Guidance for Navigating the DEIJ Journey

Doline Ndorimana portrait

Written by Doline Ndorimana

Doline Ndorimana is a passionate educator dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) and advocating student voice and agency. She is a DEIJ Workshop Leader, Middle Years Program Language Consultant, an Accreditation Evaluator for the Council of International Schools, and a member of the TIE editorial team.

I love my job as an educator and I love spending time with kids, especially teenagers. I believe each child should feel a sense of belonging at school, that is why I champion the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). However, it is not only for our students but also for our colleagues. If our colleagues don’t feel that they belong, they will not be able to serve our students well. This is what makes the job of a DEIJ leader in schools important and challenging at the same time. Experience over time has changed the way I see and do this work. Through frustrations, disappointments, failures, and good wins as well, I’ve grown to see DEIJ work as a complicated marriage worth fighting for. On the one hand, it’s conflict work and on the other hand, it’s relational work.

To deal with conflicts, we have to maintain an open dialogue where the goal is not proving that we are right but making things right. To maintain a good relationship, we have to constantly work on it. It’s not linear, but cyclical, and just because we have already dealt with an issue, does not mean that we will not deal with it anymore or re-adjust our expectations as we grow and change. It also means that, oftentimes, we will take one step forward and three steps back. Consequently, as DEIJ practitioners, we constantly negotiate and regulate expectations, norms, and practices, which can take a toll on us and affect us negatively if we are not careful. I’ve thought about a few guidelines that can help us maintain our sense of self and wellbeing so that we can continue to do this important, complex, and rewarding work.

Guide One: Get To Know Yourself as Much as Possible

It can be difficult to get to know yourself, especially when people are constantly evolving; but in this context, it’s an important task to undertake in order to effectively extend your thinking and make you a better version of yourself. Without personal introspection and understanding, unprocessed emotions and insecurities can interfere with your growth. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people think, wanting or even needing other’s approval and validation. But these external affirmations can put too much emphasis on the ego and without regular praise, you may begin to question your values and self-worth. Good, constructive feedback from knowledgeable and experienced people can be beneficial to your personal growth. However, if you don’t have a strong sense of self, rather than truly listening to and learning from this feedback, you may get caught up in hurt feelings, pushing back, or even trying to prove you’re right or justify your position.

When you are getting closer to knowing who you are, you will understand that serving the cause is more important than belonging to the cause. When the importance of belonging to a cause outweighs the importance of the cause, you are more focused on finding and creating opportunities that validate your choice of doing this work and belonging to the cause rather than truly serving the cause. In other words, you spend more time trying to show and prove to people that you’re right. Your focus then becomes things that are out of your control and that leads to burnout. But if the focus is on serving the cause, and in the case of DEIJ work, creating a culture of belonging and inclusion for all, then the focus is not on an individual’s vision. The cause is much bigger than that. You’re learning to know who you are and who you are becoming, and you don’t need to prove that to anyone. What actually matters is looking at how we can fix the problems we face. How do we get to a resolution? How do we find common grounds so we can all be part of the solution? 

Guide Two: “The First Step to Engagement is Disengagement” (Simon Sinek)

As DEIJ leaders, we often face difficult conversations with our colleagues, particularly those who are resisting change, and sometimes this leads to insensitive comments that can trigger strong emotions. Here we have a choice. We can either act on those emotions and be confrontational with our colleagues and ultimately lose them, or we can stop, take a step back, listen, sit with our own emotions, and get curious. Why am I feeling this way? What is it that was said that got me this upset? What are my emotions telling me? Acknowledge and unpack these emotions. Once you know what’s going on, you can deal with them and then move on. Whether it takes 30 minutes or two days, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we work through this process, otherwise these unprocessed emotions become a distraction to our goals. Once our emotions are processed, we can then shift our attention to our goal and ask ourselves, what do I want from this conversation? Why did I go to speak to them in the first place? It’s only then that we can disengage ourselves and listen from our colleague’s frame of reference and not our own because the highest purpose here is progress or resolution. This is when we say to our colleague that “in the interest of building a safe place for everyone at work, I would love to have your thoughts. I want your input because I want you to be part of the solution. We need everyone, including you. Help me understand!”

