Safeguarding Inclusion: Nurturing Diversity in Educational Settings

Caroline Anukem portrait

Written by Caroline Anukem

Caroline Anukem is Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Beaconsfield High School in the UK. She is a driving force, a change-maker, and a relentless advocate for equity.

In the intricate cosmopolitan British society, the journey of being black and British often interconnects with the educational landscape in profound ways. From the halls of primary schools to the lecture theatres of universities, the quest for inclusion and diversity shapes the experiences of students and educators alike. As someone who has navigated this first-hand, I have come to understand the vital role that practice and policy play in safeguarding the well-being and success of every individual within these institutions.

Reflecting on my own educational journey, I recall moments of both triumph and tribulation. From the early days of primary school to the complexities of university life, I encountered an array of challenges and opportunities that shaped my sense of self and belonging. In the midst of this journey, the importance of representation and inclusivity became abundantly clear. Seeing individuals who looked like me in positions of authority and influence instilled a sense of pride and possibility, while the absence of diverse perspectives served as a reminder of the work that still needed to be done.

When I applied for the role of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Lead. Initially, it struck me as a novel and innovative approach to promoting inclusivity within the educational setting. However, as I delved deeper into the role and its implications, I came to realise the profound parallels between EDI and safeguarding.

Just as safeguarding measures are in place to protect the physical and emotional well-being of students, EDI initiatives serve to safeguard the diversity and inclusion of all individuals within the educational community. From ensuring that curriculum materials reflect a diverse range of perspectives to implementing policies that promote equality of opportunity, the role of an EDI Lead is multifaceted and far-reaching.

In many ways, the principles of safeguarding and EDI are intertwined. Both prioritise the creation of safe and supportive environments where individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to thrive. Just as safeguarding protocols employ a triage system to prioritise the most urgent needs of students, EDI initiatives must also adopt a strategic and targeted approach to address the unique challenges and barriers faced by marginalised communities.

One of the most profound benefits of a truly inclusive and diverse educational environment is the transformative impact it has on individuals and communities. When students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, when they encounter diverse perspectives and experiences in the classroom, it enhances a sense of belonging, wellbeing and empowerment which will ultimately correlate to improved academic achievement. It cultivates empathy, resilience, and a deep appreciation for the richness of human diversity.

As an EDI Lead, my role is not just about implementing policies and practices; it is about embedding a culture of inclusivity and respect that permeates every aspect of school life. It is about amplifying the voices of marginalised communities, challenging systemic barriers, and championing the rights of every individual to learn and thrive in a safe and supportive environment.

The journey towards creating truly inclusive and diverse educational settings is a collective endeavour that requires commitment, collaboration, and courage. This has prompted Beaconsfield High School (BHS) to take the bold step of hosting our first EDI conference in April this year. We will focus on highlighting the parallels between safeguarding and EDI. We will strive to communicate better understanding of the interconnectedness of these principles and the profound impact they have on the well-being and success of students. 

In conclusion, the journey from the simplicity of my village education in Liverpool to the vibrant inclusivity of BHS is a testament to our progress. Yet, it serves as a reminder of how much further we can go. As an EDI Lead, my commitment is to develop a learning environment thriving on differences, not just educating minds but nurturing hearts, building lasting friendships, relationships and encompassing the British Values in our daily practices. The journey toward a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape continues, one story at a time.


The reality of being black in Durham - a diversity deficit

Written by Charlotte Rodney

As an undergraduate student currently pursuing my law degree at Durham University, I am an advocate passionate about Human Rights, hoping to propel into a career at the Bar. Public speaking, debating, and writing have always been passions of mine, placing conversation at the forefront of my passions. With a willingness to better understand intersectionality that is necessary but often lacking in educational institutions, I continue to pursue ventures that raise awareness on the topic of racial injustice. Writing for Durham's student publication, Palatinate, and immersing myself further into the legal field as a Durham University Women in Law Mentor, as well as being a mentee of a leading Professional Negligence barrister myself, I hope to always remain immersed in academic and working practicing fields.

467.

That is how many Black students there are, including those of a mixed background, who attend Durham University as of the 2020/2021 academic year. What’s more, that is 467 students out of roughly 22,000. Whilst, as a Black student myself, I am not shocked to see that only 2.3% of Durham is Black, this may seem low to others when considering that this is well below the national university average of around 8%, and the Russell Group average of 4%. What then is causing this? In conversation for a second time with the newfound community for Black women in Durham, Notes From Forgotten Women (NFFW), we have gone further into sharing the experiences of what it is like to be Black in Durham, delving to the root cause of the problem. 

Co-founders of NFFW, Chloe Uzoukwu and Subomi Otunola gave their opening remarks on what their experiences have been like as Black women in Durham. Subomi discusses coming from a largely white background having studied in Bath, and how “I got to Durham and it seemed like that same cycle was going to continue where I barely had any black friends”. Subomi then goes on to describe her experience as “disheartening” being one of the only Black people in her History and Classics modules. “Even within my college, if I wasn’t placed with black people, I would not have spoken to them because the majority of my other friends and the people I’ve met within my college have been either people of colour, broadly or White.” Chloe echoes much of Subomi’s sentiment, describing her experiences growing up in Switzerland. “I would say that my experience in Durham has actually been arguably a big improvement from what I’m used to.” 

