young people, there were also worries about our intentions and our own concerns about the risk of exploitation of Roma young people by others; however, over time the work flourished, and we witnessed many successful outcomes for young people. We found that by focussing on their similarities with other young people – like football, music and dance – we were able to improve relationships and understanding amongst young people and by working with partners in the community and in the local secondary school we were able to tackle some of the more complex issues.

Our work with a group of Roma young people was successful because the lead detached youth worker was knowledgeable about the communities they worked alongside; they always strove to understand their needs and experiences and were committed to developing trusted, yet boundaried, relationships and instilled these values in their team of detached youth workers. 

Would a course have improved the team’s and other professional’s knowledge and understanding? Most definitely! That’s why I’m so passionate about the two Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller CPD units the National Youth Agency has produced alongside ODET (Open Doors Education & Training). 

The second course provides insights into successful activities to engage young people from the Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities, including.

  • The importance of youth work with the community and effective approaches to engagement, social inclusion outreach, diversity, integration, and multi-agency work all with a focus on promoting pride and the visibility of cultures. 
  • How to identify and analyse participation barrier challenges.
  • Examine good practice examples in youth work settings and how to develop inclusive practice in their own settings. 

Including case studies, useful templates, and a wealth of resources, the ‘Working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Young People’ CPD is a must for any Youth Worker or any other professional working with young people who wishes to provide meaningful, trusted, and inclusive services. 

You can access the CPD Parts 1 and 2 on the National Youth Agency website at 

Normalising Difference

Amrutha Anthony portrait

Written by Amrutha Anthony

Amrutha Anthony is a trainee teacher at Basingstoke SCITT (BASCITT).

Difference is daunting.

There are many differences and mine is that I am not British. I am an Indian who grew up in the UAE.  This was not a problem by itself.  However, I had decided to train to teach Secondary English.

I would be a foreigner teaching English to the English. 

The humour was not lost on me, nor were the apprehensions.

However, I was lucky enough my main placement school is also where I’d gotten to work at as an LSA for a few months before my training began.  From the very first day my school made me feel like I had always been part of the school community.  From my days since I have realised why.

My school hosts a diverse community of both staff and students.  Last year, 56% of the students were from ethnic groups, and English was second language to 31% of the student populace.  My school’s diversity has been channelled into an attitude of inclusivity that permeates every interaction that happens here.  In response to the Basingstoke & Deane Inclusions and Diversity Partnership launched in 2021, the school set up a Diversity Lead.  Under her guidance, around 60 students signed up to be EARAs – Equality and Rights Advocates.  They were trained to challenge and be upstanders in a gentle way.  They were also responsible for training other students formally (assemblies) and informally (personal conversations).  The EARAs proposed and piloted workshops for KS3 students on LGBTQ+, neurodiversity, and race.  Historically, students also led a sign language workshop that proved quite popular. 

School students support all forms of diversity because their own uniqueness is celebrated here.  I remember being in a history class last year when they were learning about Black history in the UK.  Whilst Black history in the US has become popular knowledge, the UK perspective was entirely new to me; together with the students, I soaked up this new angle in fascination.  I found out later that this lesson was a result of the school wanting KS3 curriculum to reflect the histories of all its students.  This commitment to year-round inclusivity made the schools Black History Month celebration so much more sincere.

My school is also twinned with a school in Cameroon, by the Portsmouth Diocese to which the school belongs.  When it was safer, staff and students had gone over to volunteer; now the school supports the college through fundraising activities.  On Diversity Day last year, staff and students were encouraged to come dressed in traditional attire and to take part in an evening celebration of all the ethnicities in the school.  This mufti day was made meaningful when all staff and students donated a pound each to be sent off to Bamenda. 

Being a single faith school, my school often faces a question from the outside about how inclusive it is of other faiths.  Those on the inside, however, have the answers.  Before the pandemic, my school hosted a student-led interfaith question time.  The students were supported in preparing their answers by the RE department, yet they took the lead in bringing the answers to the student populace.  The school also hosts an annual multi-faith trip where Year 8 students visit a gurdwara, a mosque, and a mandir.  They come back with their textbook knowledge improved by a real-world awareness of how different faiths practice their beliefs.  This awareness is strengthened by the practical steps the school takes to accommodate all faiths.  A prime example would be the student-led Ramadan assemblies that remind students to be supportive of their fasting peers.  Staff are also asked to make allowances for fasting students and the school shifts other celebrations to ensure they do not miss out.  A group of Muslim students make regular use of an RE space to pray during lunchtimes and plans for a Muslim prayer space next to the chapel are soon to be realised.

It has been heart-warming to hear parents talk about how this level of support makes their children feel safe at school.  In addition to racial and religious diversity, the school also supports children with additional needs.  Last year this was 8% of all students.  As an LSA, I had been in classes with many of these students and it was delightful to see how the other children wholeheartedly accepted the SEND children.  When the SEND children behave differently or are given additional support, none of the other children bat an eyelid.  I have heard a SEND child screaming outside and I have seen my class calmly continue with their work; no one wanted to look out the window or even seem surprised.  This to me showed true inclusivity – not just about understanding differences and accepting them, but having differences normalised.

