Does AI promote Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion?

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.

As the new term is upon us, it is essential to delve into a topic that has been sparking conversations and debates across various sectors; artificial intelligence (AI). With its rapid advancements and widespread use AI has become both a revolutionary tool and a subject of scrutiny. In this piece I will particularly focus on its potential impact on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Can be defined as a “Double-Edged Sword”

In recent years, AI has emerged as a powerful tool that promises to revolutionise industries and transform the way we work and live. From predictive analytics to natural language processing, AI technologies offer unprecedented capabilities to automate tasks, analyse vast amounts of data, and even simulate human-like behaviours. As a result, AI has found applications in diverse fields, from healthcare and finance to marketing and entertainment.

However, in parallel with the transformative potential, AI also raises significant ethical and social concerns. One of the most pressing issues is the perpetuation of biases and inequalities within AI systems. Despite the promise to be objective and impartial, AI algorithms often reflect and amplify the biases present in the data they are trained on. It is important to recognise that artificial intelligence does not account for representation and definitely has its own biases. It is fair to say that most artificial intelligence programmes draw its answers from existing information on the internet which we all know is heavily skewed towards a white, male, privileged voice. What this means is that there are ultimately gaps in how ‘diverse’ or ‘inclusive’, or well-balanced, its conclusions are. The results will ultimately produce discriminatory outcomes, reinforcing existing inequalities and marginalising already underrepresented groups.

The Biases Embedded in AI Systems

The biases embedded in AI systems are evident on several layers and thus pervasive, reflecting the biases inherent in society at large. For example, AI algorithms trained on biased datasets may exhibit racial, gender, or socioeconomic biases, leading to discriminatory outcomes in areas such as hiring, lending, and criminal justice. Similarly, AI-powered recommendation systems may reinforce stereotypes and narrow perspectives by promoting content that aligns with dominant narratives and preferences.

Moreover, the lack of diversity in the development and deployment of AI technologies exacerbates these biases. The underrepresentation of women, people of colour, and other marginalised groups in the tech industry means that AI systems are often designed and implemented without sufficient consideration for diverse perspectives and experiences. As a result, AI technologies may inadvertently exclude or disadvantage certain groups, serving to further perpetuate inequalities and hampering progress towards equity and inclusion.

The Importance of Addressing Bias in AI

Addressing bias in AI is not only a matter of fairness and social justice but also essential for ensuring the effectiveness and reliability of AI systems. Biased AI algorithms can lead to inaccurate predictions, unjust outcomes, and diminished trust in AI technologies, undermining their potential to drive positive change and innovation.

Moreover, the consequences of biased AI extend beyond individual experiences to societal structures and norms. By disseminating stereotypes and reinforcing inequalities, biased AI systems contribute to systemic injustices and sabotage efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive society.

Strategies for Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in AI

To mitigate bias in AI and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion, rigorous intentional efforts are needed at every stage of the AI lifecycle, from data collection and algorithm design to deployment and evaluation. 

Some strategies for facilitating and embedding EDI in AI:

Diversifying Datasets: It is essential to ensure that AI training datasets are diverse, representative, inclusive and reflecting a wide range of voices and experiences is essential for reducing bias in AI systems.

Increasing transparency and accountability in AI algorithms can help identify and address biases and ensure that AI systems are fair and equitable. Integrating ethical considerations into AI development processes, such as fairness, accountability, transparency, and privacy (FATP), can help mitigate bias and promote responsible AI innovation.

Inclusive Development Teams: Promoting diversity and inclusion within AI development teams will bring about diverse perspectives to the table and help identify and address biases in AI systems.

Community Engagement: Engaging with stakeholders and communities affected by AI technologies will help ensure that AI systems reflect their needs, values, and aspirations.

Continuous Evaluation and Improvement: Regularly evaluating AI systems for bias and fairness and implementing corrective measures as needed is crucial for promoting equity and inclusion in AI.