…we ARE still here 

One of the key points our discussion led us to was the difficulty of Black people coming together and finding one another at Durham. Chloe describes struggling in having to reach out to others of a similar background during her early time at the University. Whilst there is a general experience shared by all university students of having to reach out to others in your new environment, Chloe emphasises how other White students have the luxury of not needing to further search for people that look like them. “I actually really had to go and branch out on my own to find other Nigerian people… which is something that, you know, white people don’t necessarily have to do.” Sara Taha, NFFW’s social media manager, added her remarks on what she believes the key issues to be. Firstly, Sara highlights that “a lot of black people feel pressured to assimilate into a traditionally English culture”. Whilst Sara emphasises that this is not to say there is no place for Black people in a traditionally English culture, “the assimilation that a lot of black individuals feel they must do is at the expense of ever talking about their culture, heritage or race again”. Secondly, the discussion led us to the opposing point that in creating Black communities within Durham, with the hopes of bringing people together to share cultural experiences, this may in fact only help perpetuate stereotypes within the Black community. Sara adds, “ACS is a crucial society in many universities, just as it is in Durham…But, ACS does cater to certain people. It is usually led by a certain demographic.” What then is Durham not getting right about diversity at university, and perhaps more importantly what is going on within the student community that leads to these two polarising cultures? 

Many readers might be familiar with a recent ranking that the University received via The Times, where we placed last out of 115 other institutions on the measure of social inclusion. Whilst this is an internal factor that many students may be aware of, it feels as though Durham aren’t doing enough about it. Chloe explains that “this reputation it has for not being socially inclusive, hasn’t affected them in the slightest. And if it hasn’t really affected them in the slightest, why would they care about changing?” As Sara would put it, “Durham has a certain aesthetic it has garnered over the years.” She explained that she believes that, “rather than try to seem integrated and diverse (like so many other universities), Durham values its inherent whiteness above all else.” So, with a socially exclusive culture that evidently does not prioritise Black students, what is Durham left with? 

… Durham values its inherent whiteness above all else 

To address the ever-metaphorical elephant in the room, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss diversity at Durham University without talking about the diversity in County Durham, and the North East as a whole. The Office for National Statistics has revealed that County Durham is 0.3% Black as of 2021. Nonetheless, the University isn’t made up entirely of students from the North East; in fact “Durham’s recruitment has not traditionally focussed on the local area, with large numbers instead coming from outside the North East”. So why is this University continuing to fall below the national average for Black students who attend university? 

Durham University published their Access and Participation Plan, a 5 year plan set to conclude in the 2024/25 academic year. Within this plan, their section dedicated to all Black Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) students explains that Durham’s BAME proportion of all domiciled UK students remains below the UK national average because “there are geographical factors at work. Durham’s position is consistent with its regional context. The population of the North East Region is not very ethnically diverse, and this is reflected in the ethnic diversity of the NE universities…”. Furthermore, they raise the issue of having “a particular issue around the proportion of black students, which we have begun to address…” and this is a point we will return to later. For now, this is what the response has been. Sara comments that, “as a northerner, I know that there is a significant lack of black people here than down south. However we ARE still here.” Subomi added her remarks on the wider experience of what it means to be a student in higher education. “The very stereotype of what it means to be a student in the first place is to be white and to be of a certain privilege standing… we’re going to have to seek out these places to actually create a space for ourselves.” This is why, as Subomi remarks, there are no societies dedicated for white people. It is acknowledged that black students are in a minority, and hence communities are set up to facilitate a sense of belonging that doesn’t automatically exist like it does for white students. The sentiment may be there, yes, however it perpetuates a system where Black students are put in a space of being reminded they will always be disadvantaged. Afterall, you are perceived Black before you’re a student. 

When asked for a comment, A Durham University spokesperson said: “We’re building a diverse, safe, respectful and inclusive environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves and flourish – no matter what their race, background, gender, or sexual orientation. “We recognise we have more progress to make in attracting black and other under-represented student groups to Durham, to ensure they feel welcome and to support their development while they are here. 

“In making progress, it’s important to identify and develop solutions with our students, drawing on their lived experiences, as well as working with partners and specialist advisers. As part of this, we are consulting with student groups on the development of our new Access and Participation Plan. “We are also hoping to get a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of our racially minoritised students through our upcoming Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Survey which will open on 5 February. We encourage our students to respond so we can build as accurate a picture as possible – further details of how to get involved will be shared very shortly.” 

Whilst statistics are great, and plans towards diversifying the University community may be well-intended, one can’t help but get a feeling that this isn’t an active priority for Durham University. For instance, their five year action plan “intends to add 100 UK domiciled black students by 2024/25”. That would be less than 0.5% of the student community. Sara expressed her disdain of the wording of a following paragraph which reads “Durham is not based in an area of the UK with a great deal of ethnic diversity and students with low aspirations are often unwilling to move significantly from their local area.” Sara explains that “I find the label ‘low aspirational’ to be offensive and based in racist stereotypes that black people ‘are not trying for a better future the way white people and other races are’.” What’s more, she calls for more compassion from the University in acknowledging the intersectionality of this issue. 

I now call each and every reader to a point of reflection. As a Black student, would you find yourself recommending Durham University as an institution? The differing responses I have had perhaps speaks to the complexity of the issue. Chloe explains that, “I hate that we have to feel like we need to downplay ourselves simply because we’re afraid of stepping into white spaces. I don’t think that’s fair on us. And so I would 100% recommend the University to other Black students…but not without its warnings.” On the other hand Sara notes, “I am not likely to recommend Durham to fellow black students/friends, if they are used to a certain standard of diversity. First year, first term, was one of the most isolating periods in my life because my college was not diverse in any sense of the word.” What then are we left with considering the space, or lack thereof, there seems to be for Black students in Durham? 

The very stereotype of what it means to be a student in the first place is to be white and to be of a certain privilege standing… 

The University may have a lot to answer for in terms of tokenised efforts to add a mere 100 Black students by 2025, but the issue goes beyond that. We are immersed daily in a culture at this University where Black people are invisible. And in efforts to make us more visible, we are confined to our black spaces that very much have their own shortcomings. What might there be for us? The answer is simple: plenty. There is as much at this University for a Black student as there is for a White student, and every other ethnic background in between. Although it may not look like it, because the diversity is not fairly representative at all, we are still here and calling for the University to make more substantial efforts at diversity, beginning with tearing down the harmful association with Black students and low aspirations. So, the next time Durham University ranks comically low in what are extremely important areas of social inclusion, ask yourself who that benefits, and think of the number 467.