Guide Three: Know Your School Community 

As we get into these roles and settle in, it’s good to communicate and exchange with other DEIJ leaders from other schools to learn from each other, but we need to remember that our schools are different. Comparing and contrasting schools and wanting to do the same thing as another school did can be detrimental to our work. The process is too slow and we’re not making progress. I need to push and challenge more, just like it was done at X school.” These are some of the thoughts I’ve had before. But X school’s DEIJ journey, as well as its environment, might be different from your school. If we think of DEIJ work as a complicated marriage that’s worth fighting for, then working on your marriage using someone else’s marriage toolkit might not work. You need to find your own toolkit and that requires spending time trying different tools until you figure out which ones work for you in your context. In order to find the right tools, it is important to get to know our own individual school cultures and members. Hearing and learning from other DEIJ leaders are important as long as we remember that our situations are different.

In their book School Culture Rewired, Gruenert and Whitaker offer a list of things that convey a school culture. They suggest we look at “the social glues that hold people together, the way things are done, deeply embedded beliefs and assumptions, the pattern behavior that distinguish us from them as well as a set of behaviors that seem strange to new employees” (2014). These things will indicate what ought to be celebrated, ignored, and ultimately what to anticipate. Spending time learning about our school communities will best prepare us for our roles as it will give us the knowledge we need to make a strategic plan with actions specifically designed for our schools and communities. But this can only be effective if done, planned, and mapped in conjunction with heads of school and senior leadership where questions, apprehensions, and negotiations will inform our work ahead, which brings me to the next point.

Guide Four: Have a Shared Vision and Values

It is important that DEIJ leaders and senior leadership have a shared understanding of the job responsibilities and challenges. It is essential to sit down with senior leadership and decide on shared values and a vision of what DEIJ work will look like and how it will show up in the community. Without shared values and a shared vision, it is easy for cliques to be created. It might seem to some that only a certain group does the work and others are viewed as “not willing” to do the work. This creates division and ultimately slows down the process and progress. Remember that our job is to bring people together and avoid the “us versus them” mentality. Moreover, without shared values and a shared vision, we end up being the only ones trying to make the marriage work, which never works.

Discuss what you want to see in your institution with senior leadership before going out on the field. For example, if one of your core values is to “embrace and respect the uniqueness of each individual of our community,” discuss what that means practically and how this shows up every day. Does that mean that we encourage everyone to live their authentic selves and show up as their true selves? Great! Do we have structures and systems put in place for people to be their true selves however they define it? This is important because we cannot ask people to be their true selves if the environment itself is not ready for people to see and support them. For example, if we have a teacher who shows up and asks everyone including colleagues, students, and parents to address them as “them” and “Teacher Smith” or “Mx Smith” because they are non-binary, are we going to be supportive? Will we as an institution be able to stand up to parents and other shareholders who express discontentment and say, “This is who we are and aspire to be. We are an inclusive school, and we embrace and respect the uniqueness of each individual of our community. We believe it is good for our students to be exposed to a great diversity of people and perspectives.” Can we as an institution do this, knowing that we might lose enrollments and the board might get involved. Does the board share our vision and values? This is only one example of the kinds of courageous discussions that we need to have before we tell people that they can be their true selves. If our answers to the questions above are no’s, see that as a first step in the right direction. We have had these important discussions and realized that we have work to do as an institution, and that is fine. What is not fine nor fair is to expect the DEIJ leader to fix an institutional challenge by themselves. Instead, a collective effort spread throughout the different parts of the organization led by both the DEIJ leader and senior leadership is required, so our school can live up to its vision and values. 

This is a hard task to do. It is not only a step but an ongoing process, a strategic plan that represents mid-to-long term goals. It is both the foundation and frame of our DEIJ work. In other words, it is what will make or break our continuous efforts for making our schools a safe and inclusive place for all.

Guide Five: Explore Emotions

DEIJ work is both conflict and relational work and as such, emotions have a great role to play. When dealing with implicit biases, it can feel as if our identities are challenged and being confronted with the idea that we have either contributed directly or indirectly to systems that have harmed and left many people behind can be hard to take. Much harder is when, as educators, we come to realize that there is a chance that some of our students that we deeply care about were left behind due to our own implicit biases. In this case, grief, remorse, shame, and anger are only a few emotions that can be experienced. As DEIJ leaders, it is important that we recognize and understand this.

