Dear Secretary of State

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Context:

Since July 2020, we have held a quarterly Diversity Roundtable with national stakeholders invested in, and committed to, a system-wide strategy for collaborating on a DEI strategy in our schools. We collectively wrote to the DfE, the SoS, the NSC and the Equalities Team on March 1st. We are yet to receive an acknowledgement to our concerns. We have agreed to publish the letter as an open source, in the hope that we can move this conversation forwards.

The Diversity Roundtable: https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/diversity-roundtables/

March 1st 2021

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to you publicly as The Diversity Roundtable, a collective of professionals and specialists working in the field of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), to express our alarm at the recent withdrawal of funding in multiple areas in schools and Further Education. The cuts include: The Department for Education’s Equality and Diversity fund for school-led projects, to accelerate the diversification of protected characteristic groups in school leadership; English Second Other Language (ESOL) funding reduced by 50% in Further Education; and Equalities Office fund cut for anti-homophobic and anti-trans bullying. The lack of action concerning the Gender Reform Act has been disappointing, considering the anti-trans rhetoric nationally.

Now is a critical time for the Department for Education to enable schools and colleges to address structural inequity. We ask for a staged approach to impact on the sector to apply and embed professional learning from research specifically around race; embed best practice to update policy enactment; facilitate organisational change through specialist intervention and apply DEI sector knowledge to increase recruitment and retention both in leadership and the wider teacher workforce (see Appendix A).

The current situation suggests nationally and internationally discourse about and impact on protected characteristic groups has been the most significant in a generation. Events such as the brutal murder of George Floyd by a representative of a public sector organisation and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have influenced the direction of the country underlining significant inequity in the structures of our institutions. Currently schools and colleges face these challenges without any funding to address legacies of inaction.

We feel it is highly problematic not to address such concerns when research identifies schools as sites where racism is grown through structures (Warmington, 2020; Callender, 2020; Callender and Miller, 2019; Lander 2017; Bhopal, 2018; Gillborn, 2015; Parker and Roberts, 2011; Marx 2016; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Williams 1991). Racism is fostered and, at best, passively nurtured through professional gaps in knowledge and skills of DEI, uncritical pedagogic and curricula approaches and a limited range of lived experiences in leadership to address such practice. In addition, schools and colleges face historic bias in curricula, unchallenged majoritarian attitudes in the workforce and are now responding to families demanding change for their children.

We believe inequity in our schools presents a national challenge that needs to be addressed with national funding. It is our hope that in accordance with the Equality Act and 1 Public Sector Equality Duty (2010) all families, teachers, support staff and children, regardless of where they live, how many schools are in their Trust or the funding situation of their Local Authority, be protected from systemic inequalities in schools. We therefore ask for specific DEI funding for schools and colleges in order to provide geographical parity across the United Kingdom. We believe action is required in the following areas:

  1. Funding to address lack of racial diversity in leadership;
  2. Funding and training to protect students and staff from inequity in schools through addressing gaps in Teacher Standards;
  3. Funding to support serious focus on those with protected characteristics in the recruitment and retention strategies both in school and in Initial Teacher Education;
  4. Funding for schools and colleges to address professional gaps in curricula knowledge and skills.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000), the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty (2010) are upheld. School and college leaders have taken seriously and demonstrated agency in their responsibility to challenge structural discrimination and inequality for many years; examples such as Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham demonstrate the cost, time and nuanced complexity of this work for staff and the wider impact of upholding the law for communities and families.

The social and educational impact of COVID 19 and wider effects of the pandemic on people from different social class and Ethnic Minority backgrounds has underlined outcomes gained by structural privilege and laid bare the failure of our institutional structures to support children adequately at the point of need. It will be these families further disadvantaged by a workforce representing, interpreting and enacting policy by privileged groups in society.

It is our hope the Department seize this opportunity to provide funding and a structured approach to supporting schools and colleges to manage change. The teacher workforce is ready, invested and motivated to address structural inequity but needs funding and guidance in order to impact on children and staff as well as the communities they serve.

We extend an invitation to meet with the Diversity Roundtable by contacting the Chairs at
hello@hannah-wilson.co.uk  and hello@angelabrowne.co.uk to co-create ways forward.

Yours Faithfully,

Co-organisers of the Diversity Roundtable:

  • Angela Browne, Director, Nourished Collective
  • Claire Stewart-Hall, Director, Equitable Coaching
  • Hannah Wilson, Co-Founder and Director, Diverse Educators

Members of the Diversity Roundtable:

