Engaging and Empowering Students in DEI Work

Lois Nethersell-Webb portrait

Written by Lois Nethersell-Webb

Lois is a History teacher and DEI Lead at a rural Norfolk High School. In this role she is leading whole school training on diversifying the curriculum. Lois is also a founder of the Norfolk DEI Network and is passionate about encouraging and guiding young people to become change makers.

What kind of adults do we want our students to become?  Do we want them to passively accept the status quo or do we want them to become active citizens who question the world around them?  If the latter, then we must model and shape this behaviour in schools by providing them with opportunities to express their views and lead on causes that ignite their passions.

Students need to see that becoming involved in DEI work within schools or, indeed, wider society, is a sign of strength.  When the government views standing up for marginalised groups as ‘woke’ we are fighting a populist narrative.  Educators need to demonstrate to students that standing up to a friend who uses racist or homophobic slurs is not woke, it is strength.  Educators need to demonstrate to students that calling out your mate who has made sexualised comments to a female student is not woke, it is strength.  Educators need to demonstrate to students that refusing to mimic the accent of a new teacher is not woke, it is strength.  

One way that schools can demonstrate active citizenship to the pupils in their charge is through setting up intersectional diversity groups.  Whilst student groups focused on one particular protected characteristic, such as Pride Club, have their place, an intersectional group enables students with different protected characteristics, and their allies, to come together and support each other.  We must create safe spaces for students to discuss concerns and lived experiences before supporting them to curate ways in which to spread their narratives across the whole student body.  

Our student Diversity, Inclusion, Campaigns and Equality (DICE) group have been instrumental in raising awareness of a number of societal issues.  Whether it be a cube of truth focused on male mental health or the lunchtime climate change protest, our students have thought of innovative and engaging ways to enlighten the wider student body and get them thinking about how change can happen.  Showing students how to use their voice for good and how to channel their views is an essential part of their education.  

All too often running student groups, like DICE, is left to chance.  If there is a member of staff with a protected characteristic or who has a particular passion for DEI work then the student groups are formed.  This should not be the case.  LGBTQ+ teachers are tired of being the ones to start the Pride Clubs in schools.  Black teachers are tired of being the ones who support students who have experienced racism.  We need our allies.  We need other educators, particularly white, able bodied, cisgendered male educators, to stand with us and help set up student groups.  The power you hold is immeasurable.  Help us set up our student groups and demonstrate that DEI work is the work of all.

To create a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive society all adults, no matter their lived experiences, must see tackling injustice and inequality as their responsibility.  For this to happen we must start by showing students that DEI work is a collective responsibility.  If you want to help your students become young changemakers – set up an intersectional student DEI group; neither you nor your students will regret it.

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Global Learning, Digital Global Citizenship and the SDGs – 8 Learning Opportunities for SEND Settings

Dr Harriet Marshall portrait

Written by Dr Harriet Marshall

Head of Educational Research at Lyfta and has been a global education advocate for over 20 years, as a teacher, researcher, consultant and education project leader.

The challenge of bringing the outside world into an indoor learning space has had a lot of attention recently as a result of ‘lockdown-learning’ requirements. However, many in the field of global learning have been actively working on this pedagogical task for decades in a variety of ways. Recently, practice has been ramped up a gear, thanks to youth mobilisation to stop climate change, David Attenborough’s chart-busting ‘Our Planet’, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a new range of digital global citizenship education opportunities.

Global citizenship education, sustainable development education or human rights education can be an empowering, enriching, and transformative educational experience. The extent to which UN states also believe this work crucial is manifested in Target 4.7 of the SDGs:

By 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development. (Source: sdgs.un.org)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the resolution adopting the SDGs, pledged to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognises the dignity of all and equality among all. The plan therefore rightly highlights an opportunity to consider complex global issues relating to equality, diversity and inclusion in all sorts of settings – including schools.

There are many ways in which schools are opting to bring in global learning – from school awards (such as UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools) to working with regional Development Education Centres to engaging in programmes like the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms. Some teachers are familiar with publications such as Oxfam’s Guides for Teachers on the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or ‘Global Citizenship Education’ and so use these to identify a curricular and pedagogic strategy right for the needs of their students. Research hubs such as the Development Education Research Centre (UCL London) have also now established global learning as a credible educational field by researching practice around the world and producing peer-reviewed publications such as the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning. However, we do not yet know enough about effective global learning practice in SEND settings – but we do know that some exciting and transformative practice is taking place.

