New Music Track Supporting the UK’s Leading Neurodiversity Charity and Celebrating Difference, Inclusion and Equality, in Education and Beyond

Gary Grange portrait

Written by Gary Grange

Consultant and neurodiversity advocate with a passion for supporting young people who are neurodiverse and working with NGO’s and businesses to create positive social impact.

On the 24th June the Neurodiversity charity the ADHD Foundation launch the Umbrella Project which for the first time ever will feature a new dance track called We Will Rise, by songwriter, rapper and neurodiversity advocate J Grange (ft London Community Gospel Choir)

This project aims to help raise awareness of the 1:5 people who are neurodiverse and to celebrate equality in society, especially for those who are neurodiverse, many experiencing inequality and struggling in the education system.

What is neurodiversity? 

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people naturally think about things differently. We have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.

Most people are neurotypical, meaning that the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects.

However, it is estimated that around 1 in 5 people (around 20% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent, meaning that the brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Neurodivergence includes Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

J’s educational experience

J experienced an horrendous time in education. As a young person with ADHD, which was not diagnosed until weeks before he sat his exams, he was constantly excluded from school and eventually sent to a Pupil Referral Unit. This impacted on his mental wellbeing and he suffered severe anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Sadly, teachers and schools just did not know how to support J. With around 1:5 young people thought to be neurodiverse the education system needs to change. It needs to embrace the “difference” neurodiverse young people bring and to have a strength-based approach to learning. 

The current statistics are both shocking and show that 39% of children with ADHD have had fixed term exclusions from school and that children with ADHD have more than 100 times greater risk of being permanently excluded from school than other children.

Compare this to the fact that around 35% of businesses owners are neurodiverse and you can very quickly see that with the right support neurodiverse young people can be successful.

Schools, academy’s, colleges and universities are slowly beginning to change but they need help. 

J’s track is about his journey but also a message of hope and a call to end inequalities and divisions. To watch the music video from the 24th June and to support the need for the education to be more inclusive for neurodiverse young people please click here 

If you are a school, academy, college or university for more information about neurodiversity visit the ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity online, or follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram    

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On Kindness: Intentionality, #DEIJ, and Difficult Decisions

Matthew Savage portrait

Written by Matthew Savage

Former international school Principal, proud father of two transgender adult children, Associate Consultant with LSC Education, and founder of #themonalisaeffect.

A few years ago, there was lots of talk about “random acts of kindness”, and many a school assembly took place across our schools, using that idea to encourage kind words and actions among and between staff and students. 

However, I have since realised that kindness is never random. It is intentional. We make a conscious choice to be kind, or, conversely, not to be.

I reflected on this today, as a disabled, wheelchair traveller, treated like livestock at Madrid Airport: dumped in a corner and facing the wall, ignored, patronised and humiliated, and denied access to food, water or a bathroom, for 3 hours. 

When finally pushed to the plane door, after every single able-bodied passenger and with minutes until take-off, I shared my experience so far, and then explained that I had mistakenly also been allocated a seat at the back of the plane, which I would not be able to reach without risk, pain, discomfort and delay, if at all. 

I politely asked if the steward could request a passenger in a row further forward in Economy to swap with me, so as to avoid those things. They repeatedly, and emphatically, refused. 

On hearing our conversation, a traveller in the very first Business row immediately stood up and insisted he swap with me and take my seat instead. The steward tried to persuade him not to do so, as he would lose his Business seat, but he made it quite clear that it did not matter, as my wellbeing and safety were more important.

I wish I could thank him properly. However, I suspect he would not mind. After all, when we intentionally choose kindness, we do so unconditionally and without expectation.

On the subsequent flight, I reflected further on this. In the leadership of our school communities, we also have the opportunity actively and intentionally to choose kindness, every single day – in our conversations and our actions; in policy and strategy; and in the decisions we make. 

Sometimes this is easy, but when it feels difficult, we can and must still make that choice. We must ask ourselves what would be the kind thing to do. And then do that.

If kindness remains random, it will also be inequitably applied, and, in turn, perpetuate the marginalisation of those who need it most. Therefore, kindness should be at the heart of any #deij strategy too, and that strategy can help propagate intentional kindness as a result.

If we choose kindness, always, not only will kindness infuse the climate and culture of our schools, but others will follow our lead. Just like its absence, kindness cascades.

Does intentional kindness guide and permeate your school, or is it still random?

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“Grandmotherly Duties” – Let Loose!