Here at school, it is perfectly normal for me to be different.

Here at school, it is perfectly normal for me to be teaching English.

Here at school, I can grow and learn and the only thing that affects my ability to succeed is the amount of work I put in.

I write this as a student teacher, but I write this echoing the sentiments of hundreds of children who walk in each day.  I write this having been cherished and supported by all members of staff.  I have only been here for about half a year, but I have never felt so accepted anywhere else.  The ethos of the school guides the community in respecting the innate dignity of all human beings.  The school way is to ‘walk with each other’ and this is practiced by everyone from SLT to support staff to students.

Inclusive Hiring

Andrew McGeehan portrait

Written by Andrew McGeehan

Andrew (he/him) is a trainer/consultant based in Singapore that loves talking about anything DEIJ related and/or cats!

Hiring and recruitment processes need to be reviewed and updated with a lens towards affirmative and inclusive hiring. This is not something that will happen naturally – organisations need to take concrete steps to make it happen. Read on for some tips from Trident


  • Organisational Assessment/Analysis – one key component of inclusive and affirmative hiring is that an organisation needs to know what it is looking for. An assessment that highlights current staff demographics can help to identify gaps. This is usually done with an interest in specific identities, such as gender, nationality, race/ethnicity, and age. However, it is important to start looking at other variables as well, such as years of experience, seniority in the organisation, educational background, and salary. It’s possible to find that there is diverse array of experiences and identities in more junior staff, but that senior staff is still overrepresented by straight able-bodied men of majority racial identity. That overrepresentation could be due to those folks utilising their own networks when hiring at all levels, which usually yields people of similar mindset and identity. 

The assessment will allow you to ask questions such as “why aren’t we getting applicants from neurodiverse people for senior roles?” “why are all of our out LGBTQ staff not getting promoted beyond middle management?” “how can we appeal to the broadest range of candidates with each vacancy we have?” 

  • Job Descriptions – it’s time to take a good hard look at the way that positions are communicated to potential candidates. Research has demonstrated that certain words in JDs may encourage/discourage folks of different identities from applying. The inclusion of a non-discrimination statement may encourage folks from underrepresented identities to apply. Including information about insurance coverage, employee networks, commitments to inclusive workspaces, and flexible/hybrid working also encourage people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds to become interested. The exclusion of these items will leave people asking themselves whether or not the job is for them. 

For instance, candidates who are part of the LGBTQ community would want to know upfront whether insurance policies extended to same-gender unmarried partners. Providing this information ahead of time would encourage members of this community to see themselves in that particular role; while omitting it (or not having same-gender partner benefits) would discourage this community. 

  • Diversifying networks for referral – If the same networks are utilised repeatedly when searching for candidates, the same candidate profile will keep showing up. Ask around to identify what kinds of new networks haven’t been tapped into. Many industries have outside organisations dedicated to supporting folks of underrepresented identities. Google is a good friend here! Search for “women in STEM organisation” “LGBTQ bankers network” “people with disabilities in Education” or whatever is relevant for your organisation. Many of these orgs have job boards on their websites and that is a great way to diversify the candidates that will apply. 

Simply relying on current employee networks and/or 1-2 major networks in the industry will not diversify the hiring pool. Think outside the box and post the job listing in as many locations as is feasible in order to get the greatest variety of applicants. 

Once a vacancy is open and accepting candidates:

  • Resume/CV vetting & review – Unconscious bias in the review process is an undeniable reality that needs to be addressed. Study after study in various industries has revealed that just seeing someone’s name will alter perceptions of their hirability, competence, and experience. Unsurprisingly, women, racial/ethnic minorities, and folks who mention being LGBTQ or having disabilities in their resumes/CVs are viewed less favourably than those who don’t. Shielding first reviewers from names (and possibly educational background- there is also bias towards institutions/former workplaces with name recognition) can reduce the chances of unconscious bias playing a role in vetting candidates. Bias can also be reduced if each resume is vetted by 2 folks or candidates are grouped in a variety of ways. 

For the greatest variety in an applicant pool, vetting should be done using a holistic rubric and approach. Simply creating a checklist for years of experience, educational level attained, and previous responsibilities again ensures that the pool will remain similar to staff that are already employed at the organisation. It’s important to consider broad categories as well as transferable skills. This doesn’t mean to interview every candidate, but there are many great candidates that are cut out due to rigid checklists and criteria that often cater to majority experiences. 