Susan David, in her book Emotional Agility, explains the importance of facing emotions with acceptance and generosity. If we want everyone to be part of the solution, it is important to give time to people to feel and validate their feelings because “when we don’t attend to emotions, they metastasize and they grow and when they grow, they can take over.” Consequently, we arm ourselves even more, and this can mean that we disengage completely and don’t do the work because it is very hard and painful to deal with our own emotions (David, 2016). Let’s say that we see a micro-aggression behavior. We should respond to that and speak to the person in private. I personally believe that a private conversation is always more effective than a public one (although debatable, depending on the act itself). As we’re having these conversations, we need to keep in mind that the purpose is not to shame the person, but to make space for a discussion on implicit biases and its impact on our students and staff. If the conversations become emotionally charged, it’s okay to give people space to feel and let them know that you understand. You can say something like, “I can see you’re upset. It’s hard.  Yes, I know! And what I just said might feel like who you are is being challenged and that’s okay. I understand that this was never your intention. In some cases, like these, we need to move away from intention and focus more on the impact. Doing this work means that we’re just not going to feel good at times and that’s okay because it is through discomfort that we grow. We need everyone, including you, to make this school a place where everyone can belong. I am therefore asking you, as hard as it is, to fight the discomfort and not me.” You can even invite your colleague to circle back within the next few days and revisit this conversation. The point here is to keep people in the conversation and make them aware that it takes all of us to make it happen and that feeling the emotions we feel is part of the process for us to grow. As DEIJ leaders, coaching is part of our job as well.

Senior leadership needs to be in agreement on this practice because one thing that could ruin our efforts is that after this conversation, our colleague turns to leadership who then discredits the work done before. Which, on the one hand, takes away the opportunity for that person to lean into discomfort and to learn and grow. And on the other hand, perpetuates and safeguards exclusionary practices in our institution. This goes back to Guide Four. It is important to understand that by trying to reduce or avoid people’s discomfort, it can reinforce inequities.

The importance of knowing who you are and disengaging so that you can engage are even more important here because, as DEIJ leaders, we have to “be the bigger person.” Being a bigger person does not mean that we do not have boundaries. On the contrary, being a bigger person means that we understand that our mission is bigger than ourselves and that the highest purpose is improvement, not being right. It means that sometimes “we are way-seeking rather than truth seeking,” so when we have conversations with our colleagues, “we can instead look to tell, with them, the stories of their best future selves” (Alchin, 2022).

Guide Six:  Make Parents Your Partners

Every parent wants what’s best for their child and, of course, they are willing to stand up for that belief. We, educators, may not always agree with what parents are fighting for or against but, ultimately, we have the same goal. We all want to develop well educated, thriving students. Oftentimes, we label parents as difficult, entitled, bigots, etc. when they push back against DEIJ work. But, what if instead of labeling them, we include them more in our conversations and initiatives? There’s a good chance that parents are afraid of a new initiative simply because they are misinformed, afraid, or have assumptions that might be wrong. It is up to us to reassure them and give them space to ask questions and hopefully relieve their fears. For example, if as a school we think it is important for our students to learn more about LGBTQ+ education, it might be a good idea to invite parents and share our plans with them. They might think that we are forcing on their children a certain set of values that is not ours to teach, but this will be our opportunity to set the record straight, discover their fears and apprehensions, and figure out together as partners how to deal with it while keeping in mind that we are preparing our students to become empathetic global citizens and that in our community each child should be treated with dignity and respect by everyone regardless of their backgrounds and identities.

If as a school, we believe in multilingualism and the importance of using translanguaging in our classes, teachers whose native language is not English are a great asset. Having parents’ meetings and informing them of our plans might remove the assumptions of some who believe their child won’t master English if they are not only taught by native speakers of English. Instead, we offer them another perspective informed by research and give them the opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns. This way, we can potentially change the narrative, inform parents, and hopefully bridge the gap between what parents think DEIJ work is and what we, as a school, believe it is.

Informing parents of any major new initiative will create important dialogues, get them involved, and inform us of what to anticipate and where the roadblocks are. More importantly, this will foster a relationship that can only be beneficial to making our schools more inclusive.

Guide Seven: Find Your People

Having a support system is very important as the work is extremely demanding and can take a toll on you. It is, therefore, important to be surrounded with uplifting, diverse, critical, honest, loving, and fun people to accompany you on this journey. You will need these people to swear, offload, to laugh, and feel loved; to hear that you’re doing the right thing and that they’re proud of you; to hear when you’re wrong but also to hear, “Here’s another perspective.”

These guides help me navigate the world of DEIJ, a world that I am passionate about and continue to learn from. However, this is only my perspective, and I am forever open to other perspectives.



Alchin, N (2022). Authenticity – what’s really going on? Retrieved from

David, S. (2016). Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. New York: Avery/Penguin Random House.

Gruenert, S., & Whitaker, T. (2015). School culture rewired: how to define, assess, and transform it. Alexandria, Virginia USA, ASCD.