An increasingly popular methodology for supporting global learning and empathy-building combines both an ancient pedagogic technique with a modern-day one – storytelling and film making. We believe in capturing human stories through powerful short films which can then be turned into 360-degree interactive spaces for learning. Through this, students and teachers can navigate a virtual globe, explore different countries and visit various storyworlds. The films offer a unique glimpse into someone’s life and/or home and a snippet of how they see their lives and the world at a particular moment in time. No story provides a complete picture of an issue, but it helps bring things to life for students by using real-world examples and themes. Aligning this with lesson plans and resources mapped to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will also help build cultural awareness and global citizenship amongst students.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which global learning can positively impact students with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities by drawing upon schools already doing this through various global learning methodologies:

  1.   Enhancing independent learning and confidence building: Most case studies and reports emphasise how digital global learning resources can enhance independent learning and build confidence – something educators working with students with SEN have especially noticed and appreciated. One teacher from Elms Bank school has been using Lyfta’s global learning immersive digital stories with her class of students with autism. Although at first sceptical about how students might respond to the international storyworlds and subtitles, she noticed the extent to which the children engaged and empathised with the people featured in the stories and how it opened up opportunities for them. The teacher explained, “it brings the outside world into the classroom without having to go anywhere… it immerses them and engages them in a world which isn’t open to them, which they would find so difficult to be able to go and travel to places and talk to people…it allows them to do that without having to leave a space… without the pressures of unknown and the pressures of communication which might happen, they can become more independent”. Another example relates to how teachers and students are often similarly unaware of the details of global learning issues and this more level knowledge playing field can be empowering for students – offering them an opportunity to lead on topic direction or independent exploration on a range of levels. 
  2. Supporting blended, remote and flexible learning: Global learning through immersive platforms can support a blended learning approach in a variety of settings. Digital resources that offer flexibility and choice about delivery methodology support SEN teachers in their unique settings. From a group of physically disabled students in Finland who have enjoyed the post-viewing discussions after watching real-world videos covering specific scenarios and themes to a UK teacher in an alternative provision setting who found students actually participated thanks to the option of collectively inputting ‘student’ responses to global learning questions (thus navigating obstacles to participation such as the shame felt by ‘poor spelling’).
  3.     A useful opportunity to map, connect and combine different global learning approaches and pre-existing activities: Combining a whole school award with deeper-dive resources can provide the collective overview and the bespoke teaching methodologies required for SEN settings. For example, one teacher from the Venturer’s Academy said “I work with students who require a lot of sensory input to their learning so I’m using Lyfta to support them by creating an immersive learning experience. We are a Rights Respecting School and the platform works alongside this perfectly, enabling me to fully embed the Rights and SDGs across the school.” Other teachers have talked about how the practice of reflecting upon where global learning is already taking place in the school (such as gardening projects for sustainable and healthy lifestyles or international school-linking initiatives) can be helpful in many ways.
  4. Increasing engagement with physical activity (and other subjects): The UN’s SDGs combined with an immersive digital global learning resources can support PE teaching with children with SEN. For example, alongside the Youth Sport Trust and Lead Inclusion Schools across the country, we created a guide that uniquely connects PE, school sport and health and wellbeing together through immersive storyworlds aligned with the UN’s SDGs. The aim was to provide practitioners with the opportunity to engage young people in their schools that may not have previously accessed school sport, and develop confidence to access new opportunities, with the long-term outcome of increasing take up in physical activity. 
  5.     Global learning resources offering a non-sequential (and non-hierarchical) ordering of themes can fit in well with student interests and curriculum topics and priorities. Global learning is a lot about values and attitudes, but it is also about real world knowledge which has been reported as being perceived to be both relevant and interesting by students. Teachers in SEN settings have also talked about how immersive technology and storytelling can be used within a range of subjects, providing links and continuity to support student understanding.
  6. Global learning and digital global citizenship resources can be a way of teaching across different age-groups. Linked to point 5, opportunities for vertical teaching strategies are often useful when working with mixed-aged groups of students with different needs. The consistency of common themes can also assist in transition work.
  7. Building intercultural understanding and meeting those from other countries without traveling: One teacher at Rivermead School (post-16 Partnership) said how much she had enjoyed seeing her students engage with resources: “I work with students with SEN and we are a very small provision (seven students) but I have loved seeing their reactions and behaviour during our sessions where we discover new worlds. They are very respectful of other cultures and it is lovely to hear them discuss these later on that week or even a few weeks later.” Another teacher who worked with students with autism said that it was a unique opportunity for students to feel part of the world and meet people from other cultures or countries when they are highly unlikely to in their non-digital lives in the near future.
  8. A useful pedagogic technique for bringing in PSHE, relationships, challenging stereotypes, life-skills and self-care themes. Storytelling can help reinforce life-skills around subjects such as hygiene and health by addressing these themes but in a different context. The same can be applied to introducing more sensitive topics such as stereotyping and difference.