  • Interview questions & process – The interview process will tell candidates a lot about the kind of organisation they may be entering. Interview teams should meet prior to any interview. Standard questions (perhaps with some room for deviation towards the end of interview) are a must. I have been part of interview processes where each interview felt completely different; this makes it extremely difficult to compare candidates to one another. A good fusion could be having 30 minutes of standard questions and 30 minutes of candidate-specific questions. 

Questions should focus on the candidates’ skills and competencies, as well as getting to know who they are (within reason). It’s important to vet questions for anything that may feel non-inclusive or use non-inclusive language. For instance, asking candidates if they are married, have kids, want to have kids, have been divorced, etc should be strictly no-gos. This is not only intrusive to the candidate, but also can feel non-inclusive for LGBTQ folks; asking about children is often only asked towards women and can set the tone that the workplace is not parent-friendly. 

There are many ways to make interviews more inclusive and welcoming. One suggestion I will always give is to provide candidates questions in a written format. I’ve had interviews where I walked in the door and was given the list of questions. This allowed me to follow along, review the question if I didn’t hear it well or got confused, and pace myself with responses. It is also more inclusive for those who may have difficulties with hearing or are visual learners. Depending on the organisation, giving candidates options to have written questions in a different language may be relevant too. 

  • Interview panels – The makeup of an interview panel will impact the way that the candidate views the organisation. Walking into an interview and seeing people who all seem to have the same identity/background will make candidates feel less confident and it will be difficult for them to see themselves in the organisation. This doesn’t mean every panel needs to have every identity represented; but a variety of perspectives will also help ensure that unconscious bias isn’t creeping into decision making and treatment of the candidates. 

Panels made up of folks with similar background/ identities will respond more strongly to candidates that also share those identities. Including folks at various levels of the hierarchy, different genders, different backgrounds, and different communication styles will create situations in which the candidates will get a more well-rounded experience and be seen from various perspectives. Unconscious bias is also something that is easier to notice in others, so a mixed-identity/background panel will also be able to monitor itself for this. 

Post interview process: 

  • Decision-making panels – Similar to interview panels, decisions-makers should also represent a range of identities, roles, backgrounds, and experience levels. This again helps to ensure that decisions aren’t made based on a group with a very similar outlook or set of perspectives. When making a final decision, it can be helpful to review current staff demographics and make-up on that particular team. This can help identify gaps in identity, skill set, type of experience, or any other benefit that the new hire can bring to the team. In general, having multiple staff be part of final decision-making is a good idea- leaving it up to the full discretion of one person allows for bias, stereotypes, and personal connections to distort the process. 
  • Follow up – Inclusive and affirmative hiring can also include follow-up conversations, such as providing detailed and specific feedback to candidates who were not selected. For candidates who are selected, sharing immediately about the opportunities they will have in the organisation, such as same-sex partner benefits, access to employee networks, a mentoring program for women, parental leave packages, and whatever else the organisation offers can be a strong way to demonstrate the commitment to inclusion and help folks to feel connected to the organisation right away. 
  • Mindset – Throughout all the above ideas, keeping an open and inclusive mindset is key. Inclusion may feel difficult at first, because many folks are not used to thinking in this way- try not to be deterred! The benefits far outweigh the potential challenges. Remember that the intention is to find the candidates who intersect as highly qualified for the role and for whatever contributions they can further bring to the team. This additional contribution may be in the form of their identity, their unique skillset, experience in another industry, or any other number of things. 

To connect this back to my opening example, I felt that candidates 1 and 2 had further contributions in terms of being able to connect with a specific demographic of student that needed it. As there were already many other staff & faculty with candidate 3’s demographics, the need wasn’t as strong there. For me, that meant the additional push factor to higher them wasn’t present in the same way that it was for the first two candidates. 

To sum up, inclusive hiring doesn’t just happen. It needs to be thought about intentionally and thoroughly. There are many ways to ensure that JDs, resume vetting, interview processes and follow ups are done in ways that are affirming and welcoming to all candidates, regardless of identity. This will help to ensure that most wide-ranging candidate pool is included in searches, which will yield more diverse teams; this in turn will bring more creativity, experiences, and connection to the organisation as a whole and help it to thrive. 

What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

Rich Watts portrait

Written by Rich Watts

Rich Watts is a qualified teacher with over 10 years’ experience in the classroom, he has an MA in Education from the University of Winchester. He has worked in several roles in schools, including Head of Faculty. Rich left the classroom in 2018 to head up the British Army Supporting Education (BASE) Programme.

When you think of Remembrance Day, what comes to mind? Traditionally, we associate it with wearing red poppies and The Cenotaph. In actuality, it means different things to different people. 

So, for 2022 we have developed new, free resources that introduce students to the ways different groups commemorate Remembrance, highlighting diverse voices and experiences. The resources have been designed to encourage students to further explore the vital, unsung role of women as well as members of the LGBTQ+, Sikh and black communities.

The resources have been created for students aged 11-16 across all four nations. They present schools with a fresh and engaging approach to Remembrance Day. Students will learn what Remembrance is, why we come together to commemorate it and the diverse ways that we commemorate Remembrance. Individuals will also develop key skills and knowledge on the topics of similarities and differences.