Jackie Hill portrait

Written by Jackie Hill

An experienced teacher trainer, Jackie is a Founding Fellow of the Chartered College, Network Leader for WomenEdNW and Co-Founder / Strategic Leader for WomenEdNI.

NB This blog is suitable for all ages…

“Grandmotherly duties” – thoughts around this phrase have been rumbling in my head for some time. I’ve never been quite sure if, when or how I should share those rumblings and it was only on a recent trip to a “soft play” centre with my two favourite little learners that I decided it was time to “let loose”!  

Firstly, I want to make it very clear that, in my experience, becoming a grandparent can be one of the best new roles that you can ever take on. However, I have been surprised to find that it can also bring an unwelcome “tag”…

Let me explain: in January 2019, both my husband and I moved to a more flexible working pattern (3 days a week) but the processes to arrive at that, and the perceptions regarding our motivations, were quite different.

For me, the consequence of my request for a more flexible working pattern, was that I had to accept a move to a new role, giving up the one that I had loved and had hoped to retain.  Of course, this is a scenario which has faced many other women in education – I just had not expected it at that stage in my career.  I had explained that I wanted to be more actively engaged in certain professional networks, interests and activities – all of which would actually have enabled me to carry out my workplace role even more effectively.  These included DiverseEd, WomenEd (I’m Co-Founder and Strategic Leader in WomenEdNI and a Network for WomenEdNW), and The Chartered College (as a Fellow, and more recently Council Member).  

Coincidentally I had become a grandmother a year beforehand and when the initial communications announcing the change in my professional role appeared, the focus had shifted.  Yes, the explanation given for the move was that I wished to focus on other things, but only one was mentioned – “grandmotherly duties”!  I was really taken aback as I felt it created such a false impression – so I asked for it to be changed immediately. And it was, straightaway, thankfully.

Now, anyone who knows me, also knows that I adore my grandchildren (more than one now!) and may be wondering why I would be so annoyed at this interpretation. Well, in my view it goes to the core of my identity or rather the way many people’s perceptions of identity change when they find out you’re a grandmother – you’re now “over the hill” / past your best / on the way out – too OLD!   I subsequently discovered that one of my colleagues had a 4 year old much loved grandson but rarely spoke about him, for exactly this reason!  

Of course, this is a reprise of something similar that many colleagues in education experience earlier in their careers when they are told “it’s time to just focus on being a mum”.  However, when your children have grown up, you would think those judgmental assumptions would now be relegated to the past, so it’s a shock when they reappear in another way later in your career.

Jo Pellereau’s blog “Concentrate on Being a Mum” (and forget about work) outlines her experiences beautifully (Pellereau, 2020). Her assertion that “in many ways my commitment to education has been increased by my new identity as a mother” really resonates with me.  My new identity as a grandmother has not only re-invigorated my commitment to education but has also taken it in new directions which have been both challenging and uplifting.

I asked my husband if anyone ever said to him “Now’s the time to focus on your “grandfatherly” duties”.  His look of disbelief, said it all!!!  Of course, they hadn’t!  

This also got me thinking about “grandmotherly duties” – what are they? What could or should they involve…?  

Of course, each grandparent’s circumstances are different, so there can be do fixed set of “duties”, job description or person specification for this role that would work for all. However, I’d like to share just a few grandparently duties that are important for me: 

  1. Try to be a visible role model – for other grandparents, parents, carers and, of course, my family (especially the wee ones).  Remain professionally active and involved, and, where possible, demonstrate that abilities, understanding, desire to keep learning and sharing do not have to cease to exist or be important, just because a person has this additional role.
  2. Continue to develop my “voice” to support schools and other education settings to become diverse, inclusive and equitable communities – where different families, like my grandchildren’s, and indeed all others, know and feel they belong.
  3. Look for ways to help my grandchildren discover the wider world outside their own little corner, so that they realise they are global citizens, and understand how that opens the world to them (as well as their responsibilities to look after it and one another).
  4. Help them to develop the joy of learning and also of reading all sorts of books (was it wrong of me to feel a little bit pleased when my grandson became upset recently because the library was closed!?!?)
  5. Spend time together and have fun.

What other “duties” have I missed?  What would you add?

“DiverseEd; A Manifesto” feature in my day of grandmother duties because I took it with me to read at Soft Play! (Yes, I was the only Grandma doing that…)  The wonderful Chapter on Age includes insightful stories and reflections of others, highlighting the underused and undervalued potential contributions that many older colleagues still have to offer.  This also cuts across some of the other Protected Characteristics and, as the Editor for Chapter 4 “Marriage and Civil Partnership”, I’ve read, researched and reflected a lot about families and relationships, and firmly believe that ALL families should “experience the same positive environment, level of support, opportunities and VISIBILITY across the curriculum”.  The fact that this includes families with, or even headed by, grandparents is sometimes missed.

