We (Still) Need to Talk About Gender

Tracey Leese portrait

Written by Tracey Leese

Tracey Leese is an assistant headteacher, literacy specialist, parent governor and advocate for women in leadership. Tracey lives in Staffordshire with her two sons and fellow-teacher husband.

I am well aware that the land of gendered identities is an area in which attitudes and assumptions are rapidly changing… and that we are collectively beginning to see gender as more of a spectrum than a fixed binary position. But in our continued efforts to renegotiate our shared understanding of what constitutes gender or identity we can’t assume that female teachers are no longer subject to prejudice. 

Women are not underrepresented in teaching – in fact it’s a female-centric profession, but we are underrepresented at every single level of educational leadership – most prevalently at Secondary Headship level. In comparison to some other protected characteristics the issue of gender seems so straight forward. I can see why some people might feel that it’s time to put the issue of gender to the bottom of the priority list.

Similarly, it’s easy to underestimate the myriad reasons why women still earn and lead less in what is supposed to be a truly equal and ethical profession. The motherhood penalty, work/ life balance and women’s desire to work flexibly are all seemingly widely-held reasons for this. Together with my brother Christopher, I recently co-authored Teach Like a Queen: Lessons in Leadership from Great Contemporary Women as an attempt to contribute to the ongoing conversation around diversity within school leadership. Throughout our research for the book we interviewed countless power women and were surprised when recurring themes of self-doubt, imposter syndrome and fear of disapproval emerged. In some instances, these female leaders cited seemingly “small” issues such as wishing to attend their child’s school nativity as reasons why leadership seems unattractive to women. 

So, whilst we need to look at who is shaping policy and practice in education, we also need to be bold enough to imagine a future where more schools are ran by women and paid the same as their male counterparts. According to data from NAHT’s Closing the Gender Gap published December 2021, by the age of 60 male headteachers earn £17,334 more than female headteachers. 

Our book was inspired (and supported by) the work of #WomenEd who are relentless in their work towards inspiring, empowering and supporting more women into leadership posts, the data tells us that in spite of the brilliant work already underway, that there is still so much work to do. So we absolutely cannot assume that the issue of gender is anywhere near resolved nor that the profession is as equitable as we’d hope. 

We are all charged with addressing injustice in education – as leaders, as teachers and as stakeholders.  The disproportionate representation of women in leadership and the gender pay gap absolutely amounts to injustice. Our students deserve to attend schools which are led by visionary and diverse leaders. So if a world without gender inequality is an unrealistic destination, I am just happy to be part of the journey. 

Teach Like a Queen is out 30th May and published by Routledge: www.routledge.pub/Teach-Like-a-Queen

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Be A Light In The Spaces You Occupy

Ayo Awotona portrait

Written by Ayo Awotona

Ayo Awotona specializes in confidence building for girls in education. She does this through programs, workshops, and keynote speeches.

One of the great aspects of being a servant leader is being a light. It might sound strange but essentially it means having the ability to step into workplaces (physically or virtually) and speak hope, truth, and wisdom. It’s having the ability to help teams see situations with a new perspective and encourage them to have a can-do attitude. 

Light is associated with visibility and helps to see things thoroughly, and servant leaders can provide that type of light. We can see things that others may not, such as highlighting why certain areas are not functioning well and cultivating a plan to tackle the problem.

How Can We Be Lights?

There are many ways we can be a light in our working environment and below I share four ways:

  • Be perceptive/observant – This ultimately means being able to see deeper than what is on the surface; finding what systems are working or not and why, seeing how to implement new changes and reinforce what is already working well, etc.
  • Be strategic – This definitely takes teamwork to brainstorm and create effective strategies to help run programmes, projects, or systems more smoothly.
  • Spread hope – We can bring reassurance to others and brighten up the atmosphere by simply being hopeful and positive, reminding them of the vision and goal of the organisation/school.
  • Embracing our individuality – Before being servant leaders, we are human with our own character traits and personalities. We can become more relatable and connect better with our colleagues/others because we come as ourselves. 

What’s The Significance of Being A Light?

You might be wondering why it’s so important to be a light? Well, to give an illustration, we know there’s a stark contrast between darkness and light. 