This year’s resources have been designed to encourage students to think about the parades and memorials they will have seen – perhaps a theatre production too. Students will be encouraged to find out more about The Women of World War II Memorial. It remembers the seven million women who served, either in the armed forces or on the Home Front. And at the Imperial War Museum, visitors can see the Memorial to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities who lost their lives to conflicts in the name of Britain’s Empire and Commonwealth.

Students will be asked to think about the different varieties of poppies that are worn to mark Remembrance and their individual significance. Did you know that the Khadi poppy honours the contribution of Indian soldiers to Britain during World War I? And did you know that the purple poppy commemorates the animals that have been victims of war?

Students can further explore subjects touched upon in the Remembrance resources. They will learn about the remarkable contribution of diverse voices standing shoulder to shoulder with Army personnel past and present, including women and members of the black and LGBTQ+ communities. It also includes a Sikh Service pack produced in association with the Defense Network and historian, Gurinder Singh Mann. It allows students to understand the varied contributions of Sikh soldiers throughout the history of the British Army.

Julian James, a design technology teacher in Wales, said: “For too long, assemblies celebrating Remembrance Day have always followed the same outdated format. To mark this year’s poignant event, the British Army is providing schools with a fresh approach to presenting such important, historical information. Its resources feature music, thought-provoking images and stimulate questioning. The Army’s lesson resources are undoubtedly a new way of keeping the tradition of Remembrance Day going, while deepening students’ knowledge of its meaning and relevance to their lives.”

Teachers can download the Remembrance Day resources for free at:

Class Dismissed? The importance of the intersection of social class in educational research

Dane Morace-Court portrait

Written by Dane Morace-Court

Education Leader, Sociologist and PhD Candidate at the University of Chichester. Research explores the intersection of class, gender and ethnicity in the formation of identities. Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Teaching Academy. Member of the British Sociological Association.

Narratives around developing students’ Cultural capital is en vogue in contemporary education. Few educators, however, have had the opportunity to explore the term in its relation to social-class, education and, in particular, working-class underachievement in schools. 

The term cultural capital was coined by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, to describe the education levels, hobbies and interests of individuals within a particular social group and, in turn, how these experiences conflate to create a schema (or habitus) through which the individual interprets and navigates their social world. Cultural capital is, then, a conduit through which working-class underachievement in schools can be considered and explored. 

As a sociologist, and one who identifies as a ‘working-class academic,’ my research focuses on the construction of identities for white, working-class boys within the neoliberalised (secondary) education system. Accordingly, I often have the opportunity to share my work with a range of educational professionals, academics and researchers. In doing so, I can usually count on the following two questions being asked of me: ‘how do you define social class?’ and ‘what can I – a white, heterosexual male (with all of the obvious privilege that comes with this) – contribute to discussions on diversity in education?’ Both fair questions. 

Before I answer them, however, allow me to set out my stall with the following statement: any exploration into students’ experiences in education, be they based on ethnicity, gender, disability, religion or sexuality, must consider social-class as part of its framing. To dismiss social class (or any other characteristic that could impact on an individual’s perception-of-self) from discussions around equality and diversity is to argue for a homogenous experience of any and all members of a social group. Thus, social-class should, as Block & Corona (2014) note, be one of multiple intersecting factors considered when looking to understand the educational experience of any and all social groups. 

So how are we to define and contextualise social class? this complicated, mercurial term, which seems to paradoxically explain so much and nothing at all. Indeed, the history of academia is littered with researchers offering us definitions, models and paradigms through which to offer clarity to the term. Marx and Engels (1848) famously offer us examples based on ownership of economic production. Goldthorpe (1992), meanwhile, directs us towards a schema (unsurprisingly known as the Goldthorpe Schema) which asks us to consider social positions in relation to occupation. More recently, Savage (2015) fractures the issue further, arguing for a model of no less than seven different social classes. Meanwhile, some postmodern scholars, such as Beck (2004, cited in Atkinson, 2007, p.354), argue that class, as a concept, is no longer relevant (Beck famously described class as a ‘zombie characteristic… the idea lives on even though the reality to which it corresponds is dead.’)

It is, however, Bourdieu to whom we can once again turn, in order to offer us the critical lens through which to consider social-class in relation to educational experiences and achievement. For Bourdieu, class can be considered as the intersection of three different types of capital: economic (wealth and assets), cultural (education level, hobbies and interests) and social (who one interacts with socially and the advantages this may offer). When conceptualised in such a way, the notion of social-class becomes intrinsic in informing not only students’ educational experiences but also their opportunities for success. 

Because, of course, students are not operating within neutral classed territory. As Archer et al. (2010) argue, the education system values, above all else, a middle-class habitus, middle-class culture and middle-class aspirations. In doing so, many working-class students are operating within an education system in which they are not valued and their own culture is not reflected back at them. This, argues Archer et al. (ibid), is an act of symbolic violence. 