Prior to 2020, we could not have predicted the vital role remote learning would play in delivering the curriculum and enhancing human connection at a time of physical disconnection. While most evidence here is anecdotal and there is a need for more rigorous research on the extent to which global learning can facilitate a greater understanding of other communities and cultures, there are several educators working with children with SEN who have discovered many reasons to be optimistic. In fact, some settings may even be able to lead the way in developing innovative and useful methods, strategies and pedagogies when working with digital global learning resources.

If you would like to hear more about Lyfta or access free teacher training and trial access, sign up here.

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#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Videos of 2020-21

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Written by DiverseEd

Diverse Educators started as a grassroots network in 2018 to create a space for a coherent and cohesive conversation about DEI. We have evolved into a training provider and event organiser for all things DEI.

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our events are inclusive and representative. Our speakers provoke reflection and stimulate discussion by: 

  • sharing their lived experience; 
  • reflecting on their classroom practice and curriculum design; 
  • evaluating the impact of policy changes; 
  • disseminating strategies for diversifying recruitment and governance.  

Last year we hosted:

  • 4 virtual conferences
  • a #DiverseGovernance series
  • a #FastForwardDiversityInclusion series
  • Bennie’s book launch
  • World Book Day
  • A Conversation With…

You can meet our speakers here you can review our events archive here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we listen to, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Listening to our community provokes learning through reflection and conversation to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of DEI issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 video collection include: allyship, belonging, coaching, community, culture, curriculum, governance, identity, leadership, mentoring, policy, recruitment, representation, role models, student voice, teaching and wellbeing.

 

Here are our Top 10 Most-Viewed #DiverseEd Videos in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. #DiverseEd Live 2 – Oct ‘20 
  2. #DiverseEd Live 1 – June ‘20 
  3. #DiverseEdGovernance – 14th Jan ‘21 
  4. #DiverseEd Live 3 – Jan ‘21 
  5. #DiverseEdGovernance – 19th Nov ‘20 
  6. Bennie’s Book Launch – 14th Nov ‘20 
  7. #DiverseEdGovernance – 3rd Dec ‘20 
  8. #FastForwardDiversityInclusion Episode 3 – 19th July ‘20 
  9. #DiverseEd Live 4 – April ‘21 
  10. #DiverseEd Live 1: Session 2 (Curriculum) – June ‘20 

 

Thank you to everyone who has spoken at one of #DiverseEd virtual events to date – we appreciate you sharing you experience and expertise with our audience. 

Our calendar for 2021-22 is updated regularly here. Please do get in touch if you would like to speak at one of our future events or indeed host us! You can complete our google form for speakers for 2021-22 events here.

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As a Woman, I Would Be the Perfect Husband

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.

People sometimes laugh when I say I would be a great husband. I think those who understand the patriarchy in the West might get it though. 

This weekend I had a lot of fun washing my car and doing DIY, while my house is a mess. The last three things I bought for myself that gave me joy were a nail gun, a battery-operated drill, and a pressure washer. I love work, I might even be a bit of a workaholic. In my spare time, I volunteer as chair of governors in my local school. I spend the rest of my time gardening, reading and watching TV. I also like sewing and cooking. I am a solo mum with two children, is it a surprise that I just mention them at the end of the paragraph? 

It has taken me 40 years and quite a lot of pain to understand that all I described above is fine. That I can be my true self. That I can be loved even if I am a terrible housewife. That it is OK to love my children and say openly that they are not the centre of my life. Are there others who feel the same way? I also often wonder if some men feel trapped too, if they crave to be the main carers and not the main providers in a family. If I can be the perfect husband, they can be the perfect wife. I have noticed too that I have focused on the binary, I understand and respect that gender is a continuum. So I suppose my question is more how we all respond to gender stereotypes. I also realise that I am writing of the ‘traditional’ family, maybe because I crave companionship and community living is not something I know much about or is common enough in the UK. I am also writing as a white, Chilean, cis, heterosexual woman. Please open my eyes to other ways to live!

What does it mean to be a woman?

I am not sure we really know. I recently joined a feminist reading group (I know, late to the party) and it has been great to discover feminism in more depth. It has made me wonder why I define myself as a woman. My preferred pronouns are she and her. I suppose I was naturally a child who liked to please and tried to fit in. It was hard though!

At some point early in life, I might have been 8, I realised life would be easier for me if I was a boy. Most of my friends were boys, I thought girls were silly. I liked Lego, He-Man and Star Wars; I was given Barbies and dolls. I also liked the Care Bears, I must admit. I loved being part of the boys’ world. Why was it a boys’ world though? 

A little later, I had to discard some of my ‘dream jobs’. I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my dad but in Chile (where I was born and raised) women were not allowed to join the airforce. Women police officers had to wear high heels, madness! I love that some women were less accommodating, so there are now women fighter pilots in Chile too. In my teenage rebellion I became a Catholic and I would have loved to be a priest; again, not a job for women. I am not going to get into a discussion about religion.