Imagine living in a house that is dimly lit for a whole week, and when the lights get fixed, everything becomes so much brighter and clearer. Similarly, we can be a light in dimly lit situations and see things through a new lens to help make what was ambiguous clear. 

Many of us have experienced other people being lights in our world, maybe our mums, a friend, a mentor, etc. They brought hope, warmth, or made things visible that were not clear to us. 

In Conclusion

In one way or another, all of us have the capability of being a light in each others’ lives. Specifically, in a working setting, servant leaders can be a light to spread hope, encourage change where necessary and bring new perspectives to improve overall work efficiency and efficacy.

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How colourful is your staffroom? Recruiting, retaining and supporting the careers of ethnically diverse teachers

Caroline Lowing portrait

Written by Caroline Lowing

School Improvement Lead for HISP Multi-academy Trust. She was previously a Deputy Headteacher and has worked in Secondary education for 18 years. Caroline co-chairs the ASCL Ethnic Diversity Network and sits on Council for the South East of England. Caroline aims to be a Headteacher in the next 2 – 4 years.

Recently me and my colleague, Gurpall Badesha, presented to a room of school, college and trust leaders at the ASCL Conference on Recruiting and Retaining teachers of colour.

We hugely enjoyed the experience and got some great feedback but that wasn’t the best thing about it. The best thing was that most of the people in the room were white.

Since becoming co-chair of ASCL’s Ethnic Diversity Network I have really tried to carve out the time to be more informed and involved with the ED&I agenda and all of the fantastic organisations out there. I’ve attended meetings and webinars, I have had so many energising conversations and met so many inspirational people.

Even in the short time that I have been involved in this work I have noticed a big change. It is no secret that statistics around the recruitment, retention and career progression of people of colour in education are woeful. The DfE have reported that, in 2019, 85.7% of teachers were white with a staggering 92.7% of headteachers were white. Every way that you look at it, education has a big problem.

However, these statistics and what they mean for the young people that we serve can sometimes stop us in our tracks. The need to delve deeper and deeper into the implications is often overwhelming. I completely understand that we need to be heard and we need to share our own lived experiences. Goodness knows that I have told my own story many times and personal stories about, for example, being repeatedly mistaken for a teaching assistant when you are a Headteacher, are incredibly powerful.

The issue is that, often, the conversation will only go this far. The recent transformation in ED&I in education has been around what can actually do to enact change. This is why I was so pleased to see so many white school leaders in our session. These are people that want change and they want to learn how they can make that change from their position of relative privilege.

Providing solutions is hard. Coming up with ideas that work within every context is impossible. However, the magnitude of the problem coupled with the constant feeling of getting it wrong has led to a feeling of helplessness. When we shared ideas in our session, such as approaching parents from ethnically diverse backgrounds on the school gate to apply for governor roles, it was a joy to see people scribble it down to take back to base. Equally, it was wonderful to hear about schools that already have effective practices. For example, one school tracked its alumni through university and then approached students of colour to support them through joining the profession. I was frantically scribbling, then.

There is absolutely a lot to do to improve the recruitment and retention of people of colour in education but I am genuinely optimistic about the future, not least because school leaders on a mission get things done!

If you would like to know more about ASCL’s Ethnic Diversity Network then please contact Caroline at c.lowing@hispmat.org or she is on Twitter @caroline8779

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A Call for Action

Esther Mustamu-Daniels portrait

Written by Esther Mustamu-Daniels

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

I read the most horrific story of a child being sexually assaulted by police in her school. Her teachers did nothing to protect her. Her parents were not called. She was strip searched while in the middle of an exam while on her menstrual cycle. She was not allowed to clean herself after. She was not checked upon to see if she was ok and then she was sent back to her exam to continue it. All by people who are supposed to protect and look after her. All I kept thinking about was what if this was my child? This happened two years ago and the conclusion of the investigation is that ‘racism was likely to have been an influencing factor’. 

Unacceptable. The child is now in therapy traumatised by these events and now self harming. 

What if this was your daughter? What would you do? 

I have been thinking about the reports of Ukraine. How our children feel hearing these reports. Not only of the African students who have been denied entry on to trains and through borders but also of the reporting. How black and brown lives are deemed lesser and how this is normalised in our media. What impact is this having on our children? On all of them? How wars in certain countries are acceptable but in others ‘horrific’. How western media is more sympathetic towards a ‘type’ of refugee. What are we sharing with our children? With all of them? What are we teaching them? What kind of world are we showing them exists? 