Also Inspired by the work of Simon Sinek, TD. Jakes, Brene Brown, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, Emmanuel Acho, Adam Grant, Anne Laure Buffet, and the amazing support from my People wherever you are in the world. My TIE editorial family and the many many conversations I’ve had with educators, students, parents, heads of school, support staff, and more. Thank you!

My Journey as a Part-time Senior Leader

Harroop Sandhu portrait

Written by Harroop Sandhu

Harroop Sandhu is a senior school leader and professional coach, with 17 years of experience driving successful strategies and improving outcomes in various educational areas. Most recently she has led her school to successfully achieve the Send Inclusion Award, as well as spear-heading the organisation's DEI strategy. Her approach is to ensure that DEI work is integrated within the strategic aims of the organisation leveraging existing leadership tools.

Three years ago, the notion of transitioning to part-time work was nowhere on my horizon.

Life took an unexpected turn when one of my children fell ill, prompting a pause on my career to refocus on what matters the most. Amid navigating my child’s health needs, I found myself in survival mode. Emerging from this challenging period, I returned to part-time work after a two-month gap, encountering initial hurdles. However, as I gradually found my rhythm, an unforeseen preference for this new way of working emerged.

Within this experience, I’ve uncovered valuable insights.

Myth #1: Working Part-Time Means Less Effectiveness.

Contrary to common belief, working part-time doesn’t hinder efficiency; it can actually enhance it. The gift of more reflective time has nurtured my creativity and innovation.

Success in this arrangement hinges on disciplined time management; I remind myself I’m paid for three days of work, not squeezing five into three.

Liberating myself from guilt and the need to prove myself has been a pivotal realisation.


  • Effective time allocation is key.
  • Balancing work, family, commitments, and especially self-care all demand careful planning and allocation. Don’t put yourself last or squeeze it in.
  • Silencing self-criticism about perceived weaknesses is part of the journey toward self-compassion.

Myth #2: Part-Time Work Signals Lack of Ambition.

Embracing part-time work has deepened my commitment to personal growth.

While some argue full-time dedication accelerates progress, I’ve found fulfilment in having the mental space for development and time to pursue other interests, aligned with my sense of purpose. I have found that I have more time for coaching and other professional development, which in turn benefits my employer and as well as myself. 

This flexibility has also inspired others, resulting in increased requests for flexible arrangements—an indicator of impactful leadership.


  • Celebrate your achievements and acknowledge your aspirations.
  • When you silence doubts, your strength and dreams amplify.
  • Before constraining yourself, seek input from others to broaden your perspective.

Myth #3: Missing out on Connection and Opportunities.

Initially, the challenge of navigating communication arose from a fear of missing out due to absence. However, I’ve learned that communication quality outweighs quantity.

Utilising strategies like follow-up emails and regular check-ins helps maintain involvement.

Open conversations marked by transparency with superiors foster mutual understanding.

Addressing unique experiences benefits not only you but also those around you.


  • Express your needs openly with your line manager.
  • Ensure your scheduled time with your line manager remains intact and isn’t cancelled.
  • Propose suggestions and solutions, but don’t shoulder the burden alone.

Myth #4: Flexibility Equates to Unreliability.

Unreliability often arises from overcommitment or lack of planning. Overcoming guilt and the desire to overcompensate, by embracing strategic time management and open communication was enlightening. Prioritisation, clear communication, and collaborative solutions with my line manager helped navigate this. As well as, balancing tasks and seeking help as needed cultivating a win-win situation.


  • Consider what you might need to say no to when saying yes to additional tasks.
  • Involve your line manager in this process. It could involve acquiring more resources, creating space, or delegating tasks.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek compensation for work beyond your designated hours.
  • Effective leaders recognise their boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no.

I believe that Flexible working is a solution for not only working parents, but for people that are looking to explore personal growth or navigate other areas of life outside of their work. This autonomy can lead to greater job satisfaction and happier employees who are likely to be more creative, innovative and productive. 

A-Z Mental Health in Education

Nicola Harvey portrait

Written by Nicola Harvey

Nicola Harvey is the founder of Harvey Heals Wellbeing Consultancy. She is a trauma-informed Senior Education & Wellbeing Consultant, Clinical Reflective Practice Supervisor, Trainer & Facilitator, and Published Author. Nicola has worked in a range of settings, supporting educators, young people, parents and professionals, and is passionate about diversity and inclusive practice. To find out more about Nicola and her organisation, go to:

After a well-deserved summer break, students and educators have returned to the classroom. And as we settle back into school routines, there continues to be a focus on mental health and wellbeing.