I also remember a time when one of my best friends told me that if I wanted to have a boyfriend I needed to act as if I was less intelligent than they were. I am glad that in that case I realised how stupid that idea was. Maybe that is why I did not have my first boyfriend until I was 17. 

I don’t believe being a woman means focusing on being pretty, quiet and subservient. I am a woman. I am a loud leader and I love being the centre of attention. We have moved on in what it means to be a woman. Have we moved on what it means to be a wife though?

Being a wife and a mother

Attitudes are changing, at least in the UK. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, in 2017 almost three quarters of people disagreed that a man’s job is to earn money and a woman’s job is to look after the home and family. However, In 2018 most people agreed that the mother should take either the entire or most of the paid maternity leave period (52%), while 34% thought it should be split equally and none thought the dad should take most; 13% could not choose.  In 2017, most people (51%) also thought that it was best for the mother to stay at home or work part-time and the father to work full-time while children were under school age; none thought I was best for this to be reversed.  Interestingly, when only asked about the mother, 33% thought they should stay at home, 38% that they should work part-time and 7% full-time. For mothers of school-age children, 2% thought they should stay at home,  49% prefer for women to work part-time and 27% to work full-time (percentages don’t add up to 100% as some people responded they could not choose). I could go on for ages. Read the excellent Section on Gender Inequality and Family Change section of the Understanding Society Insights 2018-19 for many other details. It clearly states that “there are gender inequalities throughout the life course”, these increase when becoming a parent. 

I found the analysis on how our attitudes change when becoming parents very interesting. The report suggests that women change their gender role attitudes when becoming mothers, and it is likely that most progressive women change their attitudes more. The authors suggested this could be due to cognitive dissonance, as women adjust to new roles due to lack of alternatives. I can see this in my experience too. When I became a mother, my role changed from full-time worker to worker and mother; my responsibilities increased. I hated it; particularly when people criticized me for having a messy house while praising my ex-husband for being such a good dad when he changed a nappy. He was a good dad, but that was his role and no-one told me I was a good mum for changing nappies. No-one criticised him for our messy house either, they just wondered what I had been doing all day (I had been working from home). 

Living the dream: ‘being a husband’

I had the experience of turning this around when I first became a single mum. Not really in the full sense of being married to someone who did the work. But for a while I was the provider for my family and, because I was living in Mexico, I could afford to pay my sister-in-law to be my ‘wife’ (nanny, cleaner, cook) – to be clear the analogy ends there. The arrangement worked for both of us, her daughters and my sons. It was so lovely to come home from work to a clean house and dinner on the table. I understand why the status quo is kept. Women have ‘earned’ the right to work, we have not earned the right to stop ‘being the wife’. If married, most women take on more caring responsibilities, particularly when becoming mothers. If going solo, we tend to keep children for a bigger percentage of time. I know this is not the case for all, I also know some men would prefer this not to be the case. My point is just, can we just do what we do best, forgetting ‘traditional roles’?

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#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Blogs of 2020-21

Diverse Educators Logo

Written by DiverseEd

Diverse Educators started as a grassroots network in 2018 to create a space for a coherent and cohesive conversation about DEI. We have evolved into a training provider and event organiser for all things DEI.

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our blogs vary from sharing lived experience, to reflecting on classroom practice and curriculum design, to evaluating the impact of policy changes. We published 150 blogs from our network last academic year. You can meet our bloggers here and you can review our collection here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we are reading, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Reading the blogs by our community provokes reflection and stimulates conversations to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 blog collection include: allyship, belonging, careers, coaching, commitment, community, curriculum, culture, governance, HR, identity, ITTE, language, leadership, policy, recruitment, reflection, representation, research, safeguarding, strategy, teaching, wellbeing. 

 

Here are our Top 10 Most-Read #DiverseEd Blogs in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. How do we deal with racism in the classroom – Hannah Wilson 
  2. How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work – Wayne Reid 
  3. Interactive diversity calendar 2021 – Carly Hind/ Dual Frequency 
  4. How does material deprivation intersect with ethnicity to understand the variations in the achievement among BAME students – Nicole Edwards 
  5. Don’t tuck in your labels – Bennie Kara 
  6. Dear Secretary of State – Hannah Wilson 
  7. Gender is wibbly wobbly and timey wimey and gloriously so – Matthew Savage 
  8. Engaging with diversity – giving pupils a voice – Gaurav Dubay 
  9. Black lives matter, then now always – Wayne Reid 
  10. Breaking the cycle anti-racist plan term 1 – Dwain Brandy 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our #DiverseEd date and please do get in touch if you would like us to publish you. You can find out more about how to submit here.