So, in practice, how should that visibility work?  In what ways could it break away from stereotypical images (rather than reinforcing them)? How should it be demonstrated through the staff in our schools and other educational settings too?

In reflecting on all of this, I’ve been reminded of the important role that my own amazing Gran played in my upbringing and her enduring influence on me.  She lived with us and she was a wise, constant and loving presence, a cornerstone for our immediate, and indeed wider, family – while at the same time being an independent, working woman who read widely, and managed her own finances plus other responsibilities, whilst also supporting others. In her sixties, she travelled abroad for the first time, on her own, to Australia.  She spent several months there, and wrote to us regularly to share her experiences – my brother still has the didgeridoo she carried back for him!

Similarly there are people like her today – who are ready to take on new challenges, to develop their professional and/or personal roles, and who are fit, willing and able to continue doing so.  What a waste when we write them off, or high-handedly decide for them that it’s time to “focus on being a mother” or their “grandmotherly duties”.  The choice should be theirs and roles need not be mutually exclusive. 

Moreover, there is a clear case for employing older workers (Makoff A, 2021) – increased knowledge-sharing through a multi-generational workforce has been identified as a particular benefit.  Makoff cites Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less (a digital community for the over-50s) who asserts that “demographic and societal changes including an aging population, delayed retirement and multi-generational workplaces will continue to be the direction of travel for a long time to come… the employers and HR teams that recognise this early, get ahead of the trend and embrace it early are going to be the workforces and businesses that thrive over the next decade.”

So I’ll leave you with some questions to consider:

  • How do you view colleagues and others in your school community and/or education setting and/or networks who are grandparents (or are of an age that they could be grandparents)?   
  • Have you relegated them to the “former players” stand or are you making the most of their experience, expertise and possibly even renewed outlook and perspectives on education, learners and schools?  
  • How could you ensure that diverse families, relationships and roles are visible and valued in your classroom, staffroom / workplace and communications?

References

Pellereau J, (2020) Concentrate on Being a Mum.  Available at: https://physicsjo.science.blog/2020/10/06/concentrate-on-being-a-mum/  

Kara B and Wilson H (2021) DiverseEd: A Manifesto University of Buckingham Press

Makoff A (2021) How can employers embrace an age-friendly workplace Available at: https://dileaders.com/blog/how-can-employers-embrace-an-age-friendly-workplace-culture/

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Facing The Challenges of Discrimination and Migrant Integration

Isabelle Watts portrait

Written by Isabelle Watts

We are a Young Economic Summit Team from Sheffield Girls' who have reached the UK national finals. This is a topic we are all passionate about, and we have come up with a solution to reduce the discrimination migrants face.

As part of the Young Economic Summit we have researched the challenges migrants face and have developed a solution to mitigate these challenges. We are passionate about mitigating the discrimination migrants face and ensuring that they feel welcome into the countries which they choose to migrate to.

What challenges do migrants face?

Migrants face many challenges when they migrate due to discrimination from domestic born citizens. The media often fuels the discrimination by oversimplifying, misrepresenting or embellishing stories in order to attract attention. Consequently, people’s perception of migrants becomes negative and in many countries, such as the UK, migrants are seen as poorer, less educated and more likely to be unemployed than is the case. This creates barriers between migrants and domestic born citizens as they have pre made judgements of what they believe migrants to be

However, it isn’t just the media that is exacerbating the challenges migrants face; it is also the policies implemented by the government. In recent weeks, the government has announced a new policy whereby any adult who comes to the UK without authorisation could be considered for relocation to Rwanda. Not only does this policy take away refugees’ control of their own lives and makes them more vulnerable to smugglers and traffickers, it also creates the idea that countries can pay to get rid of the responsibilities they signed up to under the 1951 Geneva Convention.

The desired situation:

The desired situation is a cohesive society where migrants and domestic born citizens are integrated and migrants feel welcomed into a country. Whilst migrants may inevitably face challenges, the aim is to try and support them as well as possible and remove the discrimination and intolerance of our society.