How we can make archaeology more inclusive

Raksha Dave portrait

Written by Raksha Dave

Raksha Dave is an archaeologist, broadcaster and president of the Council for British Archaeology, within which also sits the Young Archaeologists Club. Raksha also works with arts organisations to help them find ways to encourage diversity and inclusivity in their environments.

When people ask me about how we can make archaeology more welcoming and inclusive, I often think about my four-year-old self. I was obsessed with dinosaurs and begged my mum to buy me a book about them. It opened my eyes to a new world. I still have the book. I found a world that I obsessively wanted to discover and felt as much right as any child to do so.  

My teachers encouraged and supported my passion, fueling my interest through their teaching. No one ever doubted I could be an archaeologist. No one ever said that this was a profession where, even as recently as in 2020, 97 per cent are white

The next generation of brilliant archaeologists aren’t teenagers, they’re children. We need to engage them in the subject, but we’re failing. The profession needs to do better at communicating that archaeology isn’t just about ditches and digging if it’s to widen its appeal.

Archaeology is about the remains people leave behind whether that was an hour ago or 3,000 years ago. When any child opens their door, they are immersed in an archaeological environment: old signs on the sides of buildings; windows bricked up; changes in the architecture and age of buildings; and old boundary markers. There is so much to discover just on our doorsteps which can shed light on the past.

Excavation can mean researching an old camper van, recording the objects left at a refugee camp in Calais, or researching a World War Two encampment. Archaeologists are even researching the remains of contemporary music festivals which can help us understand more about people who lived – and feasted in the past; like our prehistoric ancestors at Durrington Walls, near Stonehenge, more than 4,500 years ago. 

Archaeology is also about rethinking our past. I’ve just been working with BBC Teach on a new Live Lesson for primary schools about the Romans. Filmed on location at Vindolanda Fort, on Hadrian’s Wall, it’s about discovering who might have been living at the Roman fort. We think of forts as simply military settlements to defend and protect, but that wasn’t true in Roman times. Forts were actually attached to large settlements with people from all walks of life. The military would bring their families, and lots of traders would be attracted to the settlement to sell crafts, food or offer services. 

The Live Lesson sets children a mystery to find out why objects like a toy wooden sword and a luxury Roman shoe have been found at the site (you’ll have to watch the programme to find the answer). I hope it encourages children across the country to become more curious about the past and helps them to relate to the people who lived at Vindolanda. Seeing ourselves in the past, being able to discover and experience people’s lives through relatable objects like shoes, toys, hair clips and jewellery enables children to make a direct connection to their own lives. 

As well as seeing ourselves in the past, archaeology also needs to shrug off its dusty academic image. It is a multi-disciplinary subject which spans the humanities and sciences. It really is accessible to young people through apprenticeships as much as through degrees.

Almost all of archaeology in the UK is undertaken by commercial organisations. Their focus is on planning and building infrastructure. From new houses to railways, archaeologists work alongside civil engineers and planners to help these projects come to fruition. More than 200 archaeologists worked on the Crossrail project, discovering tens of thousands of artefacts of significant importance. 

Any child should feel that archaeology is a profession, or an interest they can nurture, where they can feel they belong. Demystifying the topic, helping them understand it can happen on their doorstep, and showing how very diverse our past is, can help children to see themselves in archaeology and feel curious to know more.

The Romans – History Live Lesson is available to watch on BBC Teach. For more information and teaching resources, please visit: https://bbc.in/3tx4uWx


Section 28: 20 Years On

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Yesterday marked 20 years since Section 28 was repealed whilst also celebrating Trans Awareness Week. There is a brilliant thread on X here breaking down the key information all educators should know about this piece of problematic legislation which weaponised an identity group.

20 years ago, I had joined the teaching profession as a NQT at a boys’ school in Kent.

Homophobia was an issue.

I cannot remember having any training on my PGCE or in my NQT year about prejudice-based behaviour.

I cannot remember Section 28 being mentioned in either training programmes either.

After a year, I moved to London for a Head of Year role at a boys’ school in Surrey.

Homophobia was an issue.

But I felt more empowered to tackle it and I delivered the ‘Some People Are Gay – Get Over It! assemblies from Stonewall.

After three years, I then moved to a co-ed school in Mitcham.

Homophobia was an issue.

But we had strong whole school behaviour systems and consistent accountability so we tried to keep on top of it.

I also leveraged my pastoral and my curriculum leadership responsibilities to educate and to challenge the attitudes of our students.

After six years, I moved to a co-ed school in Morden as a Senior Leader (still in the same trust).

Homophobia was an issue.

But we had zero tolerance to discrimination and robust behaviour systems in place so we chipped away at it.

Three years later I relocated to Oxfordshire to be a Headteacher of a secondary school and Executive Headteacher of a primary school.

Homophobia was an issue.

But as a Headteacher with a committed SLT and visible role models, we hit it head on.

One of my favourite assembly moments in my twenty years in education was Bennie’s coming out assembly at our school. The courage and vulnerability she embodied as she shared the personal impact of the harmful attitudes, language and behaviour humanised the problem. We braced ourselves for the fallout, for the criticisms, but she was instead enveloped with love and respect by our community instead.

20 years on… six schools later…

Thousands of students… thousands of staff… thousands of parents and carers…

Homophobia was an issue – in every context, in every community, to a lesser or greater extent we have had to tackle prejudice and discrimination directed explicitly at the LGBTQ+ community.

Since leaving headship I have run a PGCE, consulted for national organisations, trained staff in schools, colleges and trusts (in the UK and internationally), coached senior leaders.