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis, social disparities, lockdowns, academic performance, and many other factors, continue to take a strain on the wellbeing of students and staff.

According to the Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report, the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50%, and happiness continues to decline. Now, five children in a classroom of 30 are likely to have a mental health problem. However, despite the statistics, it is becoming harder to access support for children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

In addition, Education Support’s 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index, states 78% of all staff surveyed experienced mental health symptoms due to their work in education. Often related to stress, depression and anxiety, this contributes to the decline in school staff wellbeing.

However, when mental health and wellbeing is at the forefront of a whole school ethos, it can help members of the school community feel valued, psychologically safe, and supported in their surroundings. This is why easily accessible tools and resources promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, need to be available.

To help improve mental health and wellbeing in education, I was invited to produce the content for the A-Z of Mental Health poster on behalf of Optimus Education.

With an inclusive approach, the A to Z of activities outline practical and supportive self-regulation tools for children, young people and adults. I have broken each activity down into small, manageable chunks, tips and advice, to help students and educators feel less overwhelmed, and more equipped to cope with the ups and downs school life. With a mindfulness-based focus, the activities on the poster include:

  • asking for help
  • developing healthy habits
  • improving mood
  • increasing self-esteem.

I am delighted with the response, which has been well received by schools, parents, therapists, and a range of professionals across the UK and abroad. 

The A-Z of Mental Health poster can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • A calming visual for an anxious student. Ask the student to choose an activity on the poster to help them self-regulate and gradually feel calm.
  • During PSHE, as a whole class starter activity. Each week, progress through one or two activities (letters of the alphabet) for the lesson.
  • In staff meetings or INSETs – choosing an activity from the poster for educators to do as an icebreaker at the beginning of the meeting or to close the session.
  • As a visual guide, prompting students to create their own personalised A-Z posters with helpful activities to support their wellbeing.

Most importantly, as we settle back into school routines after the summer break, the A-Z of Mental Health poster encourages anyone experiencing a range of emotions, to take a break and use the practical mindfulness-based tools to support their wellbeing. 

To download your free copy of the poster, click here.

Turn Up, Speak Up and Speak Out

Frances Akinde portrait

Written by Frances Akinde

Frances Akinde is: a SEND Adviser & Inspector; an AT trainer; an Art Advocate; an Anti-racist schools coach and a ND Champion. She is a former advisory teacher (SEND/SLCN) and Secondary Special Headteacher (Autism). She holds certifications including NPQH, MAEd, NASENco.

During the last weekend of May 2023, I attended the TUC Black Workers conference on behalf of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers).

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) is a federation of UK trade unions representing around 5.5 million workers from 48 unions across industries, all committed to collective action. One of the main requirements of affiliation is that-

‘An organisation has a clear commitment to promote equality for all and to eliminate all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination, both within its own structures and through all its activities, including its own employment practices.

TUC rules and standing orders | TUC, last updated June 22.

The NAHT joined the TUC in October 2014 under Russell Hobby, who was general secretary at the time. The other education unions that are members of the TUC are the NEU, NASUWT and the NSEAD (a specialist trade union for art, craft & design educators, which I am also a member of), the Scottish union EIS and Welsh union, UCAC amongst others. Out of the four biggest teaching unions, only ASCL is not a member of the TUC. 

The TUC holds a number of annual conferences that supplement the general work of the congress. The Black Workers Conference, in particular, focuses on issues and concerns affecting Black workers in the UK. In this context, Black is used as a political term to describe all workers of colour. The conference is used as a platform for Black workers and their trade union representatives to discuss and address issues around racial discrimination, inequality and barriers to employment. It is also a good chance to network and share experiences.

As a member of the NAHT Leaders for Race Equality network, I saw attending the conference as a chance to learn from the TUC’s anti-racist efforts and how this is being applied in the NAHT and other education unions. 

In October 2022, The TUC released a report, ‘Going forward: An action plan to build an anti-racist trade union movement’. It states that ‘For our unions to thrive, recruiting Black members and addressing racism at work has to be at the core of our work. This will grow our movement, make it diverse and truly representative of the working class of modern-day Britain.’

From Action plan to build an anti-racism trade union movement | TUC

This Black Workers conference was the first since the action plan was launched. Various motions were presented to build on this commitment, including ones from the NEU and NASUWT.

One of NASUWT’s motions focused on tackling Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate in all forms within our education system. This is part of their ‘Big Conversation on Racial Justice’ campaign, which was launched in 2021. 