How to reach the desired solution:

One way in which we are trying to reach the desired situation is by conducting PSHE lessons on migration. In the long run this would reduce the discrimination migrants face as children will be taught what the different types of migrants are, what challenges they face, how to spot misinformation, as well as addressing the biases they may have already developed. Moreover, a supportive atmosphere will be created which encourages children to talk about their cultures and be proud of them. It is imperative that these lessons take place in primary school as by the age of 12/13, attitudes to race are fixed and become increasingly harder to alter.  Although migration is in the PSHE curriculum, it isn’t compulsory and many schools avoid it. Therefore, we propose that set lesson plans are made which are compulsory to teach in PSHE lessons.

Another aspect of our solution is a widespread social media campaign reducing the misinformation spread about migrants. As part of this we have created eye catching social media posts that have facts that break down the stereotypes surrounding migrants. Consequently, people’s perception of migrants will begin to change and prejudices will be broken down.

Overall, we propose a twofold approach that takes into account the short and longer term. The national anti-racism media campaign will reduce discrimination in the short run, whilst the PSHE lessons will have a longer term effect. We believe that this is the most efficient strategy of reducing the discrimination migrants face due to misinformation, and allowing society to become more cohesive.

Please visit our website to find out more about our research, and fill in the form to show support for our solution.

Website:https://sites.google.com/she.gdst.net/migrant-integration-challenges/home 

Form:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1p363lLoHvigT2xWaZ0GnmNlQ-EOUrSsasSRbOsjKiG0/edit

Bibliography:

  1. Conzo P and others, ‘Negative Media Portrayals Of Immigrants Increase Ingroup Favouritism And Hostile Physiological And Emotional Reactions’ (2021) 11 Scientific Reports
  2. ‘What Are The Predominant Stereotypes About Immigrants Today?’ (Re-imagining Migration) <https://reimaginingmigration.org/what-are-the-predominant-stereotypes-about-immigrants-today/> accessed 15 May 2022
  3. Beirens H, and Davidoff-Gore S, ‘The UK-Rwanda Agreement Represents Another Blow To Territorial Asylum’ (Migration Policy Institute, 2022) <https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/uk-rwanda-asylum-agreemen> accessed 15 May 2022
  4. Beirens H, and Davidoff-Gore S, ‘The UK-Rwanda Agreement Represents Another Blow To Territorial Asylum’ (Migration Policy Institute, 2022) <https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/uk-rwanda-asylum-agreemen> accessed 15 May 2022
  5. Barnes D, ‘Why Helping Children Understand The Complexities Of Migration Is Vital’ (Teachwire, 2022) <https://www.teachwire.net/news/why-helping-children-understand-the-complexities-of-migration-is-vital> accessed 15 May 2022
  6. ‘Plan Your Relationships, Sex And Health Curriculum’ (GOV.UK, 2022) <https://www.gov.uk/guidance/plan-your-relationships-sex-and-health-curriculum#using-external-agencies> accessed 16 May 2022

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DEI in an International Setting

Esther Mustamu-Daniels portrait

Written by Esther Mustamu-Daniels

Esther Mustamu-Daniels has 20 years of teaching experience working in London and the Middle East as a Class teacher, Education officer, Middle Leader and DEI Lead. Currently working at British School Muscat, Esther co-leads the DEI work across the whole school.

Many international schools are on or starting their journey of awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion. Because cohorts in these schools are so diverse by nature, often staff feel that there are no problems and that racism/discrimination is not a factor in the schools. This is usually very far from the truth.

Be brave; be vulnerable and start the challenging and honest conversations that are needed for change to take place.

Because of recent high profile events, diversity, equity and inclusion is a necessary space in all educational settings and that international schools, who send their alumni to universities all over the world, would do well to support, inform and equip students with knowledge and language to engage with the different topics around DEI. 

How do schools start tackling, delivering and addressing these needs? 

Start with the staff: build open conversations. It is important to know that not everyone is at the same place on their journey and also that there are different opinions. Gathering the ‘tone’ of your school as well as allowing safe spaces to share experiences is a key factor. What is important is that this is not only talk; action is also needed. This is an emotional and difficult journey so be sure to provide space and time to reflect and learn. 

Action: Build a plan of how you will move forward. You may need to conduct a survey or gather some research and data from your school’s stakeholders to help you focus on what the priorities are in your specific setting. Are there specific needs or policies that need addressing first? This will help to focus on each step and also assign roles or tasks to specific people. This should be flexible so that it can be adapted along the way. 

Leadership: Is there someone leading the work? Do SLT support and value the work being done? Does your leadership understand the why and how? This is important because without this it is extremely difficult to implement significant change. Leadership needs to take accountability for the work being done in their school. Is that person being paid?