So, to our second question, what can I, as a white, heterosexual male offer in relation to discussions on diversity in education? The answer is simple, let us not dismiss social-class as a lens through which to consider the experiences of students. Let us consider students in all of their intersecting complexities and in doing so, offer classed-identities the same gravitas we offer to more prominent conversations around protected characteristics. It will be to the benefit of all stakeholders in education; teachers, leaders, researchers and, most importantly, the students we serve. 

Class dismissed? Not for me. 




Archer, L., Hollingworth, S. and Mendick, H. (2010). Urban Youth and Schooling. McGraw-Hill Education.

Atkinson, W. (2007) Beck, Individualization and the Death of Class: A Critique. British Journal of Sociology 58, 349–66.

Block, D. and Corona, V. (2014) Exploring class-based intersectionality. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 27(1), pp.27-42.

Goldthorpe, J.H. (1992). Individual or family? Results from two approaches to class assignment. Acta Sociologica, 35(2), pp.95-105.

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1848). The Communist Manifesto. Selected Works by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. New York: International Publishers.

Savage, M. (2015). Social class in the 21st century. Penguin UK.

Whistle-blowers are damn nuisances aren’t they?

Sonia Elmer-Soman portrait

Written by Sonia Elmer-Soman

Sonia Elmer-Soman has a background in both law and education. She is a qualified law lecturer and has many years’ experience working as a legal practitioner in two prestigious law firms in the City and now within a reputable law firm local to her home town in Essex. She is also a qualified primary school teacher and is a guest writer for professional journals.

– The Pitfalls of Whistleblowing in UK Schools

Official figures from the Standards and Testing Agency revealed that 793 maladministration investigations were carried out in 2018 – a rise of more than 50% in two years according to the Independent. 

Data compiled and analysed from the Teaching Regulation Agency, shows us that sexually motivated and other inappropriate conduct was the reason for a third of teaching bans between 2013 and 2018. 

The charity, Protect, say that between 2020 and 2022 they received the highest number of calls about wrongdoing in the education sector than any other profession. In the majority of cases concerns will have been raised by well- intentioned individuals or, as legislation has it, – Whistle-blowers.

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing occurs when an employee raises a concern about an alleged wrongdoing, including corrupt, illegal or unethical behaviours in a public or private sector organisation. The disclosure must be in the public interest and not for private gain. 

Emma Knights, the Chief Executive of the National Governance Association, writes ‘Arguably the need to speak out is important in the education sector, which deals with young and vulnerable people , people to whom there is an overriding duty of care’. 

What are the pitfalls faced by whistle-blowers?

In reality, many whistle-blowers say they face micro-aggressions, spurious claims of misconduct, gas-lighting and compromised or lost career opportunities.

Writing for Protect, Louise O’Neill explains how ‘gas-lighting’ involves the whistle-blower being told  ‘they have not quite understood the situation’, that what they witnessed is ‘part of a bigger picture’  and that it is they who have ‘failed to fit in’. 

O’Neill cites psychologist Doctor Jennifer Freyd (https/ when explaining the concept of ‘DARVO’ – Deny, Accuse, Reverse, Victim and Offender. So now the whistle-blower will hear comments as ‘You are intimidating and harassing me’ and ‘Your messages are harassing and hurtful to me’.

Discrimination following whistle-blowing does not end when the whistle-blower leaves the school gates. ‘Work and life intertwine in teaching’, ‘with threads running into and over other threads’.

Whistle-blowers may never have come across the term and it is not a particularly helpful one. They may not know that a school has a whistle-blowing policy and there are strict guidelines to follow. 

There is no legal aid available for whistle-blowers and legal advice can be expensive. Furthermore, what falls within the arena of a protected disclosure can be confusing.

The All Party Parliamentary Group believes that legislation is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. They are seeking a revised definition of whistle-blowing to include ‘any harmful violation of integrity and ethics’, even when not criminal or illegal. 


Without access to legal advice before, during and after whistle-blowing, it is likely that a whistle-blower will find themselves having to evidence concerns, mend reputational damage and deal with resulting treatment, causing them to mis-step in the process or face detriment even when they have followed due process.

For instance, a professional couple were forced out of their jobs from a school in the south of England for exposing ‘systematic exam malpractice’. Rianna Croxford. ‘Whistleblowers: We spoke out and lost our jobs’. (15th July 2019) BBC News. (

It is a failing in the system that claims of unfavourable treatment following whistleblowing are commonly dealt with under an internal grievance policy. This means that the organisation whom concerns have been raised against, is then in charge of determining the outcome. 

In one case, a SEN teacher lost her job when a panel found she had stood on a pupil’s foot while he screamed, pushed a pupil down when he tried to get up and shouted and screamed at children. However, the teaching assistant who raised concern was ostracised and ultimately dismissed from her position. 