As a baseline, implementing some of these strategies and encouraging collaborations across disciplines and sectors, will work towards creating AI technologies that are truly equitable, diverse, and inclusive, and yoke the transformative potential of AI to build a better future for all.

In Conclusion

As we work through the complex intersection of AI and EDI, we cannot downplay the profound implications of biased AI systems and the importance of promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in AI development and deployment.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of algorithms to determine grades is another example of the pervasive impact of bias in education assessment. By addressing bias in AI and committing to a culture of inclusivity and accountability, it will be possible to harness the full potential of AI to drive positive social change and build a more just and equitable world for generations to come.

What are your thoughts on the intersection of AI and EDI? Share your insights and experiences with. Let’s continue the conversation and work towards a future where AI truly reflects and serves the diversity of human experiences.


Should schools provide prayer spaces?

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

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

The recent High Court decision, ruling in favour of headteacher Birbalsingh’s decision to ban prayer spaces has created quite the media storm. The decision has raised concerns about the precedent it sets for schools creating safe spaces for students and staff, Muslim students and staff in particular. It has also raised conversations about what schools are for and how schools and workplaces can fulfill their obligation to adhere to the Equality Act and The Public Sector Equality Duty – and how they can get around it too.

The responses to the verdict reveal that we live in a society and online world in which Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate is increasing; whilst we have ‘come a long way’ in overcoming Islamophobia since 9/11, a high court ruling like this makes me wonder if we’ve made any difference at all to the safety of Muslims for future generations? The verdict also reveals the disconnect that exists within the school system itself: we have some leaders who are not interested in creating unity and understanding within a diverse country – yet at the same time they ‘tokenistically’ take pride in multiculturalism too. And, we have other leaders in education giving us hope, embedding inclusive and equitable practices in everyday school life. I find it baffling that a simple question about prayer spaces ends up at the gates of a High Court. To me, this not only reveals a lack of unity and understanding in a school but also an absence of a critical skill that should be at the centre of schooling: listening.

Many educators and commentators have been sharing their concerns and outrage about the decision. It will also concern parents and students who regularly use prayer spaces in schools, maybe even at work (many teachers use prayer spaces too). It’s a disappointing decision and whilst several anti-woke keyboard warriors rejoice at the ruling, we cannot let it set a precedent for schools – and I don’t think it will. Schools absolutely should provide prayer spaces and they will continue to provide such safe spaces for students – it’s quite simply common sense. For this blog, examples and explanations are practical and experiential, based on what life is like ‘in school’. Whilst research and data are important, progress, collaboration and community cohesion are also nurtured by listening to the candid, lived experiences of staff and students in schools.

Time and space to pray

In line with the Equality Act, allowing students and staff to pray is reasonable and proportionate to a school and working day. It is comparable to allowing students to have break times, music lessons and god-forbid, toilet breaks. Different forms of prayer and spiritual practice are a part of nearly every faith. In Islam, praying 5 times a day is an integral part of the faith. It takes 5-10 minutes to pray. For the duration of that time, a prayer mat takes up just as much space as a two-seater desk. Depending on the time of year, prayer usually fits into a lunchtime. Just as schools host extracurricular clubs, music lessons sports fixtures and more, prayer can usually fit into this time too. It is not a big ask and it is not disruptive.

Some schools may have a designated prayer room, which is great. Other schools may allocate a classroom, usually near a space where a teacher is ‘on duty’ anyway; the last time I checked, prayer doesn’t require back flips, cartwheels or balancing on one’s head…the health and safety risks are fairly manageable. Some schools might even say, ‘if you need to pray and you have what you need with you (prayer mat, head covering, beads, holy book etc…), feel free to use a designated safe space. It does not need to be complicated.

Prayer spaces are not the problem

To blame prayer and collective worship for peer pressure and bullying is deflecting from the real problem. If children start praying as a result of seeing others pray, or if they simply observe with questions and curiosity, why is this such a problem? If they find it to be a positive experience, surely that can only be a positive learning experience. If the opposite happens, it’s not necessarily a problem either. Rather, it’s a teachable moment and reveals hostile attitudes any school should be aware of. Knowledge about the prejudices within our communities is the first step to safeguarding young people in education. ‘Cancelling’ or banning prayer spaces is not. 