I am not a LGBTQ+ trainer – we have experts with lived experience who train on that. I speak about DEI strategy, inclusive cultures, inclusive language, inclusive behaviours and belonging. Yet, in every training session the experience of the LGBQT+ community comes up. It comes up especially with educators who started their careers in schools pre-2003 who talk about the shadow it has cast over them. It comes up with those starting their careers in schools asking when at interview you can ask if it is okay to be out.

Section 28 may have been repealed, we may be 20 years on, but have we really made any progress when it comes to tackling homophobia in our schools, in our communities and in our society?

Homophobia was and still is an issue.

As a cisgender, heterosexual woman homophobia has not personally impacted me. I have never had to hide my sexuality. I have been able to talk openly about who I am in a relationship with. I have not had to navigate assumptions, bias nor prejudice when it comes to who I date, who I love and who I commit to. This is a privilege I am aware of, but that I have also taken for granted.

A ‘big gay assembly’ may have been one of my professional highlights, but one of my personal low points was going on a night out to a gay club in Brighton in my early thirties, and my gay male friend being beaten up in the toilets in a supposed safe space by a homophobic straight man.

This is the reality for a lot of people I care about. Family, friends and colleagues who do not feel safe in our society. Members of my network who often do not feel safe in our schools.

It is our duty to ensure that our schools, our system and our society are safe for people to just be.

To be themselves… to be accepted… to be out at work (should they wish to be)… to be in love… to be able to talk about their relationships and their families…

It is our duty to ensure that we see progress in the next 20 years – as we are seeing a scary global regression of LGBTQ+ rights.

It is our duty to counter the current rhetoric – especially when it comes from our politicians who are weaponizing the LGBQT+ community.

It is our duty to challenge the haters and the trolls – if we as educators do not tackle it, then who else will?

Our gay students, staff, parents and carers need us to be allies. They need us to stand up, to speak out and to say this is not okay, this is enough.

Some signposting for organisations and resources to support you and your school:

Partnerships:

  • Schools Out UK – they run LGBT History month and we collaborate on activities.
  • Educate and Celebrate – they ran our LGBTQ+ training and school award for us.
  • LGBTed – we hosted their launch at our very first #DiverseEd event.
  • No Outsiders – we collaborate with them and celebrate their work.
  • Pride and Progress – we partner with them and support their work.
  • Just Like Us – we collaborate with them and amplify their Inclusion Week.
  • Diversity Role Models – we collaborate with them and amplify their great resources.
  • There are lots of other brilliant organisations and individuals working this space listed in our DEI Directory here.

Communities:

Books:

Podcasts:

Blogs:

Resources:

Training:


'Teaching Transgender Awareness Using No Outsiders' - new film resource for schools

Andrew Moffat portrait

Written by Andrew Moffat

Andrew Moffat has been teaching for 25 years and is currently PD Lead at Excelsior MAT. He is the author of “No Outsiders in our school: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools” and “No Outsiders: everyone different, everyone welcome”. In 2017 Andrew was awarded a MBE for services to equality and diversity in education and in 2019 he was listed as a top ten finalist in the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.

This week is Transgender Awareness Week which is a great opportunity to launch our new film, “Teaching Transgender Awareness using No Outsiders. The film shows that there are trans children in our schools today and many of those schools are doing an excellent job keeping them safe.

The Keeping Children Safe In Education guidance (Gov.UK, 2023) sets out expectations for schools to safeguard LGBT children; 

“Risks can be compounded where children who are LGBT lack a trusted adult with whom they can be open. It is therefore vital that staff endeavour to reduce the additional barriers faced and provide a safe space for them to speak out or share their concerns with members of staff.” (para 204)

Schools in England and Wales are currently waiting for DfE guidance on gender and gender identity. In July 2023, The Times reported that proposed gender guidance had been pulled; 

“A Whitehall source said that No10 and Badenoch had out forward a series of proposals to strengthen the guidance to the attorney general and government lawyers. The strongest – and a reflection of the governments concerns – was a blanket ban on social transitioning.” (Swinford, 2023)

The article quoted a government source saying: 

“More information is needed about the long term implications of allowing a child to live as though they are the opposite gender and the impact that may have on other children too.” (Swinford, 2023)

The aim of this new film from No Outsiders is to show that schools are already working successfully with trans children and their parents. Schools are delivering age-appropriate lessons where children demonstrate knowledge and understanding and are taught about non-judgement, respect and acceptance of others. 

My aim was to make a gentle film to take the heat out of the debate. In the film, we see Sam, a trans man living in Birmingham, return to his primary school to meet his former Y6 teacher. Sam sits in the seat where he sat as an 11 year old, and they discuss how his life has changed since then. His teacher describes how the school has moved on to reflect equality and inclusion today. Sam watches and comments on footage of a No Outsiders lesson at a school in Hertfordshire where transgender awareness is taught, and we hear Year 6 children speak eloquently on the subject. The film shows two parents (one is Sam’s Dad) talking about their experiences bringing up a trans child and the huge support they received from their respective schools. We also see Year 6 children in Bristol discuss texts used in their lessons and respond to the question, “Are you too young to know about this?”

I really wanted to show in this film that parents are working with schools, schools are listening, teachers are working hard to get it right. There is nothing scary or unusual about this. As teachers, we are good at putting the best interests of the children we teach at the heart of our policy and practice. My message to the DfE is, please let us get on with it. Schools want to get this right; we want to work with parents and children to create an environment where every child knows they belong.”

So, what now? What to do with the film? My first thought was to put a link on X (formerly twitter) and the No Outsiders facebook page, but I am aware of the toxic debate around this subject currently and I want to protect all the children and adults in the film. Of course, I realise once it is up on youtube, I lose control of who watches and where it goes, and in the coming months it may well pick up negative responses. but I feel in the first few weeks at least, for the first few views I would like allies to be seeing it. So, I immediately thought of Diverse Educators; a place where educators meet and support each other to make the world a better place. This should be the early audience for the film. Please feel free to share with friends and colleagues, show in staff meetings and use as a stimulus for discussion. I want people to see it.  I hope people find it useful. 