Support: This is also an essential element. Who is supporting the people completing the work? Are they being emotionally supported as well as practically? The people leading or sharing this work may have been personally impacted or triggered by the issues raised; how are they being supported?

What is important to note is that action in any form is good and a positive step in the right direction. Addressing and tackling these issues will take time and for long lasting impact will need to be embedded in the culture of your school or environment. This is not a badge or a t-shirt; this is a cultural shift of readdressing mindsets. 

If you are involved or starting up; learn, speak and support. Being an ally and everyone doing their part is imperative. There is so much work being done at the moment. Twitter is an excellent source of examples, webinars and organisations that can support you on your journey. 

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Queer Clubbing – Creating Intentional Queer Space in Educational Settings

Edel Cronin portrait

Written by Edel Cronin

Secondary school senior leader and co founder of Bristol Queer Educators, very Queer and very Irish.

During my PGCE I had one lecture where the lecturer spoke about being a LGBTQ+ Educator.  They spoke of their experience growing up LGBTQ+ in the 1960s onwards.  One of the messages that stayed with me is the importance of Queer spaces for LGBTQ+ people.  For that lecturer living in a society where there was active policing of LGBTQ+ lives, Queer people found ways to create space and community.  Without these spaces LGBTQ+ people become isolated, lack space where their sexuality and/or gender is affirmed and don’t get an opportunity to learn their history.

During our school Pride last year, I spent a term doing all the usual things that it takes to help coordinate a school Pride.  Our Pride events ended with a whole school Pride Day, as part of that day LGBTQ+ club had a lunchtime party where the focus was celebration.  Students had a Pride Photobooth, we had music playing, the school canteen made rainbow cupcakes for the party, students dressed in rainbow colours and wore their LGBTQ+ flag like capes.  While sitting in that room taking a moment to observe what we had created I realised that what was happening in that room, Queer Joy free from risk of homophobia or transphobia, this was the most important work I could do.  If you have a regular space where you are free from the ‘risk assessment’ that comes with being a LGBTQ person+, a space where you can learn your communities history, share your favourite books or films that celebrate your lived experience and bask in the joy that comes with the freedom of being in a Queer Space, over time you will become more affirmed in your own self, you will be able to move around the world with the self-assurance needed in a society that tells us we shouldn’t exist.

Schools should absolutely spend intentional time and resources educating all the people in their community about LGBTQ+ history, provide anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia training and celebrate LGBTQ+ people.  Doing so will help use build coalition between LGBTQ+ communities and those outside the community, reduce homophobia and transphobia and liberate us all from the burden of heteronormative stereotyping.  However, it is also important that before doing this work school leaders have policies in place to support the work, provide staff and students with scripts on how to have difficult conversations and challenge homophobic and transphobic language.  And provide space for Queer people in the building, should they want to access it, where they do not have to worry about being the ‘Gay Oracle’, experience homophobia, transphobia and risk assess how Queer they can be.  For some people a virtual space will provide them with the best support, others will benefit from sign posting of networks or groups that exist outside of the school community and for others it will be having a physical space.

Ensuring that in person or virtually student and staff groups are available to LGBTQ+ people also allow Queer people the space to be surrounded by people who have similar lived experience that can provide or direct them to Queer inclusive support, learn about Queer stories and histories and experience the joy that is being Queer in a Queer space.  It removes the burden that can come with moving from a Pride assembly to a classroom where you are only Queer person.  By making intentional Queer spaces in educational setting, we are also making an active statement as Educators that we are taking up space in educational spaces that are traditionally positioned as a battle group for LGBTQ+ rights. Let us ensure that all our educational spaces move with intentionality to liberate and acknowledge loudly that Queer people have always been and will always be in educational spaces.

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Review of Diverse Educators: A Manifesto, ed Hannah Wilson and Bennie Kara (University of Buckingham Press, 2022)

Jill Berry portrait

Written by Dr Jill Berry

Thirty years teaching across six different schools in the UK, state and independent, and was a head for the last ten. Has since completed a doctorate and written a book.

This book is a collaborative tour de force. Rarely have I read anything which has made me think as much as this book has.  Tapping into the experiences of a wide range of writers whose lives have been, in so many ways, quite different from my own, has been sobering, humbling but ultimately energising.  This book deserves to be widely read, robustly discussed and, crucially, its key messages need to be acted upon so that we work to change our world for the better – for everyone.