‘Banning’ or ‘cancelling’ (on and offline) doesn’t work. It is a power-based behaviour management tool fuelling a notion that education is based on ‘controlling the masses’. We all learn through conversation, discussion, listening, knowledge, understanding, boundaries and respect, not necessarily in that order. By no means are any of the latter ‘easy’ to achieve, but from working with teenagers I’ve found they’re open to a heated debate, discussion, learning, understanding and compromise. 

School is a place of work and I’m not sure why we expect teenagers to just abide by ‘yes and no’ rules with little to no explanation. Plus, if they find a reasonable solution (like praying in a classroom for 10 minutes at lunchtime), what’s the big deal? Secondary school students are a few years away from further education and the workplace, which we all know thrives on innovation, creativity and autonomy. In this case, a blanket prayer ban in a school (their current place of work) completely contradicts the 21st century workplace they will inhabit. It doesn’t make sense. 

‘It’s inconvenient: we don’t have time to police prayer spaces’

Like any theory of change, whether that be introducing a mobile phone policy or changes to a uniform policy, navigating any arising teething issues (by students, parents and the community), takes time and flexibility. None of this is impossible if it is built firmly into the school culture, relevant processes and policies. These policies and processes may be safeguarding, anti-bullying, behaviour management and curriculum. All of the above are part of a teacher’s and a school’s day-to-day functions; navigating prayer spaces is no different to introducing a new club or curriculum change. Plus, we somehow managed bubbles and one-way systems post-lockdown…I think schools are pretty well equipped to create a prayer space for all of a matter of minutes in a day!

Prayer is not ‘an add on’

Faith is observed differently, from person to person. It is a way of life, and an ongoing lived experience; for some it is an integral part of their identity and for others it is their identity. Prayer is a major part of several religious practices. Like some people are vegan and vegetarian, prayer is not just a choice and something to switch on and off – it is an intrinsic part of an individual’s life. Some individuals, as far as they possibly can, plan their days, weeks, holidays and more around prayer. Not only is it a religious obligation, it is also a source of wellbeing and peace. In a time where health and wellbeing are paramount in education, denying prayer spaces seems counterintuitive. Enabling some form of space (like we do options on a menu) for individuals to pray is a minimal request and something schools can do with minimal disruption. However, if cracks in the system are revealed and outrage spills online and at the High Court, there are bigger questions and concerns to address.

Schools don’t need to be ‘impossible’ or difficult spaces – and they shouldn’t be made out to be like this either. One high court ruling does not define the state of schooling in the UK. I have too much respect and experience (or maybe good fortune) of working in schools that enable, or at the very least, welcome conversations around inclusion, safety, flexibility and authenticity. None of the latter disrupts mainstream education and a student’s chances of attaining a grade 9. However, many other things do and those are inequitable opportunities, ‘belonging uncertainty’ (Cohen, 2022) and denying the identities of the young people we teach. 


Breaking the Silence: Empowering Education in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Angel Hinkley portrait

Written by Angel Hinkley

Mathematics Teacher & facilitator of the Anti-Racism Society at Drumchapel High School.

In the midst of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, a silence pervades many educational spaces. As a facilitator of an anti-racism club at my school, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of this silence. Young minds, already vulnerable to the nuances of prejudice and discrimination, now grapple with the weight of divisive rhetoric surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict. They perceive this silence as implicit approval of ongoing injustices, further deepening their sense of injustice and helplessness.

The reluctance of educators to delve into the Israel-Palestine conflict is understandable. The daunting prospect of navigating this politically and emotionally charged topic—compounded by the fear of inciting controversy or inadvertently projecting personal biases—often leads to a preference for silence. However, this silence is more harmful than engaging with the complexity of the conflict. Within this complexity lie the most profound lessons of humanity, empathy, and critical thinking. By choosing silence, we fail our young people, perpetuating ignorance and apathy in the face of suffering and injustice. To combat this, as educators we should acknowledge and understand our own biases, being transparent about them with our pupils, fostering an environment that encourages insightful conversations, thereby promoting critical thinking, understanding, and unity.  

