Kelly Richens portrait

Written by Kelly Richens

Programme Director, BASCITT. BASCITT is proud to celebrate diversity and promote equality and inclusivity (see here)

Applying to train to teach is a daunting enough task; the whole construction of your personal statement and how it defines you, all of your work experience, your qualifications and who will be your referees. All wrapped up in the deep emotions of taking this huge step towards becoming a life-changer for young people.

If this wasn’t searching enough in terms of self-exploration and presenting yourself, there is a section that says ‘Criminal Record and Professional Misconduct’ in which an applicant can make any relevant declaration. 

I had an email confirming an application in which there had been such a declaration. Imagine my horror when I opened the webpage to view the application and read: ‘I am unsure whether this is a safeguarding issue, however I feel it necessary to raise and protect myself and others from misunderstanding. I am transgender.’

A flood of emotions ensued: rage that this applicant had felt being transgender could be a safeguarding issue; sadness that whilst she wanted to share this information, she had chosen to include in in a section labelled ‘criminal record’; fear that there are groups of people without the psychological safety to just be who they are without recourse of judgement; and the smallest amount of pride that she had actually been brave to share at all. 

So rather than my first conversation with this applicant about her potential qualities as a teacher, I had to have a difficult conversation of reassuring and coaching her that she was in safe hands with us. What a shame that we could not talk instantly about her joy of her subject, or why she was applying to us. Her being transgender was a huge distraction from this and that is wrong.  

Whilst I reflect on this, and have since interviewed and offered a training place to this lovely individual, based on her merit, I am still left without an answer of how do we stop this happening again? Keep promoting inclusivity?  Keep the courageous conversations going? Keep educating and keep that positive momentum going on how we can continue to aim for a world in which an individual does not fear themselves being viewed through a judgmental lens? Instead a place where everyone can be celebrated for who they are and what they have to offer our pupils.