There are so many stories in the media that show our children the unjust and prejudiced way of the world; how can we counteract this? How can we show them that they are all important? That their lives matter? Put yourselves in their shoes and think about the messages that they are receiving. Think about what you can do to counter that. 

If you are a teacher, what do you show your children? The stories and images you choose to share have a huge impact. The authors you share and the lessons you teach that include positive role models, narratives and histories will all have an impact. Are you considering the impact that current events are having on your children? What are you doing to support them? Are you calling out if you see racist or biased behaviour?

If you are a leader, what are you doing to counter these messages? Are you holding spaces for people to share and raise concerns with you? Are you actively trying to ensure that your establishment does not reinforce these messages? What policies do you have in place? What training do you have in place? If you are not aware or are not sure how to navigate these situations, are you seeking support and advice from those who do know?

This is a call for action to break these biases. Are you aware of what some of your children and colleagues may be facing? Are you aware of some of their experiences? Could you even be responsible for some of their experiences?  Imagine it was you? Imagine it was your family? What would you do? What will you do? What action will you take? What will you do today to support our future generations and all of our children and adults who are impacted and continue to be impacted by the traumas they witness?

Take action for what is right in whichever area you occupy. We all have the power to take this action and make a difference so that the bias stops. So our children and our communities are safe; psychologically and physically. What will you do? 

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Making the DEI mission of your school mean more than just words.

Rob Ford portrait

Written by Rob Ford

Rob is an educator for nearly 30 years, a history and politics teacher, a school leader in various schools in the UK and was principal of Wyedean School in the UK, before being appointed as Director of Heritage International School group.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”. MLK

As my colleague sobbed with frustration and emotion in my room one afternoon, after a long day at school, going through what had just happened in class, I realised in that moment how powerless I felt there and then as a person but I knew how powerful my school’s culture, ethos and policies truly were in these awful moments. More than just words when put to the test to support my colleague as she asked for my help as a school leader.

My colleague, an international teacher, had been on the receiving end of a racist comment and it underlined to me just how much work we still have to do in our schools and communities to ensure such hurtful and offensive moments don’t happen especially when it comes to the words, beliefs and actions of children and young people in our care. 

When we found the students responsible and put in place the necessary sanctions & follow up actions warranted, the comment from one parent said this to try and downplay the incident; “It’s like he was at the same table when the waiter was abused but all get thrown out of the restaurant”. 

Illustrating perfectly with the choice of words that even the most liberal, educated, wordly wise and enlightened of school communities, especially those with many nationalities and a strong global outlook, need to continue to work together with the whole community, to challenge and change such mindsets. In contrast, the students were actually very contrite, apologised, owned their responsibility and repaired the damage done with their teacher who was prepared to move forward with them on this basis. 

We cannot ever be silent on such issues as school leaders, nor should we feel powerless individually to tackle these issues successfully. We need to prioritise clear policies, culture, staff training and meaningful education in schools around issues & attitudes such as racism, nationalism, prejudice and hate that, unfortunately, have become more widespread in the 2020s around the globe.  Doing nothing or hoping it won’t ever be something you will have to address is not an option either for any school leader.

Your school culture is not international because it says it in the title.

It is always quite surprising how many school leaders feel that issues around racism will never affect them because they are “an international school”. This is a very false assumption as much as stating how many different nationalities are in the school community. It doesn’t mean a school is diverse, equitable or inclusive and it’s a “lazy assumption” and derelict  to avoid having a practical strategy in place because you say you are in the school’s name. Words matter here. 

You need a robust Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy in place.

Your DEI policy should sit alongside the handful of ones, like Safeguarding, SEND, Teaching and Learning, Complaints, that you have in crumpled paper form, covered in notes and highlighter on your desk as a school leader because they are used as part and parcel of daily school life. There are some really effective, comprehensive and robust DEI policies out there to look at and adapt to your school.

Your DEI policy needs to be regularly reviewed, a governor responsible, a senior leader made responsible for it, and for it to be made publicly available, for your whole community to be aware of it with the key points clear.  Get good outside experts to scrutinise it and for them to challenge you as a leader, your governors and your team on it as COBIS did to me and my school last year as part of our standards accreditation. 