Recognising the need to break this silence, I embarked on creating a resource that could serve as a bridge to support educators. This resource is the result of deep reflection, where every word and every activity were meticulously crafted to promote love over hate, encouraging pupils to think critically. At the core of this resource is the work of Banksy, an artist known for using his art as a form of activism. Banksy’s pieces provide a unique perspective on the conflict, blending political and social commentary with powerful visual storytelling. This approach offers young people a unique lens through which to engage with the complexities of the Israel-Palestine situation, challenging their preconceptions and encouraging them to confront injustices and connect with the human stories at the heart of the conflict.

PSE teachers warmly welcomed this resource, and a defining moment for me was during a school assembly when the resource was showcased on the “Respectful” slide, aligning perfectly with our core values of being Ready, Respectful, and Safe, signifying the end of silence. This moment filled me with hope for the potential to effect change, but it also served as a reminder that our work is far from over. Breaking the silence is an ongoing journey that requires continued effort and commitment. Together, we can amplify unheard voices, challenge perspectives, and build bridges of understanding, paving the way for a future rooted in empathy, justice, and peace. 

In the heart of every educational journey lies the potential to shape a more just and empathetic world. Breaking the silence surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is not just an educational imperative; it’s a moral one. As educators, it’s our responsibility to equip our young people with the knowledge, skills, and empathy they need to navigate the complexities of our world and to advocate for a more just and peaceful future. 

I am immensely grateful to my Education Scotland Building Racial Literacy colleagues and Jehan Al-Azzawi for their invaluable feedback and support in refining this resource. Their input ensured its accuracy and effectiveness in fostering meaningful discussions within the classroom.

Here is the link to the Israel-Palestine resource


'Coaches Like Us': You Have to See It To Be It

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

You have to see it to be it,’ the quote from Billy Jean King, is a phrase we hear used a lot to challenge the lack of visible role models in society but also in our profession.

It is widely agreed that diverse representation is needed in every layer of the school system. 

Our trust boards and governing bodies, our CEOs and Headteachers, our Senior Leader Teams are all people spaces that need diversifying. Alongside reviewing representation in our curriculum and in our libraries, for our learners, we also need to review it for our staff. (This is why we host a #DiverseEd World Book Day event each year to amplify authors from our network).  

There is a lot of continuing work to be done to disrupt, to dismantle, to diversify these different spaces and to review who gets to occupy them. 

But there are other educational spaces for us to also review:

  • Who recruits, develops and mentors our trainee teachers?
  • Who recruits, develops and mentors our early career teachers?
  • Who recruits, develops and mentors our aspiring leaders?
  • Who recruits, develops and coaches our existing leaders?

When you review these spaces you will often find a homogenous team, a team who mainly hold majority identities.

So how are the trainers, the mentors and the coaches being trained to become conscious of their own identity, to become confident in addressing their own privilege and to become confident in disrupting bias in the many forms through which it can manifest?

How trauma-informed are the trainers, the mentors and the coaches in supporting individuals who have experienced identity-based harm?    

The Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership launched a brilliant pipeline programme to nurture leaders from a global majority background called Leaders Like Us a couple of years ago, in partnership with Aspiring Heads and the Institute for Educational & Social Equity.  This programme is a gamechanger for our education system and our future workforce.

So let’s all consider what Trainers… Mentors… Coaches … ‘Like Us’ would look like.

If we put a spotlight on ‘Coaches Like Us’ as a school, college, trust, SCITT, Teaching School Hub and localities we need to ask ourselves:

  • Who gets to be coached?
  • Who gets to be The Coach?
  • Who gets invested in?  
  • Who gets nurtured to flourish? 
  • Who gets supported to progress?

And most importantly, do people get to choose their coach? Or what has become a common phenomenon – does a coach get chosen for them? 