  • Adam McCann, CEO, Diversity Role Models
  • Aisha Thomas, Director, Representation Matters Ltd
  • Professor Dame Alison Peacock, CEO, Chartered College of Teaching
  • Allana Gay, BAMEed
  • Ann Marie Christian, Child 1st Consultancy Limited
  • Dr Anna Carlile, Head of the Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Aretha Banton, Co-Founder, Mindful Equity UK
  • Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)
  • Beth Bramley, Gender Balance Manager, Institute of Physics
  • Daniel Gray, Director, LGBTed
  • Diana Osagie, CEO, Courageous Leadership & The Academy of Women’s Leadership
  • Domini Leong, Chair, BAMEedSW
  • Elizabeth Wright, Editor of Disability Review Magazine, DisabilityEd Ambassador
  • Emma Hollis, Executive Director, NASBTT
  • Emma Sheppard, Founder, The MaternityTeacher PaternityTeacher Project
  • Hannah Jepson, Director, Engaging Success
  • James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director, UCET
  • Kiran Gill, CEO, The Difference
  • Laila El-Metoui, Founder, Pride in Education and Educating Out Racism
  • Liz Moorse, Chief Executive, Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT)
  • Lorraine Hughes, Director of Education, Chiltern Learning Trust
  • Mareme Mufwoko, Steering Group, WomenEd England
  • Marius Frank, Director, Achievement for All
  • Nadine Bernard, Founder, Aspiring Heads CIC
  • Nicole Ponsford, Founder, Global Equality Collective (GEC)
  • Pat Joseph, ARISEtime
  • Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT (National Association Head Teachers – school leadership union)
  • Ruth Golding, Founder, DisabilityEd
  • Sharon Porter, SPorterEdu Consulting
  • Professor Emeritus of the Harvey Milk Institute, Sue Sanders, Schools OUT UK
  • Sufian Sadiq, Director, Chiltern Teaching School Alliance
  • Susie Green, CEO, Mermaids
  • Professor Vini Lander, Director, The Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality, Carnegie School of Education
  • Viv Grant, Director, Integrity Coaching Ltd
  • Youlande Harrowell, Co-Founder, Mindful Equity UK

Appendix A:

Increasing Recruitment and Retention:

Currently processes of recruitment and retention have led to a national figure of 14% of teachers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds (sic) teaching in schools (DfE, 2020). Under 5% of Head Teachers come from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, despite areas with significantly higher numbers of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the wider population (DfE, 2020). This has been consistent for some years without much scrutiny from the Department for Education; it was sadly not addressed specifically in the DfE Recruitment and Retention Strategy (2019). It remains less likely that people with protected characteristics will be able to join the profession or be retained in schools without cultures, processes and practices actively challenging existing structural barriers that lie within school structures (NEU/Runnymede, 2020). In addition, there remains a persistent lack of diversity in school governance, which contributes to and sustains the status quo in appointment to posts. The Equality and Diversity fund: for school-led projects recognised the underrepresentation in leadership providing one avenue for schools to address inequity. Without such funding,
schools will continue to enact practices that exclude and maintain majoritarian cultures as the ‘norm’ thereby families, children and staff will continue to feel marginalised and discriminated against.

Diversity as a Business Model:

The McKinsey report (2020) demonstrates that as an organisational business model this approach is flawed. There is now a plethora of reports, including from national government, outlining the business case for wider diversity and representation in organisations as means to meet demand and increase success rates (McKinsey, 2015; McGregor-Smith, 2017; Diversity at the Top, CIPD 2017, Ethnic bias in recruitment, CIPD 2019; Breaking Barriers to Inclusive Recruitment, CIPD, 2018; Recognising the bias in recruitment, CIPD, 2018). Past experience shows the sector that unless equity safeguards are consciously included, the effect of new policies is frequently to reinforce existing gender, race and class inequalities (Gillborn, 2014). In light of the Department for Education’s role in leading expectations for schools, fair and equitable working environments and creating a world class education system that actively prevents discrimination, we would ask that this decision is reviewed immediately.

Supported by


Getting Skilled and Diverse Governors on Boards

Lydia Bower portrait

Written by Lydia Bower

Marketing and Communications Manager at education charity Governors for Schools.

The lack of diversity is, and has been for a long time, a problem on school governing boards. 

A diverse governing board is a stronger board, reflecting school communities and the wider country. In 2020, over 30% of our volunteers were from BAME backgrounds, and over 65% were under 45, not to mention having different socio-economic backgrounds, and diverse skills, life experiences, and perspectives.

But these stats aren’t representative of most school boards. In 2020, the NGA’s annual governance survey found that 94% of governors and trustees who were surveyed identified as white. Only 1% of respondents identified as Black/ African/Caribbean/Black British, 2% identified as Asian/Asian British, and 1% identified as mixed or being of multiple ethnic groups.

The same survey found that only 1 in 10 governors and trustees were under 40 (11%), and only 2% were under 30. Boards need people of all ages and backgrounds to challenge group think and ensure robust decision making. Younger governors also have a perspective on education older governors simply can’t replicate. While older governors undoubtedly bring valuable skills and experience to the board, they don’t have recent experience of the education system, or know what it’s like to be young now. 

We’ve created a quality mark for schools to use to show their commitment to finding skilled and diverse governors through an independent organisation. Displaying the mark is an assurance to all those in the school community that the board values diverse governance.

The survey figures are not reflective of the schools governors serve. The Department for Education’s school data for 2020 shows that in primary schools, 33.9% of pupils are of minority ethnic backgrounds. In secondary schools, 32.3% of pupils are of minority ethnic backgrounds. Of course, these figures will vary in different parts of the country, but the overall picture is one of governing boards failing to represent the communities they serve.

Boards that register vacancies with us have a higher chance of finding a new governor from a diverse background – in terms of both ethnicity and age. However, we understand that for many schools, while finding governors from diverse backgrounds is important, they also have a number of vacancies that need filling. Schools with more than one vacancy risk being left without the skills needed to run effectively. 