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Where Are All the Men?

Shonagh Reid portrait

Written by Shonagh Reid

Shonagh Reid is a former secondary school senior leader. She is now a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Consultant and Coach.

I’m a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant therefore I take a huge interest in the subject. I read a lot on the subject and I go to many webinars to learn more and ensure I am staying fully abreast of current topics, understanding and events. 

Over the last few weeks I’ve attended several webinars: 2nd May – MIXed The 1% where I was a panel member; 5th May- Diverse Recruitment Trilogy: How to Recruit a Diverse Workforce; 13th May – The Big Question with John Amaechi and most recently #EYP2CtW21 with Diverse Educators hosted by Hannah Wilson. Everyone of these sessions has been absolutely fantastic. I’ve left enlightened, educated and rejuvenated every time and with more in my toolkit. 

There was one thing missing though…

…Men.

There were some men on the panels, men speaking knowledgeably with experience and insight into the complexities of recruiting a diverse workforce, how to lead ethically and sharing excellent practice of what they are doing in their schools to create a diverse and inclusive environment for students and staff alike. However, there were so few male attendees, hardly any men listening and engaging. Why is it that men appear to be underrepresented in diversity and inclusion work?

Possible Theories

Men are not as marginalised and therefore have less to say

Does intersectionality play a role? Is it the case that the barriers to success for all women are an added layer to those who are people of colour, living with a disability or LGBTQ+? Is it the complexity of intersectionality that drives women in particular to make a stand and show up at these sessions to learn more about how they can make a difference?

Under representation

Following the webinar on 13th May led by Ann Palmer, ‘How to Recruit a Diverse Workforce’ we learned that the opportunity for men to even be accepted into education as a trainee teacher is much lower than for women. Palmer presented the following information: Of all black males who apply to be trainee teachers, 37% were accepted in 2020 compared to 53% of black women. 67% of white men who applied were accepted into training compared to 74% of white women. The bias here against black people is clear, fewer are accepted into the teaching profession than their white counter parts. But we also see that men of all ethnicities are less likely to be accepted than females. Could it be then, that with few males in education it is simply a matter of maths that explains why we see fewer at DE and I events? They are underrepresented in the profession.

Privilege

‘Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally’. I’m not sure where this quote comes from but let’s explore this for a moment. We know that the majority of CEOs and organisation leaders in all fields are male. We’ve all come across the shocking statistic that there are more male leaders of FTSE companies called John than there are women. If you are not directly affected by bias and structural barriers to your success then perhaps you are less likely to act on the behalf of others. 

Why do we need more men?

It seems to me that the very people we need to speak out about the injustice of structural barriers, lack of diversity, institutional racism and misogyny are men, particularly white men. Numerous leaders of ED&I have spoken about the need for allyship and advocacy and how important it is that all voices, regardless of ethnicity or gender, unite against the ubiquitous ‘male, pale and stale’ boardroom and introduce a range of voices that will be heard and add value. 

Of course there are some out there who are doing great work, standing shoulder to shoulder and in some cases leading discussions on diversity and inclusion. Anyone who has done research into the benefits of a truly diverse workforce will know that they perform better in terms of turnover, outcomes, employee satisfaction and stakeholder satisfaction- good reason to be an advocate. Over and above this, it is simply the right thing to do. 

We need more men to identify themselves as DE&I leads, attend webinars and events that teach us about structural barriers and share the message with the people they work with. We need them to lead on and embed meaningful change. Given that white males are in the majority of powerful positions they are in the best possible position to do so. 

‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’

Desmond Tutu. 

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Five Steps For Starting A School Pride

Edel Cronin portrait

Written by Edel Cronin

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

Yesterday my school held its first in-person Pride.  The saying of – you can’t be it unless you can see it – very much worked in the reverse for me as I walked into our student Pride lunch club.  The room was awash with students celebrating Pride in a rainbow of flags, cakes and community. I never consciously knew what I wasn’t ‘seeing’ during my teenage years but something about walking into a classroom full of Pride colour made me reflect on how my life may have been different had this experience happened in my school.  No one was ‘risk assessing’ if it was safe to wear a flag or in some cases a crown! Everyone was fully embracing having a space to loudly celebrate themselves.

Creating a whole school event has not been high on the agenda of most school leaders in the last year and half.  I think we have all had 1 or 2 other things taking up our time.  However, I would argue that it is in a pandemic where the school year has been full of uncertainty, and at times isolation, we need events like Pride more than ever.  Pride gives us an opportunity to remind ourselves and others that our sexuality or gender is something to celebrate.  