Coaching is about creating a safe space. About having a confidential conversation. About exploring how one is feeling. About being vulnerable and open. If your coach is your line manager or someone you work closely with – someone who might appraise your performance or sit on a promotion panel – we are in muddy waters.   

What difference would it make for an aspiring leader to self-select a coach who resonates with them? A coach who shares their identity? A coach who has walked their walk?

Some final thoughts:

  • How might being coached or becoming a coach help diverse educators stay in the system?
  • How might being coached or becoming a coach help diverse leaders climb up the leadership ladder? 
  • How might being coached or becoming a coach help us tackle the glass ceiling and the concrete ceiling in the education system? 

To help our clients, who have asked for our support in diversifying their coaching pools, we have created a #DiverseEd Coaching Directory:

  • You can find 25+ coaching profiles here.
  • You can meet our coaches through our video gallery here.
  • Get in touch if you are a coach who would like to be added or if you are looking for a coach and would like to be connected here

         


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:


Why students should be taught the truth about Remembrance

Selena Carty portrait

Written by Selena Carty

Cultural and Ancestral Genealogist, Global War Heritage Specialist, Identity and Empowerment Consultant and Founder of BlackPoppyRose.

I was recently asked by the British Army to contribute to its new set of school resources on Remembrance. As the founder of BlackPoppyRose, I accepted the opportunity. My aims are to enlighten all people of the contributions of African, Black, West Indian, Caribbean Pacific Islands and Indigenous communities to history in wars/revolutions and rebellions.  

So, let me ask you a question: How do you mark Remembrance Day? For me, I remember Albert Carty who served in World War I in the No’2 Construction Battalion. After arriving in the UK, he travelled across England and Scotland as part of the lumberjack battalion. He returned home after the war and became a father to seven sons. Five went on to join the Royal Canadian Airforce and served in World War II. The remembrance of families doing their part in a world that had set so many apart.

Remembrance means a connection to yesterday and the yesterdays before yesterday, which brings light the relevance of our actions today. When I think about Remembrance, I think of my mother, father, grandparents and great grandparents. I think about the legacies of family. I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the efforts made by those who made choices before I came into existence. 

There is a crucial need to improve how we explain the significance of Remembrance to young people, especially in the UK. We live in a cosmopolitan modern world where everything is moving a lot faster than I remember. Everything is now! (Like Amazon Prime deliveries, with no understanding of the framework, planning and years of innovation to make this happen.) 

The legacies that have built the worlds we see today are very often under-educated, misinterpreted or omitted. The more we do to encourage Remembrance will allow us to come together with our own unique stories and share the impacts that the changing worlds and legacies before us have had and will still have on us in the present and near future. 

To know that you are connected to something that has passed is significant to why we are here, why we speak the languages we do, why our names are what they are, why we can call more than one place our home or ancestral homes, and even the accessibility to the music that we listen to. All this enables each of us to have a unique perspective about Remembrance that we all benefit from. 

Where should children start to learn about their past? With their immediate families as well as their peers and friends’ parent are also potential sources of information teachers. Additionally, organisations like BlackPoppyRose can help point them in the right direction. We also encourage students to check their local libraries, bookshops, museums, galleries and archives as well as the internet by using key phrases or tags.

So, what more can schools do to teach pupils about Remembrance? Tell the truth about what you know. We all have a version of ‘truth’. Telling the truth resonates stronger than untruths as it allows us to identify with the world we currently live in and the legacies we have inherited from the past. It will help to understand the choices made by so many in uncertain times. We cannot change the past, but we can be open and honest about what has happened, allowing us all to work together to find improvements on things that are pre-existing and still affecting us all today.

The British Army has created a library of resources for secondary schools. To access its Remembrance resource, visit  https://tinyurl.com/ye2928v7


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


Supporting Parental Engagement for EAL Students

Emma Sheppard portrait

Written by Emma Sheppard

Emma founded The MTPT Project, the UK's charity for parent teachers, in 2016 when on maternity leave with her first child. She has 12 years experience as an English teacher, Lead Practitioner and ITT Lead, and now runs The MTPT Project full time.