The quality mark is still a useful tool for schools who find recruiting new governors a challenge. It shows that they understand the need for diverse governance, and have taken steps to address it. 

In areas that aren’t very ethnically diverse, finding governors from BAME backgrounds can naturally be more difficult. However, the changes we saw in 2020, specifically the move to virtual governance, has opened up the possibility of having remote governors join boards. Although we expect to see governing boards resume face to face meetings in the next academic year, schools have had to adapt quickly to virtual meetings. This new way of meeting has led to an increase in the number of schools now considering remote governance and inviting those who don’t live locally to join the board. It’s an opportunity for boards to get the perspective and experience they need, and opens up hard-to-reach vacancies to a wider pool of volunteers.

Our webinar panel discussion in September 2020 discussed how to increase diversity on governing boards. The webinar featured a panel of educationalists and governance specialists talking about the steps boards can take to improve their diversity, and a key takeaway was not relying on personal contacts as this often results in recruiting people with similar backgrounds and experiences. By adding the quality mark to their website, schools can demonstrate their commitment to finding governors who can bring the skills, expertise, and diverse perspectives boards need to thrive. 

You can read a summary of the information shared, and watch the webinar recording.

Has your school registered vacancies with Governors for Schools? Download the quality mark and show your school’s commitment to skilled and diverse governance. 

Are you looking for new governors and want to prioritise finding volunteers who bring some diversity to the board? Register your governor vacancies with us online and we’ll search for a volunteer who best matches your requirements. 

Supported by


Deepening and Demonstrating an Understanding of Diversity - A Governor’s Journey

Mair Bull portrait

Written by Mair Bull

Former teacher and content writer for BBC Bitesize. Now works at Manchester Metropolitan University in the Curriculum and Rise teams.

When the pandemic hit, I had only been a governor for a few months. Therefore, I felt compelled during the lockdown to take advantage of the many free webinars and training sessions that became available as everyone flocked to zoom and other similar platforms. 

 

I particularly enjoyed the sessions by Hannah Wilson and Diverse Educators – the recordings can be found here if you wish to check them out. I made notes about diversity, inclusion, decolonising the curriculum and specific ideas for governance around diversifying the board and recruitment – to name but a few!

 

The style of the sessions meant they felt approachable and empowering – normalising the discussions around race, culture, identity and disability. In fact, the sessions made it clear it was strange not to be challenging and questioning the current position within our schools. This was galvanised only a few months later when the world witnessed the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter campaign.

 

Alongside these experiences, I was privileged to be part of a conversation about the importance of building a representative Drama curriculum in schools with the Royal Court Theatre, as part of my previous role with Open Drama UK.  Subsequently, the network published a really useful document for teachers on building a representative curriculum, which I highly recommend exploring.

 

During the governors meetings in 2020, I slowly felt more emboldened to ask those questions that Diverse Educators encourages us to pose; I triggered conversations about text choices and our curriculum, about the diversity and inclusion of staff and the recruitment process to our governing board, plus many more. As Hannah has said several times, it is uncomfortable to ask those questions, but they need to be posed. The status quo needs challenging. 

 

In December 2020 we had an Ofsted training session for governors across the Trust, and I was fired a question about the Equality Act in a mock-interview set up. I felt uneasy answering in front of a large number of senior leaders and hugely experienced governors, but I was able to outline what we had achieved in school, the provocations we had discussed, and our plans for the future. 

 

Then in March 2021, I experienced my first real Ofsted visit (virtual) as a governor. In my interview the importance of all that layering of knowledge and small but regular confrontations of the norm, felt acknowledged, important and relevant. I was able to talk about the value of diversity, inclusion, recruitment and curriculum with more confidence and power than I would have been able to a year ago. 

 

Like every school, we still have a long way to go but it is important to acknowledge the evolution and development from where we were before. I am really proud of the lovely school where I am a governor and the crucial progression that has been made on the journey out of special measures. It is important that I am educated and empowered to keep challenging the school to be the best version of itself as it can be. I am only small cog, but we as governors do have the power to enact change and empower others, steadily but positively. 

 

I am really pleased to say that we are now in a position to recruit new governors and are of course, determined to broaden the diversity of the board. If you are interested in a governance role in the Cheshire region please get in touch. 

Supported by


Culture Vs Performance Scrutiny? Which is most important for a governing board to get right to fulfil its strategic role on race?

Dominic Judge portrait

Written by Dominic Judge

Director of Governance Programmes at Inspiring Governance

The recent Diverse Educators series on Diverse Governance has got me thinking. The recurring theme is that developing the right culture in your governing board is the most critical step to getting equality and diversity right in your school. If you like… ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. But are there other ways of tackling racial inequality?

I’ve been a continuously serving governor for the last 15 years in a variety of school and catchment contexts. I’ve also been a Diversity Training Manager in the police after the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence and worked at the National College for Teaching and Leadership, not least leading a range of work to diversify senior school leadership. 

From what I’ve seen in all these contexts, culture is critical in successfully addressing racial inequality. A culture of leadership, personal commitment, brave discussion and a collective willing of boards and decision makers to educate and self-examine themselves in order to move forward. 