Laura Fatah, Policy Officer of Protect writes “The problem of accessing justice when you’ve lost your job, have no lawyer, and are facing a strong armed employer is sadly all too familiar’. 

Croxford reports only 3% of the 1,369 employment tribunal cases brought in connection with test maladministration between 2017 and 2018 were successful according to Government figures. A report by the University of Greenwich found that when examining employment tribunal outcomes between 2015-2018, women who whistle-blow are less likely to be represented or succeed.

What are the challenges and benefits of whistle-blowing for leadership? 

School leaders perform a delicate balancing act in protecting all stakeholders including the rights of individual(s) whom claims are made against. 

Dealing with concerns effectively can demonstrate an appetite for improvement, minimise the risk of more serious breaches, enhance structural practices, increase productivity, retain vital skills and encourage the best applicants. 

Failing to listen and investigate concerns can result in reputational damage and time lost in defending claims and resulting legal proceedings.

Perhaps the worst injustice, however, is to the very people to whom there is an overriding duty of care and for whom the vast majority of staff work tirelessly to educate and safeguard – the children. Every child Matters. Every school day matters. Every year group matters.

Let’s Fix It.

Protect is seeking to reform the law so that whistle-blowers have access to greater legal support and guidance, while Baroness Kramer’s Bill introducing an Office of the Whistle-blower is working its way through the House of Lords. Schools which are geared up to deal with concerns effectively, will already be ahead of the curve whatever future changes in law and practice may follow.

How can leadership teams engage effectively with whistle-blowers?

  1. Look and interpret facts and patterns. Have concerns been raised before?
  2. Containing a situation is not the same as dealing with it. 
  3. Do not make the whistle-blower do your job. Whistle-blowers are witnesses/messengers, not investigators.
  4. Maintain confidentiality
  5. Avoid impromptu, unrepresented meetings. 
  6. Avoid polarising individuals, as this serves only to distract from the original concern.
  7. Create a safe environment in which stakeholders can voluntarily disclose mistakes/breaches.
  8. Roll out training on your School’s whistle-blowing policy.
  9. Embed a culture of honesty. 
  10. Imagine potential harm if an individual turned the other cheek to something they knew to be wrong, because they have seen how a previous whistle-blower was treated.
  11. Consider whether it is appropriate to have staff and Governors as eg, Facebook “Friends”, who have access to and are commenting on every aspect of your personal life. 
  12. Look around your School. Who sits on your leadership team and at the table of the Board of Governors? Is diversity reflected anywhere? Lack of such can lead to conformity of thought and exclusion in dealing with concerns.

What can whistle-blowers do to mitigate loss?

  1. Consult with a Solicitor, the CAB, ACAS or speak with Protect or WhistleblowerUK before you raise the concern and harness that support going forward.
  2. Read the whistle-blowing policy before raising a concern.
  3. Be clear what and why you are raising a concern.
  4. Ensure meetings are scheduled, recorded and you are represented. 
  5. Be realistic. Potentially harmful cultures are rarely remedied by one person/small group particularly if lower down in the hierarchy.
  6. Avoid Colluding with other colleagues/witnesses. Others may speak up or they may not. Be prepared to go it alone.
  7. Be patient. Potentially harmful cultures will take time to unpick if found to be present.
  8. Do not sign any document (eg, NDA) without getting legal advice.
  9. Check in with your mental wellbeing. The institution will stand long after you have gone. If there isn’t the vision for change, you alone are not responsible for it.

‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’ (C.S. Lewis)

Against the backdrop of a system that is largely autonomous and results driven, structures and procedures can become ethical quagmires and a perfect storm for conflict. 

Protect asks us to hold each-other to account courageously. Indeed, there is a moral imperative to do so.

‘School leaders can find themselves in uncomfortable positions’, but by working together ‘the best leaders will use the experience as a catalyst for change’. 

My Experience as an Neurodivergent Student Teacher

Catrina Lowri portrait

Written by Catrina Lowri

Catrina Lowri is the founder of Neuroteachers and a neurodivergent teacher, trainer, and coach. As well as having 22 years’ experience of working in education, she also speaks as a dyslexic and bipolar woman, who had her own unique journey through the education system.

I hid my Neurodiversity in my professional life for many years, and here is why.

Student days

When I first started teaching, back in the 90’s, I had never met another neurodivergent teacher. I declared my dyslexia on my PGCE. The course tutor had no idea what to do with the information and told me, if I wanted to learn about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), I needed to take extra courses. Our only training on SEND was half a day of project work where we produced materials to support different ‘needs’, then shared them amongst ourselves.

As I thought this was inadequate, I offered to give a half hour talk about my dyslexia.

Attendance was voluntary.

Only half the cohort turned up.