I appreciate that this is not necessarily a book most people would read from cover to cover.  It is a weighty tome!  It devotes one section to each of the nine protected characteristics, adds a chapter on intersectionality, a prologue and an epilogue.  It is an amazing accomplishment, bringing together the views of 125 contributors, including the ten chapter editors, and Hannah and Bennie, who all share their stories and their perspectives.  The book goes far beyond the exploration of personal stories, however.

I imagine that many people would identify a specific section, or several sections, about which they wished to develop their knowledge and understanding, and would focus on that part of the book.  But I want to advocate for reading it all.  Even if you feel that there are certain characteristics that you believe you fully understand and appreciate – perhaps you share them – I suggest that every section has something to teach us.  And as you make your way through each separate section, you appreciate the connections, the echoes and the common ground, reinforcing the essential humanity which underpins this story of ‘difference’.  As Bennie says in our Myatt & Co interview about the book: ‘No-one is just one thing.’

The range of contributors is one of the reasons this book resonates.  Different contributors ranging from teenagers to the considerably more mature contingent; UK and overseas perspectives; primary, secondary and FE educators; state and independent sector teachers and leaders; many who share a number of protected characteristics offer their experiences, views and their own learning with generosity, honesty and courage.

Many of the stories are strongly grounded in research, and the book contains a great number of references, on which the contributors draw and which they share for those who wish to explore further through additional reading.  It is also eminently practical, with key takeaways, key questions and specific commitments at the end of each chapter and a final section in which Bennie and Hannah make clear how readers can act on their reflections as they have worked through the different sections and what they have learnt as a result.  They exhort us to consider: what difference will this make?  It made me think of Zoe and Mark Enser’s words in ‘The CPD Curriculum’: “CPD does not happen through a particular input of information; CPD occurs through what happens next.”  When you get to the end of the book, you are strongly encouraged to think about what action you will take as a result of the experience.

I strongly recommend ‘Diverse Educators: A Manifesto’.  Bennie Kara’s words in the epilogue mirrored perfectly my own response to the book: “Throughout the book, I have been struck by the honesty of the contributing authors… I have seen in the writing parts of myself – feelings, thoughts and experiences that have served to demonstrate how we as education professionals have complex and interweaving experiences…In reading these chapters, even if I do not share a particular person’s protected characteristic, I have recognised the intensely human need to be heard.”

I would encourage you to make the time to read the whole book.  I am confident that you won’t regret it.

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Weaving Diverse Narratives into the Curriculum with Human Stories

Anna Szpakowska portrait

Written by Anna Szpakowska

Professional Development Lead at Lyfta

The importance of using a wide range of diverse human stories in our classrooms cannot be underestimated. There is clearly a desire amongst staff and students to broaden the curriculum to include these stories. Beyond that desire, however, there are numerous benefits to using diverse narratives in the classroom that include improving student engagement, nurturing character development and supporting academic progress too. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of using diverse human stories, how this can be done and the potential impact it can have for your students. 

Why diverse human stories? 

It’s clear that the past few years have seen a heightened awareness and desire amongst the teaching profession to make the curriculum a more diverse and inclusive one. All teachers are bound by an adherence to the Equality Act of 2010 as well as the Public Sector Equality Duty, but recent polls have shown that there is still a desire to do more. For example, one survey commissioned by Pearson and conducted by Teacher Tapp revealed that 89% of secondary teachers and 60% of primary teachers felt that there was more diversity required in the set texts that they teach. 

However, this clearly isn’t just an issue that concerns English teachers. Pearson’s own report, Diversity and inclusion in schools, reveals that teachers feel that their curricula are not fully representative of the communities in which they work. The results reveal that teachers feel most concerned by the under-representation of people of identify as non-binary and people identifying as LGBT+. The report goes on to list a variety of different reasons as to why this representation is important. These reasons include:

  • creating a sense of belonging for staff and students alike
  • reducing instances of bullying and mental health problems 
  • reducing barriers to achievement

So how do stories help us achieve this? Narratives have long been at the heart of teaching and learning and  real-life stories have the potential to inspire students. For example, research conducted by Immordino Yang shows that experiencing human stories can motivate students into action and that the best learning takes place when students care about what it is they’re learning. 

If stories have the potential to motivate students and to make them care, it’s clear that there’s a reason to embed them in our curricula. More than that, it’s clear by ensuring there are a wide range of diverse voices included, it has the potential to improve student wellbeing and progress too. 

How can this be achieved? 