However, my experience has shown me that it is also about fundamentally ensuring race equality is elevated front and centre of organisational performance too. This means that race equality is on agendas, data is sought and scrutinised, actions are taken (and funded), and outcomes/ performance are scrutinised and challenged as forensically as any other element of performance. A good culture means this is easier to do but it can be done as the right culture is being developed.

In one of my roles I remember taking on a major programme to develop a pipeline of headteachers. One of this programme’s sub projects (the ‘diversity project’) was unfunded and described to me as an ‘influencing project’. Not surprisingly it was not under the same level of scrutiny as the others and consequently not achieving as much as them. 

This is exactly my point; we won’t make the progress we need to without the high scrutiny and funding of action that goes along with other areas of organisational/ school performance. Within months I ensured it was six-figure funded and scrutinised for its’ performance and progress by the overseeing programme governance board as keenly (if not more) as any other project we were undertaking.

So, if tackling race inequality in schools is to be scrutinised as forensically as any other area of school performance, what are some of the questions governing boards need to be asking themselves?…

7 main areas to consider:

  1. Pupil achievement/ attainment – Does the governing board regularly interrogate the school’s attainment data against ethnic category data. Are there markedly different SATs/ GCSE/ A-Level outcomes for different student groups? Why is this? What are we doing about it? How is the current Covid exam grading approach playing out across our diverse students? 
  2. Racism – My own experience of governance tells me that reported racist incidents to governing boards are very low, but a TES pupil survey last spring reported a third of pupils had seen/ heard racism in their school. So, behind the monitoring of RIs, how are governors assuring themselves that their school is tackling racism and educating students about it? Do all their students feel included, protected, and supported to achieve their academic best?
  3. Exclusions and behaviour The Timpson Review rightly shone the spotlight on pupil exclusions and if you have ever sat on an exclusion panel you will know the magnitude of the decision you are being asked to make. But as a collective board, governors need to monitor exclusions (and for that matter general behaviour sanctions) by ethnic category data – what is the pattern showing? how do they have safeguards/ checks and balances in place to understand and counter any uneven outcomes?
  4. School workforce data and approaches – Are governing boards reviewing their own composition? Are they reviewing the make-up of their SLT, their teaching staff, their ancillary staff? This is not advocating a call for positive discrimination but ensuring that the governing board is asking questions about the strategic approach to recruitment and development in the school.
  5. Broad and balanced curriculum – Governing boards have a strategic role to ensure the school is delivering a broad and balanced curriculum. So, are governors confident the school is offering a balanced curriculum, relatable and accessible to all students from all backgrounds? If an academy, how are they ensuring their curriculum freedoms motivate all pupil groups in the school?
  6. Policies (e.g. uniform) – How are maintained governing boards and trusts reviewing and signing off policies? Are these policies unwittingly leading to indirect discrimination in their outcomes and unevenly associated disciplinary action because of these – e.g. Black hairstyles
  7. Destination data – Governors of secondary schools should be strategically scrutinising the destination data from their schools. Where are their students from different race and ethnic backgrounds going after they leave school? What does the data say on those progressing to further or higher education, employment, what does our NEET data tell us?

Good schools and governing boards will already do much of the above and more. They will have developed their culture and have clarity for the school’s vision and ethos on race. But if some schools are working hard to develop their culture then it’s helpful to remember that part of the governing boards’ strategic role on race is to hold the school executive to account for the educational performance of all its pupils. For success and change, culture and performance scrutiny need to go hand in hand.

Supported by


Diverse Educators: A Manifesto

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

In August 2020, at the end of the first UK lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, Bennie and I sat in the sun in my garden, down the road from the school that we had started together a few years previous and we drafted a proposal for a book. We had met through Twitter and #WomenEd 5 years before that, we were both English teachers and secondary school leaders, we are both feminists who are passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion in the school system. When I secured my headship, Bennie applied to my Deputy Headteacher, and led on our values-based  curriculum with diversity and equality embedded across it. A regular topic of conversation in the time we worked together was about the books we were reading and the books we were going to write, individually and together. We knew it would happen one day! 

 

Many of you will know that Bennie is the reason Diverse Educators was started, she came to my office one day and shared her frustration with me at having to split herself multiple ways to go to different events each weekend to explore her intersectional identity. I checked my privilege as a heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied white woman and reflected on this. We discussed the idea of hosting one event and inviting the communities from #WomenEd, #BAMEEd, #LGBTed and #DisabilityEd to come together, at the same time, under one roof to have a joined up conversation about identity. Our inaugural Diverse Educators event was in January 2018, at which #LGBTed officially launched  and Bennie closed the grassroots event with a powerful message: ‘Don’t Tuck in Your Labels’. 

 

Fast forward three years and Bennie is now a Deputy Headteacher at an all-through school where she is leading on curriculum and I am working independently as a Leadership Development Consultant, Facilitator and Coach specialising in diversity, equity and inclusion. We launched the Diverse Educators website, with the help of our partners, in the middle of a global pandemic in response to the spotlight on racial inequities, and the amplification of Black Lives Matters, triggered by George Floyd’s murder. At our first virtual event in June 2020, we were joined by over thirteen thousand people. 