You need regular CPD for staff awareness and all your team believe and operate in this culture.

I couldn’t imagine annual staff training in August or regular CPD throughout the year, without time spent on our DEI, any more than I would leave safeguarding, the fire drill or Teaching and Learning out of what is central in the education and duty of care towards children. There are some incredible voices and forums out there for schools to follow and engage with and bring that outside expertise and experience to your school.  Especially for schools and communities operating in homogenised and monoglot environments. Your DEI policy needs to be even more central in your strategy. 

There are some incredible voices and forums out there for schools to follow and engage with and bring that outside expertise and experience to your school so tap into it; for example we have used Jon Gibson and Backdrop Education for staff training around inclusion and equity, America House in Chisinau extensively on diversity training, our governors have worked with Jackie Beard, a NLG and used the DEI programmes from NGA. COBIS have been working with Angela Browne and Hannah Wilson to deliver DEI training in schools and we are signing staff up for this outstanding & highly recommended programme for the courses this year. We also follow Hannah’s work in offering free DEI conferences and webinars to educators in the UK and around the World. 

Raise student (and parental) awareness regularly, celebrating and commemorating our global, diverse communities in school daily life.

This is where you need to be prepared to be less than silent, especially in a World of labels thrown at schools such as “woke” or “cancel culture” for daring to celebrate and commemorate events in the global calendar such as Black History Month or Holocaust Remembrance. Do not shy away from what may be perceived as difficult topics or fearful of reactions.  

In those school boards in the USA, where some parent groups are challenging schools for holding Black History Month events this February, because they believe it is teaching “CRT” (critical race theory), school leaders are tackling this challenge head on legally as we finally see this “false equivalence” called out and for a many, a hill definitely worth a stand on. 

In Eastern Europe, the ugly racism black English footballers endured recently playing Hungary, became a very good debate topic for our IGCSE and A Level students and I was proud to see all of them call it out for the hate and ugliness it was.  These are not the values these students want or their part of the world to be associated with.

We also are facing in Eastern Europe the contextual challenge of the conflict of Russia towards Ukraine, with students of both countries in our community, so we have worked with teachers on how to handle difficult questions on it and deal with issues that may arise from students in a safe arena of dialogue. This is the very reason why we educate children. 

Make your community more inclusive and diverse.

This should include a recruitment policy that is more than just centred towards white Anglo-American educators and truly brings the global community to your school.  I still hear the positive words of one of my students when she said coming to Heritage is like going abroad each day.

The same is about the speakers you have in school, the role models for children chosen and what you study in the curriculum.  I have no issue with special days or months for events in the global curriculum calendar because it is a good excuse to highlight the work that is consciously there daily and it is not just for one day.  

Schools shouldn’t worry about the odd criticism on social media because you celebrate or commemorate one day either, as long as this isn’t the only time some topics or events are looked at and studied.  A “one off” is not a school culture but it is a good starting point to build on. Throughout this academic year, the UN’s #FightRacism campaign has underscored so many wider curricular events especially through whole school assemblies and cross curricular days we have aligned with as a school. 

Conclusion.

We should live up to our school’s mission, culture and ethos, especially where we want future leaders to lead with the very values we claim we are about in our schools to young people including diversity, equity, justice and inclusion for a better future.  Or as school leaders we will end up remaining silent on what matters most. 

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Cultural Intelligence

Wangu Chafuwa portrait

Written by Wangu Chafuwa

As a first generation immigrant, Wangu’s vantage as an insider-outsider led to a fascination in people, social relations and culture, which led to advocacy work with the British Youth Council. Wangu now uses his social consciousness and anthropological perspectives to bring human centred insights to the world of work.

Culture – and how we move through it – has also become one of the tabloids’ favourite news beats. How often do we see articles bemoaning the rise of cancel culture or so called culture wars? It’s understandable why lots of us feel nervous about approaching culture. 

Even in itself culture is a difficult term to define. The Oxford English Dictionary contains 6 distinctly separate definitions of it: ranging from ‘the civilization, customs, artistic achievements, etc., of a people’; to ‘the artificial development of microscopic organisms, esp. bacteria, in specially prepared media’;  to ‘the training, development, and refinement of mind, tastes, and manners’

Culture is one of those funny little terms we all vaguely seem to understand but struggle to pin a precise meaning to.  Which poses a problem as we’re routinely expected to navigate increasingly complex cultural environments. 