Afterwards, another student commented that “Dyslexia is a class issue. If you are working class, you are thick’ and then he pointed at me “But if you are middle class you’re ‘dyslexic’”. He made air quotes and rolled his eyes. Not the reception I’d been hoping for. After that, I stayed quiet about my dyslexia.

My first Manic Episode

I had a serious  car crash at the start of my third teaching practice. My car flipped and rolled onto its side. My passenger, and I had to escape through the sunroof. Luckily, I was driving a second-hand Volvo. Both of us escaped without a scratch.

No harm done. Or so I thought.

I stood on the pavement, watching emergency services deal with the debris and seeing to the driver, whose car hit me, (and  escaped with only cuts and bruises). I had an overwhelming feeling that I must be special to survive such a terrible accident.

I remember telling the paramedic that I was fine and 

“Didn’t even skag my tights!’, and then giggling hysterically.

I started to stay up late, writing down my brilliant ideas.  I wasn’t sleeping and was hallucinating. Although I was still going into my placement school, my lessons went on tangents, and I swung between excitement and irritation.  I was sent home until I’d seen a doctor, but they put me on the wrong medication.  

As a quick caveat, I am not anti-medication. Medicine can save lives, but I was given SSRI’s (selective, serotonin, reuptake inhibitors) without a full assessment. My doctor didn’t know that I was bipolar. I had no diagnosis. SSRIs can trigger manic episodes in some people, and that is what happened to me.

Surviving the accident ‘proved’ to my manic brain, I was impervious to metal. I stopped looking when I crossed the road and started taking other risks.  One day, I nearly got hit by a car. Fortunately, my erratic behaviour was witnessed by a medical receptionist on her way back to work. She persuaded me to speak to a doctor, who assessed my need as acute and found me a bed in a secure ward.

I was in hospital for 2 weeks, then a day patient for a further 6.

I had to re-sit my final teaching practice.


I started masking whilst re-sitting teaching practice (TP) at a lovely inner city secondary school in the North of England. I did much better because I was no longer manic. I also moved to a tiny house on the edge of the moors, and lived alone, far from distractions. This had two advantages; I couldn’t afford to go out, and I had no one to go out with, so I worked and slept.

Occasionally my ND  got exposed; I’d make spelling mistakes, or misunderstood what my mentor wanted because of my auditory processing difference.  Generally, no one noticed. I kept my bipolar at bay by going to bed early, then getting into school at the same time as the caretaker, so I could have some headspace. Then my tutor came in to observe me.

“You seem so different to the last time I observed you – what happened?”

I had lied to him. I told him the reason I went to hospital was due to physical injury caused by the crash and that I missed some of my  TP because I was ‘a bit anxious’.

I didn’t tell him about the suicidal ideation or being impervious to metal. I felt like if I said this, he would say I shouldn’t work with children.  I love my work, so I stayed quiet

I passed the course.

I’m not proud of lying, but I did what so many ND people do to get through life. We mask. Because we will have to, until the world changes to accommodate us.

What it really feels like to lead Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

Zahara is founder and editor of the blog and podcast, School Should Be, a platform that explores a range of topics helping students, teachers and parents on how to ‘adult well’, together. She is a DEI lead across 2 secondary schools and advises schools on how to create positive and progressive cultures for staff and students. Zahara is a previous Head of English, Associate Senior Leader and Education and Wellbeing Consultant.

When I was given a DEI Lead role, I genuinely jumped with joy. It’s my dream job and dream career long term. I’ve delivered workshops, I’ve written, blogged and podcasted more and more about the work I do and I’ve been approached by several people looking to do similar for their organisations. Then I hit a very long ‘DEI-esque’ break: maternity leave. The time has forced me to reflect, feel and be still in many ways about my work. Now that I return as Head of Whole School DEI and Wellbeing, here is a short account of what it really feels like to lead DEI for an organisation and a few tips for DEI and School Leaders looking to create and support this role in their organisations. 

It’s overwhelming and underestimated

DEI is everyone’s responsibility because it affects everyone – quite literally. Yet, it’s only recently become a ‘buzz word’ or perhaps only recently has it been given the accolade it deserves; it cannot be ignored. The rise (gift) of wokeism and a Gen Z workforce means it has to matter more.

Needless to say, for many people in the workplace (older millennials like myself, Gen X, baby boomers…) DEI is overwhelming because we are being forced to unlearn or reconfigure what we’ve normalised and learned not just professionally, but personally through our own lived experiences; our personal truths, if you will.

In most cases in the workplace, DEI learning has to happen in a very small window of time, sometimes your own time and at double speed. With post-Covid, work-life imbalance and Adam Grant’s perfect explanation of languishing that many of us are experiencing, it’s safe to say, (un/re)learning about DEI may not be high on anyone’s agenda.

That’s hard work. It’s overwhelming for a DEI Lead who has the responsibility to navigate this change for an entire organisation. At best, they’ll get it onto your radar, at worst, the organisation will be accused of tokenism. 