 

The world has finally woken up to the need for social justice, society can no longer ignore it and the school system can no longer not prioritise the urgent need to embed the diversity, equity and inclusion agenda strategically into our schools. Bennie has recently published her first book: A Little Guide For Teachers: Diversity in Schools and we are now inviting the #DiverseEd community to lean in and contribute to our book: Diverse Educators: A Manifesto.    

 

Our book will be structured, like our website, around the Equalities Act. There will be ten chapters, one for each of the nine Protected Characteristics (Age; Disability; Gender Reassignment; Pregnancy and Maternity; Marriage and Civil Partnership; Race; Religion and Belief; Sex; Sexual Orientation) with a tenth chapter exploring intersectionality.

 

Each chapter will have a chapter editor who will work with ten contributors offering a multiplicity of perspectives on the protected characteristic being explored in the chapter. Each submission will be 1200-1500 words long. Each contributor will interweave personal and professional narrative, framed in theory, to respond to current and historic debates. The chapter editor will write the introduction to the chapter to give context and to frame the chapter’s narratives, arguments and provocations.  

 

We are committed to capturing the collective voice of our community and to showcasing the diverse lived experiences of educators. We are keen for Diverse Educators: A Manifesto to be both academic and accessible. You can review the style guide here. We intend for the book to be solutions-focused with high-quality input on practice, pedagogy, people management and policy. 

We would love to hear from you if you would like to contribute. You can submit an expression of interest here. Thank you in advance for your time, energy, experience, expertise and support in contributing to our #DiverseEd book, we are looking forward to celebrating the collective commitment and amplifying your voice. 

Supported by


How I recruited a diverse board and why it was important to me

Ninna Makrinov portrait

Written by Ninna Makrinov

Organisational Psychologist with over 20 years' experience in Higher Education. Currently the Chair of Governors at Water Mill Primary School.

On 30 September I Tweeted “I have been re-elected chair of governors at Water Mill Primary School. Such a pleasure to be able to serve. I’ve also recruited for all our vacancies and have the most visibly diverse board I have seen in the school this far. Thanks @Penny_Ten for your ideas.”

Here, (in a blog that was first published on the BAMEed website) I articulate why diversity on the board is important to me. And share some ideas that you might want to try when recruiting new members to yours.

A diverse board:

I am chair of governors in a small one form entry primary school in Birmingham. We are extremely proud of the diverse community we serve. It includes children from all over the world, many who arrive to school without speaking English. Because of our location near the University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth hospital, some of our children are only with us during their parent’s studies or work placements. When visiting the school, I see this fantastic diversity. And the children see it too! In our latest Ofsted report, the inspector quoted a child saying ‘We are all unique and great friends from different countries. We are like the united nations here’. We also have children who live permanently in the local area; they also come from diverse backgrounds.

Leadership has historically been another matter. When I joined the board we were all white; I brought some diversity, as I immigrated to the UK (for the second time) with my children and they joined the school with still little English. I did not question the lack of diversity then. It seemed the norm, educated white British people providing a service for the community. We cared, we wanted the best for the children. But we (or at least I) did not see how important it was the diversity of our community was visibly represented within the board.

I have been through a personal journey during the past 4 years that totally changed my focus. For years I have believed in multiculturalism, I have worked in international education, I have lived in three countries. Looking back, I was rather naïve in my beliefs. Maybe because in Chile, where I come from, racism is blatant I did not see it in the UK. I started attending an anti-racist pedagogies forum at work a couple of years ago, that changed my outlook. I will not delve into my process, I imagine it would bore a diverse audience to read about how I realised about my white privilege. I should have known!

Having a visibly diverse board is important to me because I realise I cannot serve a community I don’t understand. All voices need to be heard and mine is not more important than others. Our children will be able to see themselves in us, parents might trust us more. Our discussions will, I expect, be enriched by asking questions coming from different perspectives. I hope that recruiting a visibly diverse board is a starting point to diversifying our leadership, improving our policies and engaging in deep reflection. I genuinely value diversity, I have for some time; but I now know that diversity in leadership doesn’t happen by accident.

Recruiting diverse members:

Recruiting board members for school governance is a challenge in itself. I imagine I am not the only one who at some points has felt that I am begging for members. And we need to make sure we have the right skills set on the table. I know some boards achieve this by having specialised committees and big numbers. At Water Mill, we made a decision that the best governance solution for our school was to have a small board (9 members), with frequent meetings and (almost) no committees. We embarked on a skills development journey using the DfE’s competency framework. And we made a conscious commitment to recruiting diverse members. We also decided not to appoint unless we agreed of the value to the board.

 

As vacancies arose, we openly indicated that we were looking for diverse members. That was, I am sorry to say, not enough. The reason for this was obvious to me when I was delivering a confidence training session to university students and one of them openly discussed what she called the elephant in the room, all were women from ethnic minority backgrounds. She shared her experiences of discrimination and how she would not apply for a job in a place that was not already diverse, to avoid this. In her eyes, a recruitment pack that mentioned diversity was just saying ‘not for me’. How could we make our obviously white educated board the place for those who were not like us? I got advice on ideas to try and came up with some myself.