Watch the film here and feel free to share as you wish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIH7I_SEU0E&t=3s

What is No Outsiders?

The ‘No Outsiders’ programme was created in order to build an ethos of community cohesion and respect for difference. It has had a positive impact on schools, teachers, children, and communities and has received widespread commendation within the education sector. In 2017, CEO Andrew Moffat was awarded an MBE medal by The Queen (UK) for equality and diversity work in education. In 2019 he was a top 10 finalist in the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize: a $1million award for outstanding contributions to the profession.

Teacher training related to the ‘No Outsiders’ programme has had widespread recognition. In the year 2023 January – November, Andrew Moffat has delivered No Outsiders training in 85 schools across the UK, and at numerous conferences and events, teaching over 35,000 children a No Outsiders lesson and training over 11,000 staff.

The No Outsiders guide “No Outsiders: everyone different, everyone welcome” is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=andrew+moffat&crid=3OT7CA7JHVOS2&sprefix=%2Caps%2C308&ref=nb_sb_ss_recent_1_0_recent

A new No Outsiders scheme will be published April 2024.


Belonging

Erin Skelton portrait

Written by Erin Skelton

Erin is first and foremost an educator and her extensive experience includes a diverse range of roles, encompassing both pastoral and academic leadership positions, across both independent and state education settings. Prior to joining Bright Field, Erin’s most recent role was as Assistant Head and Head of Sixth Form in a top independent girls' school. In this role, she nurtured her students, instilled a sense of purpose and provided invaluable mentoring to prepare them for life as a woman in the 21st century and beyond.

I love language; the way it moves, the way you can craft sound and build momentum. I love the way words allow us to weave descriptors, myths and stories. I love the might of prose when used to overcome injustice or to fight for a necessary cause. 

And yet, we use words and acronyms every day to paraphrase and define. We use them to order and sequence and categorise, we use them for labels and for ease. Teaching is filled with them, definitions and categories, the DfE, POLAR4, ALIS, MIDYS, SEND, ISI, OFSTED are but a few. Society looks to educators, as those with the glossary for this educational terminology, to correctly apply it. But what happens when we can’t? What happens when there isn’t a common understanding or a shared approach? 

We then use confirmation bias to confirm what we believe to be true. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. 

Our social systems have taught us to think of people in groups, students as cohorts and so we group them together. As educators, we define and label and use our glossary of terms to ensure that we can best support each group. Yet the danger in this is we lose our ability to speak of individuals, to speak beyond labels, we lose our ability to respond to the needs of individual children or we sacrifice the one for the many. Sometimes we choose one overarching characteristic and this becomes the defining one.

When we look demographically at UK teachers, the statistics are telling. In 2021, 85% of UK teachers were from White British backgrounds, as were 92.5% of Headteachers. 75.5% of UK teachers were women. And in a 2022 study for UCAS, 59% of 18-year-olds surveyed felt that they were unable to enter the teaching profession due to the educational or financial constraints placed upon them because of their socio-economic background. Armed with this data, I would question how a teacher’s personal experiences affect how they approach their students and where their unconscious biases or lack of lived experiences come into play.

Psychologists report that it takes one tenth of a second to judge a person and form a first impression, and as we know we will use sensory evidence to form this opinion. As I stand in a classroom or sit in the staffroom, people will form some opinions about me; how others interact with me, how I am dressed, the colour of my skin, my body language and my accent will all form an impression in their mind. They might make assumptions based on them. They could have possibly characterised me and might use confirmation bias to align their assumptions with their observations.

For a moment, imagine that I am a student and you are my teacher…

Can you place my accent? Would it be rude to ask me where I am from? How might I feel if you were incorrect in your assumption? How might knowing this information help you to teach me? Most people would define my ethnicity as Caucasian; Am I White English? Irish? Welsh? Would you define me as British? What if I don’t fit any of those definitions in their entirety? What stereotypes might be applied to me? And how might I feel when I am forced to prove my nationality or ethnic background? My level of English?

And what about when your unconscious biases don’t align with the boxes I might tick for myself, when your perception of me changes based on categorisation? I loathe census surveys, because I don’t fit in the neat little tick boxes. My attempts are always a best fit based on the categories I am given. I am not unusual in this, and I know that my level of privilege is higher than most of my students. I am keenly conscious that your perception of me might change based on the boxes I felt forced to tick. And so, if you were my teacher, would my sexual orientation, medical history, my accent, my political views, my socio-economic background or my educational history change how you might view me? 

What if fear of being pitied or treated differently prevented me from showing up authentically? How might this make me feel? And would you view me differently if I hid the ways I might identify myself to you? What if I told you that my accent has often been mocked, my pronunciation corrected? That I have experienced religious, gender-based or sexual discrimination or that there are memes and stereotypes associated with how I might define myself culturally and that these things have prevented me from showing up authentically?

What happens when the boxes you tick for me shame me? Or provide me with a narrative I can’t or won’t identify with? Would knowing my Adverse Childhood Experiences Score make a difference in how you view me?

What if that narrative doesn’t allow me to celebrate or struggle with the richness or nuances of my culture, my traditions or my personal journey? The complexity of my ethnic background, my nationality, my culture, religion, my lived personal journey won’t fit into a neatly labeled box or definition.

What if assumptions and stereotypes are written about me because of which boxes you have placed me in. What if your aspirations for me are not aspirational enough? What if I have equality in your system but no equity?

And what if I go through life either not meeting anyone who I can identify with or who can be my role model? How does that impact how I see myself and the wider world? What if I cannot succeed in a system that doesn’t see me?

A person’s sense of belonging from childhood underpins the entirety of their journey. Belonging relies on being seen and heard, having appropriate representation and being encouraged to be your authentic self without fear of judgment. 