As a DEI lead in education, I purposefully and actively use the words ‘organisation’ and ‘workplace’ because often, people mistake schools for being anything but. Working across a few sectors has taught me schools have very similar ‘issues’ to any other workplace – albeit they’re not really profit making, they don’t benefit from increasing budgets, they’re constantly at the forefront (or receiving end) of any social change or adversity, and they don’t (in many cases) have specialised, on site HR (Trusts, the independent sector, FE all have similar needs and issues). You might say, it makes the work in education more complex and dare I say it, requiring more skill.

Doing this work solo in the first instance, with it still being regarded as ‘new’ (although I’m getting tired of this excuse now) can be justified, but is a big job. But let me caveat this: DEI is a strategic and leadership responsibility which needs its own entire infrastructure. Equally, that does not mean an existing assistant head, deputy or ‘lead’ in schools capacity (desire, interest, or expertise) to do it.

DEI is specialised work, which needs time, strategising, an infrastructure, money, respect and skill – it should be at the heart of your people strategy and at the centre of your safeguarding strategy. It cannot be an add on – it just doesn’t work. 

You will always be wired and triggered 

Glennon Doyle quite perfectly explains to go where you are triggered in her wonderful book, Untamed. The exact quotation is plastered all over my workplace to remind me of my purpose and ‘why’. Working in DEI is so rewarding – there is nothing more purposeful than making people feel seen, heard, important and real. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing people flourish. Equally, it is so uncomfortable and hard. Really hard. There is nothing more painful than seeing people struggle mentally, physically and emotionally just because of who they are. This takes its toll.

You constantly worry about missing important dates; you want to include everyone and fear missing out on anyone from your DEI strategy; you are at the receiving end of nearly every ‘people’ problem and issue the organisation may encounter. You have an overwhelming sense of guilt and responsibility all at the same time.

The paradox is that the ‘work’ should and almost needs to happen overnight, yet it is not an overnight process. 

Intersectionality becomes how you read, translate and respond to EVERYTHING. uncomfortable conversations are your comfortable conversations. A safe space is always vulnerable. And, beyond all of this, you are strategising, leading, managing, and implementing valuable policies and practices to make life so much better for everyone around you.

Whilst navigating Organisational DEI, how do you navigate yourself?
This is something I had to learn fast.
  • Strategy and a timeline are key to keep you grounded, on track and suppress the overwhelm. You cannot do it overnight, no matter how urgent and pressing the work is. The top level work takes time and your Headteacher/Leader should give you time to listen, understand and identify key priorities, culture needs, opportunities and more to put a strategy in place. DEI cannot be checked off in a 1 hour CPD session, or even 3 hours of CPD. It cannot be addressed in a few lessons. It is a range of themes, a culture, a mindset and curriculum that needs to be integrated into your whole school and organisation strategy. Rest assured that the work is never done, it just gets better and better.
  • You cannot do it alone. Sometimes, schools and teachers (myself included) adopt a martyrdom approach – one person manages and does it all. They become the DEI ‘expert’. They become the go to for ‘everything DEI’ whether that be strategy, staff training, student activities, DEI in the curriculum, operations and more. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, stress, loneliness, workplace conflict, more stress and most importantly, limited impact. DEI can and should be the responsibility of many. There are several strands, areas and several skills that are needed to successfully implement DEI. Once you, as Head of DEI, have created your strategy and proposed the resources needed, reach out to relevant stakeholders; reach out for expertise and give the work the importance and infrastructure it needs.
  • Set your boundaries and know ‘your people.’ Leading DEI is a privilege. It is transformative for organisational culture at every level. There is so much to do and you will be pulled, pushed, challenged and propelled in every direction. In many ways this is exciting. In some ways, it can take over your life. Set your boundaries and always come back to the organisation’s vision and your strategy. This will help you set boundaries, manage expectations and make an impact.

Those who lead or specifically work in DEI are good people. They are intensely empathetic, compassionate, intuitive, just, human, brave and vulnerable (I’m biased, I know!). Identify your inner circle, the people you can trust, offload to, seek advice and guidance from. These people will fast become friends, your professional safe space.

Accept that you won’t get ‘DEI right’ first time and you’ll make mistakes, need correcting and need to keep learning constantly. This is a huge, transformative opportunity for you and your organisation – positively embrace it, no matter how scary it may seem.

In conclusion…

Would I change anything about being head of DEI? Absolutely not. I love my work. So much. It is meaningful, testing, and challenging, and I adore every impact it has. And, what do I love most? It’s about steady, meaningful change. It encourages people to confidently speak their truth(s), belong, be seen and be heard. It’s about kindness and respecting difference. It brings out the best in people – and as cheesy as it sounds, that’s the core of what we need for sustainable workplaces, better education and ultimately, good people.

For more support in leading DEI at your school or organisation feel free to get in touch and I highly recommend and for your DEI training and development needs too.