NASUWT | Big Conversation on Racial Justice

One of NEU’s motions focused on tackling institutional racism for all workers, building on work already presented in their ‘Anti-racism charter: Framework for developing an anti-racist approach,’ which is based on the testimony of over 1000 Black teachers about the impact of racism in their workplaces.

Anti-racism charter: Framework for developing an anti-racist approach | National Education Union (

As well as listening and voting on the motions, I also attended a variety of workshops and talks, which were all very inspiring. 

Overall, I enjoyed attending the conference. I left feeling empowered and energised by the activism I witnessed and the powerful discussions that took place. Since attending this conference, I have grown even more determined to turn up, speak up and speak out against racism and other inequalities.

However, despite NAHT being a large union of around 49,000 members, more specifically, over 100 members within the Leaders of Race Equality network, I was the lone delegate. In contrast, there was a large representation from both NASUWT and NEU.

The TUC’s ‘Jobs and recovery monitor – BME Workers 2023’ report, published May 2023, highlights that-

‘BME workers face systemic disadvantage and discrimination in the labour market, whether it be lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates, lower pay, more insecure work, or occupational segregation.’

Jobs and recovery monitor – BME Workers 2023 | TUC

Black leaders in education are not exempt from this, and sadly, many of us have been the victims of both racism and performative allyship. Therefore, it was disappointing not to have more members from NAHT there. 

With over 800,000 members represented across our education unions, our unions have the power to use their combined voices to successfully campaign for critical issues such as fairer pay and Ofsted reforms. Education’s next priority needs to be committing to actively working together to eradicate systemic racism in education. Part of that is ensuring that Black leaders in education are actively part of national conversations around tackling inequalities, as our voices are crucial.

A journey with the experienced other - coaching and leadership development

Dwight Weir portrait

Written by Dwight Weir

Dwight is a Deputy Headteacher and Life Coach. He is also an inspector for British Schools Overseas. Dwight has a passion for coaching and leadership development.

Coaching is the process used to enable the coachee to reach their goals or achieve clarity about their life, whether it’s about leadership development, career change, family, personal development or just managing work-life balance. This blog will focus on coaching as a vehicle for leadership development.  

Leadership development training encourages the use of hands-on practical training (Woyach and Cox 1997). The training is more effective if it is context specific (Creasy and Cotton 2004; Barnett 2001 and Kouzes and Posner’s 1995) and engages the use of a mentor or coach (Paterson and West-Burnham 2005) and is personalised (Owen 2007 and Patterson and West-Burnham 2005). 

Coaching has played a significant role in my own leadership development journey. As a not so recent participant in one of the UK’s flagship leadership development programmes, we were grouped according to where we lived or worked for group coaching. We participated in many leadership development tasks which involved role playing, presentations, discussions and a variety of simulation activities. Even after almost 10 years since the training, this has been the most effective CPD I have ever had, for a number of reasons but more so due to the dynamic coaching relationship I had with an experienced Headteacher – the experienced other. 

Even though I have studied, researched and written about leadership and leadership development, I haven’t had the time to exclusively link coaching theory to coaching practice. Being part of a coaching group propelled me further towards developing my own leadership due to expertise of the experienced other. Having been on this journey, coaching relationships can be likened to a journey with ‘three-selves’; self-discovery, self-realisation and self-actualisation.  

At the time of my training, coaching was only a theory for me, group coaching was an even more distant concept. The experience gained as part of the group coaching enabled us to collaborate professionally at an authentic level due to the conventions of group coaching which became apparent throughout the coaching experience. Learnings from the group coaching appears to be performance focus (McGurk 2012) as there was a focus on development orientation, effective feedback, performance orientation and planning/goal setting. From this experience it was evident that the growth expected in group coaching is collective as the outcome will be achieved as a result of the collective sum. Whilst participating in group coaching a number of variables became evident during the process:

  • Collective Growth – the collective process we used as a coaching group to develop our ‘virtual school’ (a project within the training) was dependent on a combined effort. This might not be the same for all coaching groups but can be expected when group coaching participants are working towards an agreed outcome, knowing that the progress of the group is dependent on the progress of all. 
  • Cooperative Reflection – as we developed our virtual school we regularly reflected on our progress and the impact we were having as a team. We always evaluated our efforts with the intention to improve. This was, reflection with a purpose.
  • Collective Honesty and Openness – we benefited from this process as we knew that collectively only honesty and openness truly informed each of us on our individual and collective process. The idea that feedback is a gift kept us open to feedback knowing that gifts can be returned or embraced. The relationships that we developed meant that as we fed-back to each other we respected the feedback given, knowing it was honest. 