Belonging is not trying to fit within a cohort or box, it is not having to develop resilience or grit to work twice as hard as everyone around you. Belonging is not having to work around a lack of resources or support. Belonging is not denying parts of yourself; becoming self-deprecating, being useful, funny or stepping into another role when you walk into the classroom. Belonging isn’t having to hide or opposingly, becoming the stereotype that people characterise you as because that has been the role that has been confirmed for you by their lived experiences or biases.

I wasn’t ever going to be able to write about this topic using quantitative data. I believe that the quantitative data that is used in education to categorise children is fundamentally part of the problem. My research was qualitative because children aren’t statistics, they shouldn’t be defined by the percentage of A*-C, Midys, ALIS, Progress 8, Polar 4 quintile, or their ACES scores. The grade written on a JCQ printout on Results’ Day should include a narrative of each child’s individuality and not a sanitised numeric score. 

My data is qualitative….

It’s the story of Jacob, the only boy of a White and Black Caribbean background, growing up in a majority white town, in a majority white school in a white household. Jacob who was constantly in trouble because he wanted to wear his hair natural and who could never walk through the corridors without someone wanting to touch his hair. Jacob who tried to fit the narrative that people gave him and was constantly breaking school rules. Jacob, who didn’t feel a sense of belonging and although he was one of the brightest students I have ever met, people’s aspirations of him were not high enough.

It’s the story of Katerina, the only English Traveller girl in a leafy-lane, middle class school. Katerina, whose parents didn’t have GCSEs, Katerina who was often kept off school to look after younger children. Katerina was discouraged from revising and was torn between embracing the cultural expectations of her and wanting desperately to be the first person in her family to achieve GCSEs. Katerina, who would often misbehave towards the end of the week to land herself in detention which would enable her to revise. Katerina who spoke with an accent and dialect that was unique to her culture but who was constantly corrected at school.

There is no easy fix for this issue. It requires teachers to be self-reflective practitioners, to challenge assumptions, to think beyond the framework that Ofsted, ISI and national league tables provide. It requires us to be vulnerable, to be still and listen, to acknowledge that we are the sum total of our experiences and that we are not the oracles just because we are the ones standing at the front of the class. It requires empathy, allyship and advocacy, to not accept the status quo and to acknowledge our own and others’ privilege.

In the spirit of vulnerability, I am a woman who struggles with boxes. There is no box to put me in and I am keenly aware that on the whole, my intersections are fairly normative. And so, I challenge you to share yourself, to encourage, to correct with empathy, to challenge misconceptions and accept how people individually define themselves, even if it doesn’t fit into a neat set of boxes or it challenges your experience, your perception or the norms of your organisation or society. Once upon a time, every adult was a child, a child whose sense of belonging, underpins the entirety of their journey, a child, and this journey starts in school, where every child should matter.


Empowering Through Education: The Rastafarian Scheme of Work

Johnoi Josephs portrait

Written by Johnoi Josephs

Johnoi Josephs is the Associate Assistant Principal at a school in West London where he specialises in Behaviour, Attendance and Pastoral Programmes. He also teaches RE, Citizenship and Sociology. As well as teaching he is the co-founder of Black Men Teach which aims to build a space where Black Males and Boys can thrive in education. For him, BMT is important because representation matters in all sense and so we need to illustrate presence in every industry/profession. Johnoi aims to live a life of servitude where he is able to make as much impact as possible when it comes to education.

In the pursuit of a more inclusive and culturally diverse education system, it’s essential to recognise the power of representation. As a black male teacher from Jamaica, my journey in creating the Rastafarian Scheme of Work was fuelled by a desire to pay homage to my roots and provide students with a curriculum that embraces their own cultural identities. This endeavour was not only a personal passion, but a fundamental step towards decolonising the curriculum.

The Inspiration

The spark for this project ignited during a conversation with a friend. We delved into the complexities of decolonising the curriculum, particularly within Religious Studies. It was clear that this endeavour required a nuanced approach. Armed with this newfound determination, I set out to create a curriculum that would bridge the gap between mainstream education and the rich tapestry of Rastafarianism.

A Journey of Dedication

Crafting the Rastafarian Scheme of Work was no small feat. Balancing it with my other responsibilities was a challenge, but I knew this endeavour was a crucial step towards a more inclusive educational experience. I dedicated days of my summer holidays to ensure that this curriculum would be comprehensive, engaging, and transformative for students.

Empowering Through Knowledge

The Rastafarian Scheme of Work is a meticulously designed curriculum that empowers KS3 students with deep understanding of Rastafarianism. This comprehensive course comprises:

  • Seven Detailed Lessons: Each lesson is designed to provide students with a holistic view of Rastafarianism, encompassing its origins, beliefs, practices, and cultural significance.
  • Medium Term Plan (MTP) Breakdown: This plan outlines the progression of the curriculum, ensuring a seamless and immersive learning experience.
  • Knowledge Organiser: A valuable resource that condenses essential information, allowing students to review and reinforce their understanding.
  • Assessment: A tool to evaluate students’ grasp of the material, providing valuable feedback for both educators and learners.
  • Extra Resources: Supplementary materials enrich the learning journey, offering a well-rounded exploration of Rastafarianism.

The Power of Representation

Incorporating diverse perspectives and cultural awareness in education is not merely a matter of political correctness, but a fundamental necessity for the holistic development of students. Research consistently demonstrates the profound impact of representation on learning outcomes, social integration, and well-being.

  • Enhancing Learning Outcomes: Inclusive curricula positively affect student motivation and achievement levels, leading to higher academic performance.
  • Fostering Inclusivity and Belonging: Representation in education helps foster a sense of inclusivity and belonging, leading to increased participation, improved social integration, and a stronger sense of community within the school.
  • Cultivating Empathy and Global Awareness: Exposure to diverse perspectives cultivates empathy and a broader understanding of the world, a critical skill in an increasingly interconnected and globalised society.
  • Mitigating Stereotypes and Biases: Inclusive education challenges harmful stereotypes and biases, fostering a more accurate and nuanced understanding of different cultures and identities.