It’s the reason why Cultural Intelligence (or CQ, like IQ) has been described as one of the essential leadership skills of the future. But how well do we understand what that really means? 

There’s a phrase that’s probably misquoted to Einstein that says ‘intelligence is not the ability to store information, but to know where to find it’. Often when people hear Cultural Intelligence they think that it means having an itinerary of do’s and don’ts for cross cultural 

interactions. Having this knowledge is obviously helpful, but the thing about Cultural Intelligence is that it is a practice – it has to be applied. 

“But how?”, I hear you utter in anguish from beyond the screen. 

In his 2011 book, “The Cultural Intelligence Difference,” Dr David Livermore highlights four capabilities to develop to effectively practise Cultural Intelligence: 

CQ Knowledge relating to knowing different cultural expectations and the nuances of intersectional cultural expressions.  

CQ Strategy relating to your ability to plan and prepare for multicultural interactions. 

CQ Action relating to how appropriately you adapt your behaviour to accommodate different cultural contexts. 

CQ Drive your interest and motivation to keep finding out more about different cultures.

Cultural Intelligence is the acknowledgement of the fact we all come from different places that hold deep meaning to us and a respect for how this shapes our individual  perspectives. No one wants to be treated in aggregate. Practising Cultural Intelligence allows us to see people in their rich difference rather than one in an anonymous blob. 

Our struggle to get to a singular definition of culture isn’t a failure to express, it’s a representation of the living, transforming and always shared experience that is culture. 

We can see this buzzing diversity inherent in culture in the sheer number of different cultural expressions living around us. In all this contrast and colour is an infinity of possibilities. And the ever-present potential of friction. 

The capabilities underpinning Cultural Intelligence may sound a bit jargony but luckily underpinning them is an innate capability to navigate our inherent differences. We are social creatures –  all possessing empathy muscles that hardwire us to build bridges between us. 

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Teachers Working from Home - Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Lindsay Patience portrait

Written by Lindsay Patience

Lindsay Patience is the co-founder of Flexible Teacher Talent. She is a Teach First Ambassador, a School Leader and a mother.

A recent TeacherTapp question asked how people felt about heads, senior leaders and teachers having a regular day to work from home. Here are the results:

Should HEADTEACHERS be allowed a regular day to work from home?

13% Strongly agree     30% Agree                              (43%)

22% Disagree               22% Strongly disagree             (44%)

Should SENIOR LEADERS be allowed a regular day to work from home?

11% Strongly agree     30% Agree                              (41%)

27% Disagree               22% Strongly disagree             (49%)

Should TEACHERS be allowed a regular day to work from home?

14% Strongly agree     33% Agree                              (47%)

30% Disagree               14% Strongly disagree             (44%)

Obviously, given my love of all things flexible working, these responses left me perplexed and frustrated. Why shouldn’t heads, senior leaders and teachers work from home one day a week? What if they would do a better job if they worked from home? What if that meant we had better retention, recruitment, motivation and productivity in the education sector? Why do more people disagree that senior leaders should be allowed to work from home than they do for heads? What could it be that made people disagree with this?

Is it because they think school staff need to be in school?

Of course, they do. But all the time? Not all of our working time is in front of out pupils. In fact, heads have the least contact time in the classroom or elsewhere with students, so they have the greatest opportunity to work from home. Similar for senior leaders. Working from home is more possible for them because they don’t have so many face-to-face lessons.

The lockdowns showed us (in a very unplanned and unexpected way) that a great deal can be achieved away from the school site. It obviously was not an idyllic situation and outcomes and working conditions were often inferior to what we could have achieved in school, but there were some aspects that showed us we didn’t need to all be on site, all of the time. Staff communication, briefings, CPD, parents meetings, using software for assessment and for meetings and many other things. If we could make some of those things work when we were thrown with no warning into such an unprecedented situation and some of them were effective, just imagine how successful they might be if they were planned and utilised strategically. Working from home is one of those things.

Is it because the more senior you are, the more important it is that you are in school?