Lyfta is an educational platform that allows students to travel the world without leaving the comfort of their classrooms. Teachers can teach lessons or set lessons for students to complete independently, that take them into Lyfta’s 360° storyworlds. Storyworlds are immersive environments that contain images, 360° videos, articles and short documentary films. These short documentary films connect students with individuals from the communities that they are visiting. All of Lyfta’s documentary films contain an inspiring central character who models resilience, problem solving and positive values, supporting students to think creatively and critically. 

Lyfta has a wide range of lesson plans for teachers to use, to support them to successfully embed diverse narratives into their curriculum. These lesson plans are mapped against 12 different subject areas, cover a range of protected characteristics and all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

We’ve seen great success of teachers using the platform with students from key stage one all the way up to key stage five. We know that students enjoy their lessons with Lyfta with 94% of Lyfta users indicating that their students are highly engaged or enjoy using Lyfta. 

What impact will it have? 

When assessing the impact of our work, we’ve seen that not only do students enjoy using the platform but that there are a number of other effects on their personal development and educational achievement too. Students at a sixth form college in Kent describe the experience of recognising the shared experience of humanity across the world, describing the moment they realised that the people in Lyfta’s documentary films were ‘thinking about the [same] things we do in our everyday lives’ and that preconceptions or ‘assumptions’ the students may have had beforehand ‘were undone’. 

In addition to this work done at a secondary school in Essex revealed that Lyfta’s wide range of documentary films and storyworlds helped teachers to embed school values, with the vast majority of students finding that their understanding of their school values increased after completing a unit of work, using Lyfta lessons. In exploring values across the world, students are able to see our shared human values, thus normalising diversity and helping students to understand that we have more in common than our perceived differences. 

These findings are also supported by independent research, conducted by the University of Tampere in Finland. This research revealed that ‘the multi-sensory and participatory nature of immersive 360° experiences led to a decrease in learners’ sense of social anxiety about meeting people from different cultural backgrounds. Engaging with new people in an immersive virtual setting gives students the opportunity to identify common interests and, as a result, develop more positive feelings towards them.’ Therefore, the way Lyfta helps to normalise diversity has two significant implications; first, it helps to reduce anxiety and prejudice amongst those students who feel worried about others who are different from themselves. Secondly, for those students who may have experienced discrimination or marginalisation, Lyfta’s storyworlds and documentary films also allow them an opportunity to see themselves reflected in the stories presented to them at school. 

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RIP Amanda Carter-Philpott

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

It is with huge sadness that we share the news that one of our community, Amanda Carter-Philpott, passed away on April 17th.

Amanda was a passionate disability and diversity activist and campaigner who demonstrated an unwavering commitment to inclusion. She consistently advocated for social justice and consciously became a voice for the voiceless.

As a disabled professional she spent over 30 years in the social welfare/criminal justice field both as a social worker and as a senior probation officer in Milton Keynes and the surrounding counties.

As a trainer, educator, public speaker and activist in the disability community she engaged with many diverse audiences sharing her dynamic approach to life with optimism and a dry sense of humour.

Amanda is a contributor to our book, she has blogged for us and she has spoken at #DiverseEd events. Below is an extract from the conclusion in her contribution to the  Marriage and Civil Partnership Chapter:

Commitment, Choices and Courageous Conversations

Key Takeaways 

  • Create safe informed environments for conducting courageous conversations around the issues mentioned in this chapter.
  • Challenge misinformation and misunderstanding of disability issues through curricular exposure.
  • Develop an effective evaluation system for analysing impact incorporating feedback from staff, students/pupils, parents, local community groups and other agencies .

Key Questions 

  • Teachers: How far have you considered disability, marriage and civil partnerships in your PSHE sessions? 
  • SLT: What are the main barriers to disability awareness/confidence in your institution? 
  • Governors: How can you consult with and engage the disability community in raising awareness/confidence in your education settings? 

Key Commitment for Diverse Educators’ Manifesto 

Facilitate forums for courageous conversations with both children, young people and staff in relation to marriage, civil partnerships and disability.

Amanda had a huge heart and loved the work she did, she will be deeply missed by our network.

We are thinking of her family and send our condolences to everyone who knew her. We will be making a donation on behalf of the network to a local charity that supports the campaigning she did for her community.

Some tributes from the writing team she contributed to:

Amanda was a wonderful member of our Chapter Team and her perspectives, through what she wrote and also what she contributed during our virtual team meetings, made such an impact.

Due to the focus of the chapter, we shared personal experiences and information during our discussions and, although we never met in person, we got to know one another quite quickly.  