I’m now into my third year of immigrant living, having relocated to France with my family in 2021, and – amongst all the other rather enormous changes – one of the most insightful experiences has been navigating the French education system with two children now in infant and primary school.

For context, our move to France marked the first time in twelve years that I hadn’t started September as a teacher.  As a consequence, it was also the first time as a mother that I had been responsible for all the school runs, dropping my children off at their class, rather than breakfast club or handing over from an after school nanny.  My children are bilingual, thanks to my French husband, and my French is competent, but – oh my! – have I felt the panicked feeling of perpetual confusion, catch up and miscommunication over the last two years!

Of course, having previously worked in schools with a high percentage of EAL, bilingual and multi-lingual students, and even managed our EAL department, it has been fascinating to be on the “other side”.  But this insight has pertained, not to my children’s experience (indeed, my daughter is arguably more comfortable in French than in English), but to how we can support the parents in our communities who may not be fluent English.

Here’s what’s been really helpful for me, as the “F(French)AL” parent at the school gate…

Information Evenings

A short information evening early on in the term where parents get the chance to see their children’s classroom, leaf through their books, visually take in which book is the planner, which is for reading, what homework might look like etc., is a great starting point.  It provides the opportunity for parents to demonstrate their level of English, and for teachers to take note of any families that might need additional support in clarity of communication.  It also introduces parents to each other so that families speaking the same language can find each other and build community, or get added to the class WhatsApp group so they don’t miss out on important reminders or get togethers.

I make a point of speaking up at these meetings, and talking to the teacher afterwards so that they can really hear the extent of my clumsiness in French, but some parents might not feel comfortable doing this.  Quietly engaging with parents as they come in, or leave the meeting with more than a “hello”, “good bye” can be a good way for teachers to get a better idea of how much English our families have.

Asking all parents in these meetings, their preferred means of communication – email, telephone, in-person, notes in planners – is a sensible way to secure clarity of communication from the start.  Some parents may be able to speak and understand English confidently, but their literacy skills may be weaker.  Some parents may be adept at using Google translate and balk at telephone conversations.  Equally, for our native or fluent English speakers, email may be far preferable in a busy working day, to the interruption of a telephone call.

At the School Gate

The relaxed, conversational moments at the school gate are a great opportunity to show with smiles and gestures that students have had a great day, or to point out an important piece of information in a letter going home, or even to tackle challenges.  This might be normal practice at primary level, but is particularly helpful for parents without much English who may otherwise have no means of knowing how school is going.  

The hovering time afforded to me by the physical presence of teaching and support staff at the gate of my children’s first school meant that I was able to get to grips with how school lunches worked, wraparound care, strike days, when to bring in packed lunches, what on earth the system of cover teachers was in France.  Remember that different countries have hugely different approaches to all aspects of education, and ways of doing things outside the classroom might be completely alien to some of our families – they were to me!

At secondary level, it might be trickier, especially beyond KS3 where students are more independent, but knowing which parents do collect their students, and swapping in a gate duty once in a while is a great opportunity for relationship building.

Inclusive Homework

Never have I had such thorough French lessons as when my son started CP, the equivalent of Year 2 when children learn to read in France.  Every evening, he was required to read through syllables and increasingly complex passages from his Taoki text book.  My pronunciation, vocabulary and understanding of French linguistics improved immeasurably over this year, even if I still can’t differentiate between the different ‘oo’ sounds.  I now have two miniature teachers, as well as the shadow of their teachers to support my progress in French.

Homework activities – and resourcing these effectively – that allow parents to learn alongside their children, even if they are doing this surreptitiously rather than pro-actively, are a great way to boost parents’ own language skills.

Celebrate Home Languages

Yes, yes, I’m an English teacher and will leap at any chance to read a story and perform in front of an audience, but the jokes from parents and teachers about helping them to improve their English have resulted in a termly story-time slot for three year groups in my children’s current school.  