Transforming Schools: A Call to Action

Given the wealth of research supporting the importance of representation and cultural awareness in education, educators must take proactive steps towards decolonising the curriculum. The Rastafarian Scheme of Work is a prime example of how a curriculum rooted in cultural authenticity can drive positive learning outcomes and empower students to embrace their identities.

By embracing diverse perspectives, we not only enrich the educational experience, but also prepare students to navigate an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. Through inclusive education, we can truly empower the next generation to become compassionate, culturally aware global citizens.

Incorporating the Rastafarian Scheme of Work into your curriculum is a significant step towards creating an environment where every student from certain backgrounds can feel valued, seen, and heard. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable education system that prepares students for a future marked by understanding, empathy, and respect.


Trans People are Loved: Diverse Educators in Allyship

Bennie Kara portrait

Written by Bennie Kara

Founder of Diverse Educators

When a community comes together, beautiful things can happen.  Here at Diverse Educators, we have witnessed the rise of transphobic narratives nationally and internationally and have felt, as many others do, an acute sense of helplessness about how to be active allies for the trans and non-binary people we know and love. 

When we were approached by a member of the non-binary community in despair at hearing and experiencing such a wave of transphobia and gender critical rhetoric, we gathered associates and friends to discuss how we could do something, anything, to raise our voices and show that we could be ‘together-strong’. In time, this shaped into an evening solidarity event to take place virtually. We wanted to bring people together to signal, even in the smallest ways, that there is work to be done in protecting those who are increasingly marginalised in our society. 

It was clear from the outset that we did not want to just focus on how difficult the social environment is for trans and non-binary people. We wanted, collectively, to use our voices to highlight both the reality for trans and non-binary people and the green shoots that we can see around us. 

Our speakers were wonderful. Jo Brassington (they/them), a Diverse Educators Associate, outlined the legal aspects of trans and non-binary identities in schools. The wealth of comments and questions after their section showed that there is a real need for educators to have access to training on how to support and protect their trans and non-binary young people and colleagues.  Hannah Jepson, (she/they) a business psychologist and expert in workplace inclusion, followed with a precis that highlighted the work of the corporate world in supporting trans and non-binary people at work. There were some enlightening comments in response showcasing best practice in the workplace. Finally, George White (he/him), a trans teacher and independent consultant/trainer on transgender identities and the Catholic faith, outlined the green shoots in how Catholicism is shifting the established narrative on trans and non-binary people.

Hannah Wilson, the speakers and I left the solidarity event feeling heartened that over 60 people had given their time to attend the event, with feedback that indicated a real need for follow up.  While we knew that we wouldn’t be able to find distinct ways forward immediately, the networking and signposting that took place was useful in forging connections so that action can be possible in the future.  

What we do in miniature creates ripples that, in turn, can create waves. This event served to show how much there is to do still in support of the trans and non-binary community, and each attendee was asked to pledge, if possible, what their next steps were using the hashtag #TransPeopleAreLoved. The pledges appeared like pebbles in the pond. 

This is allyship.


Proud 2 b Me!!

Matt Taylor-Roberts portrait

Written by Matt Taylor-Roberts

Matt Taylor-Robert (He/Him) is the Founder and Managing Director of Proud 2 b Parents and with his husband, Matt is an adoptive parent to their amazing son. He feels privileged to work for a regional adoption agency as an independent panel member and has previously worked for an independent foster agency within the same role. However, he had to step away from this role due to becoming a foster carer for this agency. Matt has previously worked within Children's Services for a local authority. To find out more about Proud 2 b Parents please head over www.proud2bparents.co.uk.

As a proud parent of a young person attending Proud 2 b Me, the UK’s only youth group specifically for children with LGBT+ parents or carers, I am constantly amazed at the benefits of this service and why there isn’t more like it across the UK.

 Proud 2 b Me provides a safe space for young people aged eight and above to engage in various fun activities, such as kayaking, ice skating, and pizza making. However, the true essence of this youth group lies in allowing for discussions, offering support, and encouraging young people to navigate their unique family structures and be open about their identities. 

Proud 2 b Me acts as a safe place where children 8 years and up can openly discuss their family structures and experiences, allowing them to explore and understand their own thoughts and feelings. The group sessions facilitate meaningful conversations about topics like handling prejudice, telling others about their family (‘coming out’), and embracing individuality. Witnessing my child interact with their peers, hearing their stories, and exchanging insights has been an incredible journey of self-discovery for them. The support received from like-minded individuals who face similar challenges has been invaluable.

Having inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity in all its forms is essential for children to grow and thrive, as well as meeting others from various backgrounds and family dynamics, the youth group encourages acceptance and develops a sense of belonging. By engaging in activities like kayaking, placard making and ice skating young people can develop friendships that extend beyond their family situations. They learn to appreciate differences, respect one another’s experiences, and build a strong support network that can be relied upon in times of need.

Coming out about one’s family structure can be a sensitive and complex process for some young people. Proud 2 b Me offers a supportive environment where individuals can openly discuss their feelings and experiences. The group provides guidance on how to approach conversations about their family structure with friends, classmates, and teachers, equipping them with the tools to navigate potential challenges confidently. Through discussions, and sharing personal anecdotes, these young people gain the necessary skills to articulate their identities and advocate for themselves authentically. 

Peer support is the backbone of the community. Recognising the power of connecting with others who share similar experiences, the youth group facilitates friendships and support opportunities. The sense of camaraderie that emerges from these relationships is immeasurable. Young people can find comfort in knowing they are not alone and that others understand their journeys. The validation and encouragement received from peers empower them to embrace their identities proudly and combat any negativity they may encounter. 

Proud 2 b Me provides a nurturing and supportive environment where young people can freely express themselves. Through engaging activities and facilitated discussions, the youth group equips our children with the tools to navigate conversations about their family structure and embrace their connection to the LGBT+ community. 