She positively challenged and enlightened us all and enriched the whole chapter with her contribution.  What a mighty educator and amazing role model!  

Jackie Hill

What a loss. My thoughts and condolences go to all her family, friends and colleagues.

Jessica Austin-Burdett

Our chapter is even more special now in Amanda’s memory. Thoughts and prayers with her family and friends. May she Rest in Peace.

Sarah Mullin

Amanda was such a warm and generous member of our team.

James Pope

Very sad news. But I hope the legacy we’ve started to build will make an impact on so many. 

Sending love and strength to Amanda’s family.

Kiran Satti

Amanda was such a lovely, warm and engaging lady.

Laura Davies

I will be thinking of her family and friends. 

Bex Bothwell-O’Hearn

It is hard to believe that we have lost such an important voice.  Her contribution to the field of DEI will not be forgotten. My thoughts are with her family.

Bennie Kara

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Raising Awareness of Showmen in Education

Future for Fairgrounds logo

Written by Future4Fairgrounds

Future4Fairgrounds formed in September 2020. We are 6 lady Showmen. Our group is an additional voice of our community. We are celebrating our past, raising awareness of our present situation and protecting our future!

Future4Fairgrounds are a group of 6 lady Showmen who came together in September 2020 because of our concerns surrounding the issues Showmen were facing due to the impact of the pandemic. Our initial focus was to highlight the fairs that were unable to open during 2020 and create a better understanding of the amount of Showman families that were affected because of this. We attended many locations that would have had fairgrounds with our #f4f banners which displayed our aims – “to celebrate our past, raise awareness for the present and protect our future”. We raised our profile on social media, contacted our own MPs and became an additional voice for our community establishing ourselves alongside the number of trade body representatives that speak for our industry. We realised from the interest in F4F that there was a very real need for a community group such as ours and we were very proud to be mentioned in a Westminster debate in December of 2020.

We have continued to remain as a proactive group for a full year and our group F4F celebrated being one year old on 24th September 2021. 

This anniversary took place during World Fun Fair Month. An initiative we created to help raise further awareness of our community and join together with other Showmen on a global scale. 

“I Am A Showman” was declared by Showmen of all ages, genders and nationalities and highlighted a community coming together united in their pride for who we are as a people. It was a perfect start to a month-long celebration. The WFFM logo was also flown at fairgrounds in the U.K. and around the world making its way to Australia, New Zealand and even Times Square New York! WFFM was supported by so many people that it became much bigger than we ever expected. The project evolved organically and we were overwhelmed at the success of the event. 

One major success of WFFM involved the newly published independent reading book The Show Must Go On. Having been contacted by co author Michelle Russel early on in F4F’s conception it was wonderful to hear about the positive representation in this book. We did not have any input in the book’s creation but we could see the huge impact this little book could have and we wanted to make sure this ground-breaking book was available to as many schools as possible. With the help of money we had donated to us and money we had raised we were able to place an initial order and buy 1000 copies. To tie in with WFFM we gave them to schools that had fairgrounds linked to their towns during September. 

This amazing little book is so much more than a reading book it can be used as a tool to spark a thought, start a conversation and raise awareness of our community and with the help of WFFM making further links to the towns the Showmen visit annually. Many teachers have been in touch as they are aware that there is a lack of understanding and knowledge about Showmen. They understand the need for positive representation of our community in their school and in the education system as a whole. Since September our “book project” has gone from strength to strength and we have purchased a further 4000 books! They have been given to schools that have Showman children in as well as schools without Showmen students.

In 2022 our focus remains with raising awareness of Showmen in education. This has been extended from our initial look at primary schools into every stage of learning and teaching. We are hoping we can make changes in early years right through to higher education. Especially with more Showmen than ever before staying on in school, achieving fantastic exam results and following their academic career into university. We think education is key to raising awareness. If we can help stop misconceptions and prejudice by offering an authentic voice and sharing positive, accurate information with teachers in schools and universities to share with their students. We can create a better understanding of who Showmen are from the ground up. We hope that we can encourage schools and universities to identify the Showmen that they do have in attendance in an official way on enrolment forms. At the moment our community is invisible on most forms. With our collaboration with the organisations who worked on the GTRSB pledge into higher education and this being developed and adapted to be applied in other educational settings, we are hopeful we can make a difference to how Showmen are seen and bring about a change for the better. 

F4F is certainly here to stay as a community voice and we look forward to celebrating World Fun Fair Month with everyone again in September!

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