  1. Ask for help – Our school’s first Pride took place in June 2020.  I sent an email out to staff asking if anyone was interested in organising a virtual school Pride.  Five or six staff volunteered, we set up a Teams’ call and got started. We chose to focus on 1 week, took a day each and made tutor resources for that day.    You don’t have to do everything from scratch – lots of organisations have free resources and doing even one thing in your school for the first time will make a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ students and staff.
  2. Make it intersectional – Each member of staff made a resource based on their own area of interest.  The only expectation we agreed on was that all resources had to be intersectional.  If all your resources are white, able-bodied people from the LG bit of LGBTQIA+ spend some time educating yourself and diversify your resources using organisations like Just Like Us.  Your students and staff may fall into one ‘category’ but LGBTQ+ people do not.  
  3. Ask for student input/feedback – If your in a position to ask for student in put in advance fantastic, if not don’t worry.  For my initial attempt at school Pride I wasn’t, so instead we did what we would have wanted as students and asked for students feedback to help us plan for future events. Those who fed back also created the base of our student group for the following academic year and led to a whole school LGBT+ History Month the following February.  
  4. Choose an ‘action’ for the month – Pride is celebration, it is also a chance for us to ensure the futures of LGBTQ+ people are less discriminatory. What would your school benefit from in Pride month but also every other month of the year? It could be putting a Pride flag up and keeping it up 24/7 or changing your behaviour policy.  Depending on your setting one of these might be more achievable than the other.  It is also important to consider student and staff feedback when deciding on your action. 
  5. Share – Share what you’ve done. Many LGBTQ+ educators are the only LGBTQ+ educators in their school.  A sense of community is not just important for our students but also ourselves.  

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Keep Chipping Away at Homophobia

David Lowbridge-Ellis portrait

Written by David Lowbridge-Ellis

Leader of school improvement for Matrix Academy Trust in the West Midlands. In addition to writing extensively on equality and diversity he has been published widely on topics ranging from curriculum and assessment to workload and well-being.

You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s a phrase bordering on cliché. But just because something is clichéd that doesn’t make it any less true. It rings so true that, at this point, we should probably consider it conventional wisdom. And sometimes, it just takes a glimpse to start making change happen.

 

Friday night after a long week: my husband and I are on the sofa, watching a football match – of all things! 

 

Now I don’t want to indulge in gay stereotypes but I’m not very into football. My husband is more keen, especially when it comes to an international competition. When the World Cup’s on, he goes gaga for it. It’s the whole ‘world coming together in harmony’ part that gets him going. He’ll also watch any match that Gerard Piqué happens to be playing in. My husband claims he’s a fan of Piqué by proxy: the Spanish footballer is married to Shakira, whose music my husband enjoys. But I know the truth.

 

Anyway…

 

The match we were watching was the England vs. Scotland match of the Euro 2020 (sic) competition. A pretty unremarkable feat of football as it turned out, with a 0-0 final score. What was arguably more significant was an advert from Nike played in the break. Calling it an advert is an understatement, although that was its purpose. The short film, entitled The Land of New Football, was a vision of how football could be. Starring Free School Meals-champion Marcus Rashford it might have been considered by some to be utopian, but nothing was outside the realm of possibility. It finishes with the ‘UK’s first hijab wearing referee’, a real person. And 20 seconds in it featured a gay footballer (Josh Day, of London Titans FC) celebrating a victory by kissing his partner on the pitch.

 

Let’s just pause (like I did, rewinding the brief footage seven times) and drink that in: millions of people just saw a gay footballer kissing his partner. There was no cutaway at the last minute. This wasn’t queer-baiting; we got the setup and the payoff. Yes, it only lasted a few seconds, but it was still around 400% longer than the lesbian kiss in the last Star Wars movie which was much heralded but was, ultimately, a crushing disappointment.

 

I know there are arguments that corporations are just jumping on the Pride bandwagon now it’s a commercially advantageous option. I get as frustrated at anyone about companies seeking out rainbow pounds/dollars/Euros without giving anything back to the LGBTQ+ community. But Nike has a better track record than most. Back in 2013, Nike actively sought gay athletes to be front and centre in their latest campaign. A little known fact is they also finance the queer-friendly animation studio Laika, famous for stop-motion movies Coraline, Paranorman and Kubo & The Two Strings (the studio head is the son of Nike’s co-founder).

 

One advert, no matter how well shot and well edited and well intended, is not going to change the world by itself. But things like this do chip away at the homophobia that sometimes seems like an immovable monolith, an ugly slab of uncut stone blocking out all the light, preventing mutual understanding from taking root.

 

When homophobia feels like this – and in my experience, it feels like this a lot of the time – we can get discouraged. We start to feel that it is an intractable problem: no matter what we do, we are just not going to shift it. But what I’ve learned over the years is this: anything you do, even if it’s chipping away, is enough to start something.