I still feel that our current diverse board is serendipitous. Three governors were elected by parents and I found my next door neighbour (and good friend) on Inspiring Governance. However, I hope some of the ideas I tried might help:

  1. Commit to diversity: Discuss diversity openly in your board. Create a list of the characteristics you ideally would want to have. Not all diversity if visible, but visible diversity can help demonstrate your commitment openly.
  2. Celebrate the diversity you already have: Think about how your board and/or school is already diverse. Share this and make it visible. Add diversity stories on webpages, for example. Our headteacher updated our webpage recently; I think it looks great.
  3. Ask for what you are looking for: Although I mentioned above that just adding a diversity statement was not enough, I still think this is needed. Make sure it includes your reasoning; I changed ours from ‘we welcome applications from BME backgrounds” to “We would particularly welcome nominations from parents from diverse ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to the diversity of our school; we would like our governing board membership to demonstrate this.” 
  4. Target specifically for the diversity you need: I used Inspiring Governance and Governors for Schools to support my search (if you have not tried them, do!). Inspiring Governance has a shortlisting system. In this occasion we wanted men and minority members; I did not contact any white women in my search. The vacancies were open to all, but I did not reach out to them.

 

I am looking forward to continuing this journey. A diverse board is not only about recruitment, but also about retention. This will require us to effectively listen to each other, value diverse opinions, ensure everyone feels like a valued member. I start this year with 4 new members, almost half of my board. We are integrating opportunities to get to know each other and training sessions during our meetings. My main focus is to build each member’s confidence in their role. I will know that I have succeeded when others are ready to step up and take the responsibility of chairing the board. I love my role, but I believe my board is better served by diversity in leadership.

Supported by


Race & Equality – 5 Questions for Every Headteacher

Viv Grant portrait

Written by Viv Grant

Director of Integrity Coaching

Like many, following the death of George Floyd, I was swamped by almost daily waves of emotion. I heard someone the other day that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. It was how I felt too. It was as though my whole nervous system experienced some kind of historical trauma.

The flagrant disregard for the life of a black person brought up many painful memories from my past, of times when I was made to feel “less than” simply because of the colour of my skin. 

Swallowing the pain of racism

As a young black woman growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, incidents of racism were peppered throughout my life. When I was 15, I was told by my careers teacher that my aspiration of becoming a nursery nurse was too high and I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket instead.

On another occasion, I was reprimanded for talking in class and told to “go outside and swing on the trees, like my friends and relatives the monkeys do”. Complaining or expressing my hurt was never an option, so I simply learned to swallow the pain.

Despite my school experiences, in 1988 I decided to train as a teacher. 

In my first year, I was introduced to the work of Bernard Coard, and his research on “How the West-Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School Education System.

It was not the lecturer’s intention, but as the only black student in my year, I felt a deep shame and discomfort when she read excerpts from his book that matched so closely with my own experiences of the British education system. For the majority of the white trainee teachers, Coard’s work was simply an academic treatise. For me it was personal. 

I come from a black, working-class family. Social and economic deprivation and racial inequality were the backdrop for my childhood years. No one in the lecture hall shared my story. 

As the lecturer read how the structure and design of the British education system had led to many black children underachieving and living with a hidden, yet deep, sense of inferiority, it felt as though she was shining a light on my own hurt, leaving my bruised and conflicted inner world for all to see.

I wanted to get up and leave the lecture hall. I didn’t, but I spent four years at teacher training college wanting to escape. I was tired of being in the minority, tired of being on the outside, tired of fearing that I could never truly achieve in a system that had only ever seen black children as a problem. 

Low expectations for black pupils

When I eventually qualified as a teacher, I taught at schools in Brixton and Stockwell. One of them was on the border of a road that had been a flashpoint for the Brixton riots in the late 1980s.

It was a time when, just as we have seen in recent weeks, black people protested against the level of police brutality exhibited towards them. And it was here, at this school, where I faced some of the worst levels of racism.

It was a one-form entry Church of England primary school, where the majority-white teachers believed they were there to save the black children. Expectations for them were incredibly low. 

In the early days, children spoke down to me. Why? Because the only other black staff were cleaners, and, on a daily basis, pupils witnessed the derogatory ways their white teachers spoke to them (and to me) and so it perhaps seemed inconceivable that I could be there to teach them.

There were times when I cried in the staff toilets because teachers referred to black boys as “gorillas” and I found my own voice stifled by staffroom hostility when I tried to counter these abhorrent views.

Despite all of this, within six years I rose to the position of headteacher at this school. I used my position to bring about change and ensure that high expectations, a sense of pride and achievement were a reality for every black child at the school.

Quest for change

If ever there was a time for education leaders of all hues to seize the moment and do the same, it is now. Bernard Coard’s conclusions still reverberate around our education system today. 

It has not been easy for me to process the emotional pain that has arisen as a result of recent events. But I am continuing to lean into the pain because I know that if I don’t, I limit my own capacity for change; not only for myself, but also for my children and my children’s children.

School leaders have to go on a similar quest. It is perhaps the most difficult quest a leader can take because it will require them to explore issues of identity and integrity and what they truly mean in the context of their own school settings.

It will require them to have difficult conversations and face uncomfortable truths about themselves and their schools. Yet it is these sorts of conversations that truly define leadership and are fundamental to growth and positive change.

Furthermore, it’s only by leaning into the uncomfortable spaces and finding help and support that something new, something better, can be brought to life.