In addition to group coaching we also had one to one coaching sessions. These were particularly helpful as I focused on my own development outside the group and the impact it had within the group. This approach was more intense as the focus was more on the individual and our areas for development. This level of coaching involved powerful questioning, Using ideas, shared decision- making and encouraging problem-solving. 

Coaching as part of leadership development is most effective when you are on a journey with an experienced other. Genuine experience in the field helps the experienced other to relate, ask thoughtful, reflective and relevant questions linked to the context in which the coachee works and is developing their leadership. 

Effective coaching during leadership development fosters and unearths the ‘three-selves’; self-discovery, self-realisation and self-actualisation.

10 Engaging Diversity Books for Children: Promoting Inclusion and Understanding

Rachelle Carter portrait

Written by Rachelle Carter

Rachelle Carter is co-director of Madeleine Lindley Ltd, a key children’s book supplier based in Chadderton, Oldham. Its staff are experienced and well-equipped to help primary schools rejuvenate and refresh their class libraries with the latest and most engaging books. The business has played a vital role in supplying many of the UK's primary school libraries for over 35 years.

Reading across a range of cultures and experiences not only broadens children’s worldviews but also nurtures an appreciation of the wider world. Being exposed to a range of books that cover different representations allows children to feel connected and included, and allowing a child to explore various narratives through books through a multitude of narratives is a cornerstone in exposing a child to inclusion and understanding.

Here, children’s literacy specialist Madeleine Lindley Ltd explores ten notable books that celebrate diversity, promote inclusivity, and stimulate the imagination. For primary school teachers, this list can serve as a great starting point from which to build a classroom library or wider school library with books that promote inclusion. It is important to remember that the representation of diversity will differ from classroom to classroom. Use this list to explore the types of books you can consider for your classroom, and explore the broad range of diversity and inclusion books yourself to find the perfect books for your children.

1. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding takes a delicate approach to introduce the concept of same-sex marriages. As the story unfolds, young readers journey alongside Chloe, the protagonist who initially fears she will lose her beloved Uncle Bobby when he announces his wedding. The story’s gentle narrative helps children understand that love transcends all boundaries and that families come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, it instils the idea that a change does not equate to loss, a valuable lesson for children.

2. The Best Me! by Marvyn Harrison

In The Best Me!, Marvyn Harrison promotes the importance of self-esteem and individuality, focusing on the central character’s journey, Nia. Nia learns to embrace her unique identity and sees the beauty in everyone’s differences, breaking away from societal expectations. The book delivers the fundamental message that everyone should feel empowered to be their true selves.

3. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali

The story revolves around Asiya’s first day of school, with her wearing a bright blue hijab. Her younger sister, Faizah, sees Asiya’s hijab as a symbol of pride and strength. The Proudest Blue introduces children to the concept of faith in oneself and the richness of cultural diversity, helping them recognise and respect religious practices that might differ from their own.

4. Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

Grandad’s Camper presents a loving relationship between Grandad and Gramps. Following Gramps’s passing, Grandad ceases his adventuring until his granddaughter reignites his passion. The book addresses LGBTQ+ relationships and loss sensitively, fostering understanding that love is universal, extending beyond conventional family setups.

5. Speak Up! by Nathan Bryon

Speak Up! is a compelling narrative about using one’s voice to champion what’s right. The protagonist, Rocket, inspires children with her bravery, as she stands up for her community’s park. This story encourages children to be courageous, fostering a sense of responsibility, and motivating them to stand up for what they believe in.

6. Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Just Like Me is a collection of poetic narratives, celebrating diversity, self-love, and acceptance. Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s character-driven poems encourage children to explore and celebrate their identities, recognising that everyone’s story is unique and equally important.

7. The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster

The Bubble Boy introduces the character of Joe, a boy with severe combined immunodeficiency who lives in a sterile environment. This narrative fosters empathy, giving children a glimpse into the lives of those living with health conditions, ultimately encouraging them to be understanding and respectful.

8. Jamie: A Joyful Story of Friendship, Bravery and Acceptance by L. D. Lapinski

Jamie paints a picture of an inclusive world where each individual is unique and cherished. The story explores themes of friendship, bravery, and acceptance, helping children appreciate the diverse characteristics that make us all human.

9. Fight Back by A. M. Dassu

Fight Back explores the resilience of a young refugee, teaching children about the realities of displacement and courage. This book encourages understanding of global issues and empathy towards individuals who’ve experienced adversities beyond their control.