 

I’m reliably informed (thanks Wikipedia) that ‘chipping’ is also a term used in football for getting the ball where it needs to go by skilfully applying less than the usual force to the underside of the ball so it goes over opponents’ heads. Apparently, Lionel Messi (another of my husband’s reasons to watch certain matches) is very good at this. 

 

A footballer chipping in a ball is, of course, very different to someone trying to shift a big rock by hacking away tiny bits of it. It’s closer to a skilful sculptor chipping away carefully at a mass of marble. Less force; more impact. It highlights to me that while more forceful approaches to tackling the problem of homophobia are sometimes required, they aren’t the only options. Sometimes, something more subtle can be effective.

 

It may ‘just’ be an assembly; it may ‘just’ be a PSHE lesson; it may ‘just’ be an interaction in a corridor with a pupil who is putting more effort into disguising their true selves than their school work.

 

But…

 

It may ‘just’ be enough to change that pupil’s life; it may ‘just’ be enough to change the outlook of several members of a class; it may ‘just’ sow the seed of something which will grow as children move through our schools, flowering into something approaching – or exceeding – mutual understanding.

 

It’s well known that there are several gay players in the Premier League. What did they feel when they saw that Nike film played during halftime? Did they look at it with shame, retreating further back into the closet? Did they look at it with envy, wishing that they could be that jubilant player on the screen, unafraid to celebrate in front of spectators with his significant other?  Did they look at it with pride, knowing that they were represented? 

 

Who knows how long it will take for a player in the Premier League to come out as gay. But when it does happen (and it will) I doubt they will be able to point to just one thing that led them to decide enough was enough and led them to take that very brave step. It will be the cumulative result of them chipping away at their own internal monoliths over several years, wearing away their fear about what others will think about them; whether they will still get sponsorship deals; if their dream career will turn its back on them. 

 

When we ask our pupils about their dream careers, we may sometimes have to resist rolling our eyes. You want to earn a living as a footballer, riiiiiight. As it happens, I have taught several pupils who have made it as top-flight footballers, so I know it is possible. I would never have wanted any of those to see who they are as an impediment to pursuing those dreams.

 

Similarly, I would never want the critical mass of pupils who follow football to grow up thinking there is no place in the national sport for queer people. Or, for that matter, any occupational field. And that includes teaching.

 

I’ve been out as gay for over a decade and I never bother to hide this part of myself in front of my pupils. I find it startling to remember that I was the first out teacher at the school I currently spend most of my time in. I’m far from the only queer teacher at my school currently. I’d go so far to say we are well above national average as far as proportion of queer teachers goes. And the same goes across our multi-academy trust. I would never claim sole credit for this but we have trained queer people to be teachers who were former pupils of mine. And several of them have told me that knowing I was gay meant they didn’t close down the possibility of being a teacher themselves.

 

Football and education may not seem especially comparable (and I’m far more qualified to comment on the latter than the former), but they’re both fields where homosexuality has been less tolerated than in other social spheres. On most football pitches and school playing fields we’re still far away from having the differences in who we love being universally celebrated. And, yes, I do get VERY frustrated at the agonisingly slow pace of change! But I calm myself by recalling that even little things can have a big impact over time. Let’s keep chipping away.

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Has Inclusion Had its Day as a Concept in Education?

Laura McConnell portrait

Written by Laura McConnell

Laura is a teacher, a writer, a keynote speaker, a radio presenter and a disability campaigner.

“Inclusion” has become one of the most inflammatory words in education, having evolved to be synonymous with behaviour, specifically undesirable behaviour. The most common themes in any inclusion discourse tend to be negative: underfunding, lack of resources, varying quality and/or availability of training, and lengthy waits to access health services being the most frequently referenced barriers to inclusion, no matter where you are in the UK.

SEND: ‘A grim picture’

We are still awaiting the eagerly anticipated SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) review in England, with publication pushed back to sometime later in 2021. The Scottish government published its review of additional support for learning (ASL) implementation in June 2020 – and anecdotal evidence suggests that the Scottish findings could be a good indicator of what is to come in the English SEND review. Unfortunately, the Scottish review paints a rather grim, but not unsurprising, picture, reporting that 98 percent of the education workforce feels that initial teacher training does not adequately prepare staff for teaching young people who have additional support needs (ASN). It says: “There is a lack of understanding, or recognition, of the range of issues and conditions which entitle children and young people to support.”

The review also found that there were mixed views about inclusion among teachers: “Unfortunately, we cannot assume and take for granted that all individual professionals are signed up to the principles of inclusion and the presumption of mainstreaming.” And that some teachers did not think ASN was part of their job: “Others have shared their core belief that their role should only be to teach children and young people capable of learning within traditional academic standards.”

Ahead of the SEND review’s publication, we do know that there is a disparity in the way that SEND is identified in English schools and/or the access children with SEND have to some schools in England. In a report published in March this year, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that pupils in academies were 50 per cent less likely to have SEND identified when compared to similar pupils in state schools.