This is what true moral and ethical leadership is about. And it is only by going on this journey that school leaders can effectively model what leadership for racial equality and social justice really look like.

In order to navigate this journey, perhaps for the first time, leaders will have to ask themselves:

  1. Am I willing to listen to the black communities’ stories of pain, discrimination and hurt?
  2. Am I prepared to let down my defences and look at my own unconscious biases?
  3. Am I willing to engage with the weighty feelings and emotions that are a necessary part of this terrain?
  4. Am I willing to shine a light on every single aspect of my school and our education system and call out all the policies and practices that have limited the progress of black children and black educational professionals?
  5. In this struggle for racial equality and social justice, what is mineto do?

In my 30-plus years in education, I have seen how an unwillingness to truthfully engage with these questions has hampered progress for all. However, this time I hope things will be different.

In the months and years ahead, black parents will be looking at their children’s schools and wondering whether school leaders have truly heard the deep, searing cry that has shot through the black community for racism to be eradicated.

They will be looking for evidence that their child’s experience of school will be different and that the dreams they hold dear for their children are also held by those who teach them.

We can do better and we must do better. This is a defining moment for our education system; for our black children and black teachers to see that their lives really do matter.

 

Supported by


My Five Top Tips for Making Your School LGBT-friendly

Jared Cawley portrait

Written by Jared Cawley

LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride month seems like a very appropriate time to give extra attention to making sure your school is an inclusive, diverse and safe place for your families, students and workforce who identify as LGBT+. The month of June honours the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, where LGBT people and allies fought against police brutality and harassment that many were and continue to be subjected to today.

Schools are well-known for their openness and celebration of diversity when it comes to students, but some LGBT teachers still feel isolated and uncomfortable to talk openly about their sexuality. Schools are heteronormative workplaces and being a person who is not ‘straight’ requires some careful navigation. Headteachers and school leaders have a responsibility to sustain a school environment that welcomes diversity, supports equality, and defend all staff, including those who identify as LGBT. If you are a school leader who identifies as heterosexual, or is not part of a minority group, you are less likely to notice the exclusion or the discrimination that may be happening in your school. 

As a LGBT teacher and a gay man, I have been subjected to abuse and discrimination throughout my life for loving someone of the same sex. Even though Government legislation has strengthened over the last few years, there is still a long way to go. As a LGBT teacher, I am hypervigilant and cautious about who I ‘come out’ to. This feeling of uncertainty is because being straight is the preferred and presumed sexuality. Choosing to ‘come out’ to students, families and colleagues is fearful, as you do not know their opinions and beliefs when it comes to the LGBT community. Making your school LGBT+ friendly must begin with small, deliberate steps. We must acknowledge that this will not happen overnight, but with thoughtful planning and strong leadership, a school can improve its culture of inclusivity for everyone.

When making cultural change in your school, it is important to avoid tokenism. It is superficial to teach diversity for a week or a month as a bolt on to your curriculum, when that is the only time you discuss LGBT rights or teach how to be anti-racist. All members of your school community is needed to make real change, deliberately walking the walk, instead of just talking the talk. 

Below are my five top tips for making your school LGBT+ friendly: 

1 Use Inclusive Language 

Making small changes around inclusive language can have a huge impact on either making people feel accepted and/or feeling excluded. 

Here are my suggestions:

  • Instead of greeting your staff team or students with, ‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls’, say, ‘Good morning everyone’. With this, you have included all genders and identities without assuming everyone identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.  
  • Challenge students and colleagues who continue to use phrases that diminish showing emotion or acting like a particular gender. For example: ‘man-up’, ‘you throw like a girl’, and ‘boys don’t cry’. 
  • Stop organising students into boys’ teams and girls’ teams, find different ways. 
  • Avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes.

2 A LGBT+ friendly school is everyone’s responsibility. 

  • It is a mistake to think that creating a LGBT+ friendly school should solely be the responsibility of the ‘gay teacher’. It should be a collective responsibility. Headteachers, senior leadership teams, teachers and the rest of the school community should be actively working together to promote an inclusive and diverse environment, ensuring all members of staff and students feel safe and can be their authentic selves. 
  • CPD and INSET days could involve external speakers, offering your staff a refreshing voice and a different perspective. 
  • LGBT+ people experience the world differently to their heterosexual counterparts, and school leaders should give them a safe space to talk about their experiences, with the support of their LGBT allies.

3 Be Proud of LGBT Visibility 

If you are showing a prospective same sex family around your school, or a LGBT teacher comes for an interview, or a new student who may identify as LGBT or does not know their sexuality, how do they know that this school or future workplace is a safe and inclusive environment where they can be their authentic self? 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Give teachers a choice to wear LGBT badges/pins or have LGBT lanyards
  • Display the Pride flag inside and outside your school. There are many flags here that represent the LGBT+ community. 
  • Displays. Show your visitors that you celebrate inclusion and diversity. Have displays celebrating LGBT stories and issues. 
  • Encourage LGBT+ teachers to make a network or support group where they can talk about LGBT issues and use this to show that LGBT+ voices matter.
  • Have your senior leadership team and staff go on a learning walk, where the focus is LGBT inclusion. Can you see it represented in your school?