10. No Ballet Shoes In Syria by Catherine Bruton

This book captures the experiences of Aya, a refugee girl in Syria who finds solace in the world of ballet. No Ballet Shoes In Syria allows children to empathise with the struggles of refugees and appreciate the power of passion, dedication, and the arts.

Find diversity books for your library

Cultivating an environment that values diversity is an important part of fostering an enriching, inspiring, and inclusive environment for your children. To help you in doing this, Madeleine Lindley Ltd helps curate an inclusive, engaging, and ever-evolving reading environment for your primary school. By filling your library with books that celebrate differences, you are not just introducing children to a multitude of perspectives, but also instilling a lifelong love for reading.

Woke, but not too woke?

Bilkis Miah portrait

Written by Bilkis Miah

Bilkis brings a powerful perspective to the table, shaped by her upbringing as a British-Bangladeshi immigrant. With experience in both management consulting and the education sector, she offers a rare blend of expertise and cultural insight. Her unwavering commitment to breaking down barriers and challenging norms has positioned her as a powerful voice for change. Bilkis is not just a thought leader, but a driving force for positive impact, inspiring and empowering communities everywhere to re-imagine what is possible.

Inclusivity, or ‘wokeness’ as it’s come to be known, isn’t political correctness gone mad, it’s an essential move for our children. 

To see how ‘wokeness’ is perceived in education, you only have to open the newspaper to see that Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee, condemned the use of the term ‘white privilege’ last year. Halfon claimed – and this is as much as I can agree on – that there is an ‘opposite reality [to privilege] for the white working class across society’. 

But surely this is a question of semantics? Isn’t it more important to make sure we’re not entering a class war, and pitting one group against another? Using terms like ‘white privilege’ isn’t the reason why so many white working-class children are failing. It’s a systemic problem, including underfunded schools, economic inequality, and the lack of opportunities for social mobility. 

Understanding communities

So, what’s even more important is that we come up with initiatives and programmes that help future generations. For this to work, it’s important to listen to the community, such as teachers and parents, but also to ask children what they need. We need to understand the context that is breeding such inequalities, and let communities know that their voices are being heard. We’re all complex and layered humans, and there are nuances to navigate. For example, in Tower Hamlets where we’re based, there is a majority British-Bangladeshi and white working-class population. Things like living in an intergenerational home, or having parents who have little or no formal education are real issues that our children have to deal with. When we asked parents what they were worried about, it was the same common theme – they were worried about losing their children to a world they didn’t understand. 

But there needs to be impact on beliefs and understanding the community has over these issues. It has to reach communities beyond the school gates, it can’t just be up to teachers. This is where we saw an opportunity to take parents and carers from all backgrounds on a journey to clearer awareness; one that helps communities understand what we mean by diversity and inclusion and to have the tools they need when they come across it in their lives. We do through our home activity kits. The kits encourage families and children to think and learn about themselves and the world around them through fun, paper-based activities. Importantly it doesn’t centre around having digital access – digital poverty in our community is a real obstacle – rather, the focus is on spending quality bonding time away from the screen through activities like journaling, reading and art to name but a few. 

Real-world wokeness

Last year we saw St Paul’s Girls School renaming their ‘head girl’ position to ‘head of school’. This may seem like a superficial change, but the reasons behind it are key. And no, this isn’t ‘political correctness gone mad’. It’s really important that we don’t define our pupils by gender, race, religion, sexuality, class or ability. All the stereotypes that come with these narrow categorisations have wider societal implications. By changing the title from ‘head girl’ to ‘head of school’, staff are saying to their pupils, ‘We recognise you, and you can achieve anything regardless of your gender’. It’s not boxing girls into certain roles, or qualifying success with terms like ‘girl boss’ – you’re a boss, period. This is so important when we think about a healthy, diverse workforce for the future. Even in our pilot project, we’ve heard comments from children such as “Boys will have more important jobs as they have bigger brains.” Statements like these may seem inane, but it’s essential to dismantle them as soon as you notice them, so they don’t have the opportunity to entrench further. 

Importantly, when you’re talking about making sure to teach about stereotypes at school, and embedding this into school policy, make sure to take families on the journey with you. It never ceases to amaze me how many schools don’t necessarily ask parents the tough questions: ‘What worries you?’, ‘What are your main concerns around teaching about stereotypes?’. Not only does this let families feel heard, but it allows you as the teacher to understand their concerns, and have the opportunity to allay some of those fears. More often than not, parents want the same as you – for their children to have all options open to them.