Let down by language

Many disabled activists think it is the language of inclusion that is the problem. Inclusion emphasises that the child is not part of the group, they are an outsider who should be included. Including them requires something extra: staff, resources, training, intervention groups. Schools have to adapt their policies and practises for the child to fit in. What if the focus was on the school, rather than the child? If education was “accessible”, then it would be usable by everyone. 

The Council of Ontario Universities explains accessible education as being based on the social model of disability, as opposed to the medical model: disability is a difference instead of a deficiency. It considers the variety of student characteristics and removes the barriers to learning before they can affect anyone. The curriculum or environment is designed to be used by all, as opposed to access being achieved through special accommodations and/or retrofitting the existing offer. It is evident from all research published so far that current approaches to inclusion are not working for children or teachers.

Rather than perpetuate a myth that there would be improvements if there were more staff, or if access to health services were faster, the education sector should move onwards towards a system of accessible education – where no child is an outsider.

You can watch Laura’s input at the #DiverseEd event here: https://youtu.be/hD8M6aMENxU

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Finding Your Voice to Challenge Broken Systems

Shuaib Khan portrait

Written by Shuaib Khan

Shuaib is a teacher, sociologist, poet and podcaster.

On Saturday June 12th, I had the honour to join Hannah Wilson and Bennie Kara at the Diverse Educators forum for #DiverseEd. The theme I was focusing on was the notion of finding your voice.

After gathering my reflections and then almost losing my train of thought at the realisation one of my heroes, Dr Jill Berry was on the same panel as me, a really powerful conversation began to take place. The protected characteristics I wished to speak about were four-fold; being a British-Pakistani, Muslim educator. The journey that I have been on to reclaim a greater sense of self-pride in each element of my identity is still on-going. A lot of learning and unlearning comes with reflections. Ultimately, I am still on a journey.

After the introductions acknowledging the incredible educators that shared their experiences, the notion of what Nikesh Shukla refers to as the, “good immigrant” was my prominent theme. Before I began my journey, I believed firmly in the notion of being a “good immigrant” and the idea of assimilation and acceptance. Throughout my time at school and career as a teacher, as well as my lived experiences away from education, I was expected to “know my place.” There was always a tacit cultural tolerance that as a Muslim, and particularly as a Pakistani Muslim, raising my head too far above the parapet was frowned upon. Both society at large, and my own community seemed to foster this view. However, against the backdrop of the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement, I began to realise that despite how much assimilation takes place and to whatever extent I suppressed by race, ethnicity or religion, the “good immigrant” was no longer the label for me.

Why suppress your own identity?

A lot of this is born out of fear. As noted, my identity is four-fold and if I add gender in there, possibly even five-fold. In public spaces I always felt the need to abbreviate my name. I was ‘SK’ to many and I never dared to correct someone for mispronouncing my name. The shame and even fragility of identity politics was ingrained into by society and its structures. When we do a Google search for British-Pakistanis, we are met with a barrage of crass stereotypes. The exact same can be said about Muslims and these derogatory views often made me feel ashamed of where I came from. The media played a huge role in all of this. Whenever a global event involving Muslims occurred, as a child I felt at fault and as an educator, in various establishments, I felt a real sense of shame. However, these are broken systems and this cognitive dissonance I was feeling needed to be challenged.

The turning point really began when I looked through photos of my late Grandfather. He was so fiercely proud of his Kashmiri roots but was unable to articulate his feelings in written to spoken word. Some 60 plus years since he arrived in this country, his vision of social mobility lives on through us. I found my voice to honour my grandfather. I found my voice to elevate the concerns of the community that I live and work in. Ultimately, with finding my voice has come the tremendous responsibility of occupying a platform to help others find their voice. 

Hannah and Bennie enabled me to begin an important conversation. Many people out there are confused, disillusioned and apathetic about their identity. There is no magic wand approach. Yet, allowing others to speak on your behalf, without the lived experiences you have, this does your story no justice. For far too long I would wait my turn or relinquish my seat at the table because I felt like I had nothing worthy to say or offer. With organisations like DiverseED and Teacher Hug Radio amongst others, there is both a need and a desire for educators from all backgrounds to pull up a chair and begin to voice their concerns. 

In summary #MyDiverseEdPledge was to carry on learning and unlearning and to carry on challenging broken systems. The systems the panellists spoke of; hetro-normativity, unconscious bias, racism and systemic silence, they all must be challenged. Thank you once again to Hannah and Bennie. Please join my journey and I also look forward to hearing all about yours. 

You can watch Shuaib’s input at the #DiverseEd event here: https://youtu.be/wnanDncf6Xc 

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