Find out more by joining us at our free #DiverseEd webinar on Wed 8th Nov 4-5pm: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/738879808397?aff=oddtdtcreator


Launching a network for new leaders made me a better ally

Ben Hobbis portrait

Written by Ben Hobbis

Teacher, Middle Leader and DSL. Founder of EdConnect and StepUpEd Networks.

Are you a new leader, like the idea of leadership but struggle to find the balance between teaching and leading? Are you someone who wants to lead or be a leader, but not knowing how to get there, feeling a bit stagnant? You might be a leader developing, but in the wrong organisation? You might not see leaders like you? This is why Step Up was set up.

Step Up is a new network for new and aspiring leaders in education, particularly at middle and senior leadership levels in schools. Upon starting the social media account, and subsequent network, we surveyed people to find out who our community are and what they want/need. This has been incredibly useful. It’s been great getting to know our community. 

From this research and insight, we have constructed five ‘leadership themes’ that we base our content and output around. We base our speakers, events, blogs and much more around these themes. The five themes are: Leadership Journeys, Leadership Barriers & Challenges, Leadership Development, Leadership Wellbeing and Leadership Diversity. Now, whilst many of these will overlap when people speak, present and write to these. 

I personally as the founder wanted to ensure that whatever we do, we are inclusive and that we are diverse in order to create a community where our network members belong. Now, as a heterosexual, white, able bodied, cisgender man who doesn’t have children and is fairly financially stable, I know I’ve had it easier than others. However, I have always committed to be an inclusive ally and a HeForShe ally also. I have been a keen supporter and champion of Diverse Educators since signing up to social media and their journey started. One thing I have released is that I’ve continued to learn as an ally.

One of the biggest learning curves was Step Up’s Launch Event. As I co-hosted alongside one of my fellow network leaders, WomenEd’s own Elaine Hayes, I listened attentively to our speakers. I listened to their vulnerability; to their negative and positive experiences; to their struggles; to their hopes and wishes; to their experience and tips. I felt quite emotional in parts listening to in some cases abhorrent behaviour that they (or colleagues, friends or family) had been subjected to as part of their journey. 

I’ve summarised some of the key takeaways from some of the presentations, that may be useful for the audience reading this…

Parm Plummer, WomenEd’s Global Strategic Leader and a Secondary Assistant Headteacher based in Jersey presented on Women in Leadership. Her talk initially started with sharing the fantastic work of WomenEd: their campaigns, partnerships, networks (including their global reach) and the development opportunities they provide for female leaders. Parm then went on to help navigate the process of stepping up as a female leader. Initially, sharing the only image of a woman that came up during a Google search; before going on to provide tips to write a job application through to negotiating your terms. Parm gave tips including finding allies and joining networks.

Helen Witty, a neurodivergent Lead SENDCo based in the East of England who gave a pre-recorded video on Neurodivergent Leadership. She shared an insight into her job and life, as a SENDCo with ADHD. She shared about how being open about her ADHD at her job interview and how it positively impacts her life and those who she works with. Helen also gave a fantastic insight into the role of a SENDCo, for all those who aspire to this role.

Stephanie Shaldas, a secondary deputy headteacher leading on diversity and inclusion based in London. Her talk Leadership in Colour: Senior Leadership as a Black American Woman started with a story from March 2021 whilst she was working as an Acting Co-Headteacher. This story was based around Prince William visiting her school. What was a forty-five minute visit, led to a weekend of trending on Twitter, including one Tweet: ‘Who dressed up the secretary in African cloth and trotted her out?’ Stephanie went onto talk about her journey and how she felt like school leaders didn’t look like her, when she was in her early career. She shared her inspiring path to leadership including her own education as well as teaching and leadership roles at middle and senior level spanning both curriculum and pastoral. As Stephanie said, “If I can, then you can!” – find your why and explore your passions!

Mubina Ahmed, Head of Science Faculty, based in London gave a presentation titled: ‘Using my minority lens to lead.’ Mubina went on to talk about how she used her minority ethnic background to her strength in her leadership journey. She posed the key question: ‘Do we have equity in teaching?’ Mubina used research and evidence to back up every piece of advice and information that she gave; talking about building allies to help you bring your chair to the table. 

Albert Adeyemi, co-founder of Black Men Teach and a Head of Year based in the East of England gave a talk based around wellbeing and belonging in leadership. He spoke eloquently about the importance of wellbeing, how every interaction with others builds up to this. He narrated the sense of being needed versus feeling wanting and knowing what you need to fill your cup, to achieve wellbeing and belonging. The part that really blew me away was a surprise from Albert, a spoken word about belonging; a part of the event which brought a tear to my eye.

Jaycee Ward, a phase leader in a Yorkshire primary school, spoke about imposter syndrome, based around her journey as a young senior leader. Jaycee narrated her journey to date and how she has completely changed her narrative and inner critic. She shared her five top tips for combatting imposter syndrome: Seek Support, Embrace Vulnerability, Celebrate Achievements, Self-Compassion, Self-Reflection. Something, everyone at the event resonated with.

Nicola Mooney, a secondary deputy headteacher based in the South West of England, who also volunteers for WomenEd and MTPT Project, gave an interesting presentation on ‘non-linear career paths’. She shared her journey through her career to date including multiple maternity leaves and periods of IVF. Nicola shared how by not going through the ‘traditional’ upward trajectory has enabled her to be successful both as a teacher and as a mother. It was a talk many welcomed, knowing it is not as simple and always useful to be continually promoted.

I feel very privileged to have spent time in the virtual room with these fantastic Diverse leaders. Step Up (and I) will continue championing for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the education leadership sector; and will ensure everyone has the chance to share their stories. If you want to get involved and find out more, then follow us on X (formerly Twitter) @StepUpNet_Ed and check out our website: www.stepupednet.wordpress.com.