4 Have an inclusive and diverse curriculum

Your curriculum should be well planned and deliberately tailored to minority groups and should not be left to chance. To avoid tokenism, these practices should be carefully planned and seen across all subject areas. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Children’s story books should include and promote different family dynamics, including same sex couples, single parents, foster parents, disabled children and parents, families of colour, families of different religions. Here are some ideas. 
  • In mathematics, have word problems that are inclusive of same sex families. Instead of Mrs. Smith or John, have names that come from a range of countries and heritages.
  • In your presentations, ensure that the pictures you use show a range of minority groups. 
  • In your humanities curriculum, teach about colonisation, the impact of imperialism, and celebrate indigenous communities and customs. See here for more about decolonising your school curriculum. 
  • Diversify your set texts, offer a range of authors, not just white, heterosexual men.

5 Educate Yourself 

I believe the best way to learn more about the LGBT community is to educate yourself, have an open mind and be comfortable with being challenged. I feel there can sometimes be a fear about people who do not belong to a certain minority group, making a mistake or unconsciously offending someone, or using a term or acronym that is outdated. 

Here are my suggestions:

Read books and use organisations that specifically discuss LGBT voices in education and whole school approaches:

 

 

 

Supported by


In Search of Great Governance

Rosemary Hoyle portrait

Written by Rosemary Hoyle

Primary School Governor and Chair for over 20 years.

Inspired to write this post by a recent online event held as part of the Freedom to Learn Festival I have been prompted to draw together all my recent thoughts on diversity and the role of governance.  In the opening remarks one of the speakers stated that it is a ‘schools’ purpose to create the next generation of global citizens’ and, not to give the game away too soon, that is surely why diversity matters!  Looking back over earlier posts that I have written about the core functions of governance and, in particular the one about vision, values and strategy, I can see immediately how the board can lead in this area.  In the strategic aims of the school I chair, agreed by the board after consultation with children, staff and the community, we felt strongly that there was a need to make diversity explicit so we state that we want to be – 

A school that is at the heart of the community; a good neighbour and engaged with community groups of all ages. A school that builds on our pupils’ own experiences, interests and strengths and helps to develop their sense of identity as local, national and global citizens.  

In order to do this, we state that we want ‘A curriculum that exposes children to other cultures and offers opportunities to explore a wide range of ideas’.  After listening to the presentations at the Diverse Educators event I think this needs to be even stronger, wider and bolder in its aspirations.  It isn’t just learning about others is it? Another of the speakers at the online event talked about being able to be your own authentic self and, surely, in order for that to happen you have to believe that your own ethnicity, your own culture and religion, your own sexuality, your own gender identification or your own disability has a place and is valued and represented in the world around you. 

So, let’s get back to the beginning – Yes, for this very important reason diversity matters and it matters to the whole school community.  It matters in the curriculum we teach our children and it matters in the resources that support this work.  It matters in the public information, the displays and the literature that families see about our schools.  It matters in the workplace, in the leaders and staff that the children (and staff) see around them every day in school and it matters in the board of governors. It is part of the ‘ethic of everybody’. (1) It should be a thread that runs through every part of our education system and we, as governors, have a big part to play in leading this. Mary Myatt suggests that governors ‘might ask themselves whether their work is underpinned by doing right by everybody?’ (2)  Any boards that have been involved in the Ethical Leadership in Education Project will have given a lot of consideration to this recently but take a moment to look around the boardroom table for there are real dangers in group think from a board that lacks diversity. In the 2019 NGA survey 93% of respondents identified as white and only 10% reported being under 40! (3)   

Then look up from that table and look at the school you lead, support and challenge, and ask yourselves are we really inclusive – does diversity matter here? (4) (5)

Here are a series of questions that we governors should ask

-of ourselves:

  1. How does our board reflect the diversity of the school community it serves?
  2. Is valuing diversity explicit in our vision and strategy?
  3. Do we/Should we have a governor who is focused on diversity?
  4. What training have we undertaken as a board to challenge and reflect on our understanding of diversity?
  5. How often have we talked about this at a board discussion? 

– of our school:

  1. Does our public information reflect the diversity around us?
  2. How and where is diversity evident in our curriculum – right from the Early Years?
  3. Do we have resources for our children from Early Years onwards which have a full range of representation – books, dolls, displays around the school?
  4. Are our staff confident to answer questions and continue conversations with children about diversity – do they know what language to use?
  5. What CPD have they been able to access to help them with this?

Notes:

  1. Dame Alison Peacock quoted in Mary Myatt, Hopeful Schools,2016, p 60-62 
  2. Mary Myatt, Hopeful Schools,2016, p 61
  3. National Governance Association, School Governance in 2019, [online] at https://www.nga.org.uk/Knowledge-Centre/research-(1)/Annual-school-governance-survey/School-governance-in-2019.aspxaccessed 21/08/2020
  4. The Ethical Leadership Commission, Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, [online] at https://www.nga.org.uk/ethicalleadership.aspxaccessed 21/08/2020
  5. National Governance Association, Everyone on Board, NGA [online] at https://www.nga.org.uk/News/Campaigns/Everyone-on-Board-increasing-diversity-in-school-g.aspxaccessed 21/08/2020

Share on Social Media

Supported by