As English speakers, we’re in the privileged position of speaking the global language of business, and as such, English is a valued language in most countries.  Unfortunately though, this means that we look down – as a general culture – on other languages or consider them irrelevant.  

This contempt is interlaced with prejudice, and I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of light-hearted mockery or messaging coming through my children and their friends, that indicates that these attitudes are also present in France.  It creates tension, wariness and defensiveness and I’m incredibly conscious of the parents and teachers who make room for me, and are generous with my language – allowing me to make mistakes and feeding me vocabulary when I stumble – and those who look at me with fear or discomfort when I begin talking.

Story time has provided an opportunity to celebrate English – I deliver with props and songs and emphasis, and follow-up worksheets – and the children love it and share this enthusiasm with their families.  Not all parents will be interested or available for a set up like this, but events like World Book Day, a Home Cultures or International Day, are great opportunities to invite primary school parents to come in and tell a story in their home language.  At secondary level, this could take the form of a drop down day or afternoon where parents, students and teachers set up a national market place stall of treats, games and language challenges for students to explore.

Offering community languages as an optional GCSE is also a hugely important signal that other languages are valued in your school.  Parents need to be informed of how their can support their children with this extra-curricular commitment, and the importance of speaking, reading and writing the home language.  Some parents might even be interested in supporting with language clubs, additional tuition, mock paper marking, or speaking exams.

Most importantly, remember that language limitations don’t make parents lesser, and it is definitely not our role as teachers to dictate how much English our students’ parents should speak, or the languages that should be spoken at home.  Bilingualism and multilingualism are a gift, and “Time and Place” bilingualism – where specific locations (e.g. home and school) – are delineated for one or other language is a tried and proven method for building native fluency in more than one language.

Parents’ English may improve over time, or they may be very content with the level of language they have.  This may be particularly true if they have secondary aged children and school is the only reason they need to understand or use their English.  With small adjustments – many of which are attitudinal – we can embrace the parents of our EAL students and facilitate inclusive environments where they can engage with their children’s education in a way that feels appropriate to them.


Navigating School Life

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 gay dad, I embarked on a remarkable journey when my child entered school. From the early days of reception to the transitions and milestones of Year 1, I’ve witnessed firsthand the joys, challenges, and triumphs of being an LGBTQ+ parent in the educational system. I therefore wanted to share my experiences, insights, and reflections, shedding light on the unique journey of a LGBT+ parent  navigating their child’s schooling.

From the first day of reception, I was determined to create an inclusive environment where my child would thrive. I approached the school teachers, emphasizing the importance of embracing diversity and promoting acceptance among all. I was pleasantly surprised by their open-mindedness and commitment to fostering an inclusive atmosphere. They then looked to me to answer their questions and point them in the right direction of equity and inclusion. 

Throughout the early years of schooling, I discovered the significance of building strong relationships with teachers, other parents, and school staff. By being open about my family’s structure, I paved the way for understanding and acceptance. I actively engaged in school activities, volunteering my time and participating in parent-teacher meetings to establish connections and develop a sense of community. I, myself, joined the board of governors, while my partner became the chair of the PTA, ensuring we echoed the ‘normality’ of our family. 

As my child progressed through reception and Year 1, I encountered occasional misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ+ parenting. I sometimes  took these opportunities to educate and enlighten, sharing our family’s story and dispelling any doubts or concerns. Other times I was exhausted from educating others in the playground and just wanted to stand quietly in the rain, waiting for my ‘baby’ to finish school for the weekend. 

Fortunately, my child has not faced overt bullying or bias but we have heard comments such as ‘why do you have two dads’, ‘are they your two dads’ and he has always been the child used for ‘every family is different’. 

In Reception and Year 1, schools often organise events and activities that celebrate families, we always ensured one of our son’s parents were there to represent his family and that he had a cheering face in the crowds. We went to ‘Mother day or special person day’ events and planted seeds and enjoyed afternoon tea, as well as engaging in ‘fathers day’ sports activities.

We always felt that collaborating with teachers was pivotal to ensuring my child’s educational experience was positive and affirming. Regular communication, sharing important milestones, and addressing any concerns or questions were key aspects of this partnership. By fostering a strong parent-teacher relationship, we ensured our child received the support they needed to flourish academically and emotionally. 

Looking back on the last two years of my child’s journey through school, I’ve witnessed the power of acceptance, education, and collaboration in creating an inclusive environment. While challenges may arise, embracing diversity, building relationships, challenging assumptions, and advocating for inclusivity have proven transformative.

By sharing my experiences, I hope to inspire other LGBT+ families to approach their child’s school journey with confidence, knowing that their unique perspectives and experiences contribute to a more accepting and inclusive educational environment for all.


‘I’m so glad we have one of you here!’

Nabiha Mohamed portrait

Written by Nabiha Mohamed

I am a British born Muslim Pakistani Geography teacher, who loves rocks and the Marvel Universe. I have spent 13 years living in Abu Dhabi but have now returned to the UK and am living in Bristol. I have taught in both comprehensive and independent schools, both of which I have enjoyed very much. I am a creative being who overthinks everything! I love to learn, and I have recently woken up to the fact that I am one of the few teachers of colour in this country and am now feeling the responsibility of this weighing heavy on my shoulders. Keen to ‘make a difference’ in the schools, I would love to connect with other teachers of colour in the UK.

We have been hit with comments like these throughout our lives. We have become accustomed to these ‘microaggressions’ in every aspect of our daily routines, and by ‘we’, I mean, people of colour. 

As a British Asian Muslim woman (that’s a lot of labels already) born and raised in this country, I had never heard of the term ‘microaggressions’, until about 2 years ago in a CPD session at school. It was a turning point for me, in my career and my personal life. I have since been educating myself around the topics of unconscious bias, microaggressions and sense of belonging, particularly in schools. It’s been a rollercoaster ride since then, highs and lows in my teaching career, in my understanding of the issue and trying to work out how best to teach students to be assertive and staff to be ‘awake’. I am no professor in this area, I am not perfect, but I have grown to become passionate about this topic as one I can relate to and hopefully, an area I can help change in schools.

I have come to realise that many people who fire microaggressions at you, are often wonderful, kind, well-meaning people. They just don’t think about the gravity of their words; if you did have the courage to call them out on their inappropriate comments, they would be utterly devastated, which also makes us hold back on speaking up. Three recent examples I can think of (all said by adults):

  1. I can never learn the names of the girls who wear hijabs, they all look the same. 
  2. I’m so glad we have one of you here now at school, the kids really needed someone like you.
  3. I loved culture day; it was my favourite day of the year! I loved all the costumes students wore; they were beautiful. 

Costumes? I don’t wear my salwar kameez on Halloween, love.

I have delivered CPD sessions and assemblies on Unconscious Bias and Microaggressions to both staff and students recently, with the aim to give students of colour the confidence to speak up and say, ‘that’s not okay’ and to educate teachers on what many of their students go through daily as they go about their lives. 

The thing is… I said in my assembly that I promised myself, whenever anyone was to say anything inappropriate directed at me, I would speak up and tell them. If ‘we don’t do this’, I said, ‘things will never change.’ Did I speak up when the above microaggressions came my way? Shamefully, no I did not. WHY, oh WHY did I not say anything?! Because, they were all lovely people who didn’t mean any harm. Because I, aged 47, did not know how to handle the situation at that exact moment, and if I couldn’t, how could I expect a child to?

However, I want to break the cycle. I want to have the confidence to say ‘errmmm, no’, and I want to teach students to be able to do the same in a respectful way, but I don’t know how to. We have school policies on explicit racism but there is nothing in means of reporting the implicit microaggressions from students or staff. Should there be? Is there a need? Do we ask our EDI Leader to speak to the guilty ones or should we have the guts to do it ourselves? But the interesting, or annoying thing amongst these questions in my head is, why am I struggling to speak up like I am the guilty one? I haven’t done anything wrong.