Heads and senior leaders often have administrative or strategic work to do that would be better conducted privately, quietly, uninterrupted in a work environment that suits them. This may not be in school. This might also be true for teachers, why does PPA have to be on-site? I have never been able to plan effectively at school. My best planning is when I am at home with time and space to reflect and I find it more conducive to creativity. I mark best in cafes, in fact it is the only place I can productively mark away from distractions at school and home.

Maybe those who disagreed just did so because it doesn’t seem possible?

Full time teachers with 10% PPA get half a week out of class, not one full day. So maybe they interpreted the question as one day a week and immediately said no as they assumed it meant time away from classes?

Or maybe there is something else going on here as mentioned in the Teacher Tapp blog on the findings. They mention the “phenomenon that people typically don’t like it when their colleagues are given a benefit which won’t be extended to them.”

Why did more people disagree about senior leaders than heads? Is it something about the job role? You have to be present and in school dealing with issues as they come up? More important as a senior leader than as the head?

Is it because we just don’t trust people to work from home?

Media coverage of the pandemic showed that there is a sentiment that those working from home rather than the office are not working as hard. There are images of people lounging around in their PJs, looking after their kids at the same time, generally not working hard. But really this just boils down to lack of trust in people as professionals. So what if someone works in their PJs if they still get the work done, maybe they are more productive in their PJs. Accountability is important but it doesn’t disappear when people work from home. They still have to do the work and get the results. Some managers just find it problematic if they can’t heavily supervise and monitor workers and so don’t trust them to work from home. Echoes of this are shown again with Teacher Tapp data from the following week suggesting only 15% of teachers are allowed to have their PPA time off site. Why is this figure so low? Why can’t teachers do their planning, preparation and assessment time outside of school? It is dedicated time when they are not to be scheduled for contact time or other commitments so why can’t they have more autonomy in where and how they use this time?

The positives of working from home

Well, here is why I was strongly agree that some time working from home would be good for teachers, senior leaders and head teachers:

Working from home is more productive

A study by Standford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increase productivity by 13%. This was attributed to a quieter more convenient working environment and fewer breaks and sick days. Workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and the rate of employees leaving was cut by 50%.

77% of those who work remotely at least a few times per month show increased productivity, with 30% doing more work in less time and 24% doing more work in the same period of time according to a survey by ConnectSolutions.

A study conducted by Ask.com found that 86% of employees prefer to work by themselves when they are trying to be as productive as possible. There are many tasks that would be much easier without constant interruption. Schools are noisy, busy places by their nature. They are also not always particularly well kitted out or designed as staff work spaces.

And in schools, better productivity, means better outcomes for our pupils, but also better use of public money.

Working from home attracts and retains a diverse staff

What if your heads, senior leaders and teachers can’t work full time? What if they don’t want to work full time? Without flexible working, you miss out of candidates, you miss out on diversity, you miss out on experience and perspective and the opportunity for effective succession planning and development.

Working from home makes us happier

Another US study reported that 82 percent of telecommuters said their overall stress level was lower, while 80 percent reported higher morale because they worked remotely. Other reported benefits of working from home include: less commuting time and more time for wellbeing. Time spent working from home can mean more time for hobbies/pets/time with family/exercise. We are better teachers if we are happier, which is better for students, and relationships, and retention etc.

Also, just give the people what they want!  91% of the UK’s office workers would like to work from home at least part of the time. I know teachers aren’t office workers as such but such overwhelming positivity about working from home must be somewhat reflected also in out staff bodies. It is also worth considering that if office jobs continue to offer hybrid work environments but schools do not, it will be harder to recruit career changers and those currently working in schools who are looking to leave may find more attractive working conditions in other industries.

So that turned into quite a long essay in support of working from home! But I feel strongly that if the education sector doesn’t embrace flexible working and make changes to facilitate it then our schools are missing out on diversity, retention, motivation and productivity that is crucial for our children. Working from home doesn’t mean never being on site, flexible working doesn’t mean teachers walking out on a class in the middle of the day. Our traditional school structures don’t lend themselves well to flexible working but more importantly neither do our attitudes and the cultures in our schools. Flex can work in schools, there is a growing evidence base of case studies showing this, but we need to change how we think about flexible working. Embrace the benefits and make changes to allow them to be taken advantage of.

Working from home reads/references

Has the use of VAK changed at all since 2018? – Teacher Tapp

Surprising Working From Home Productivity Statistics (2022) (apollotechnical.com)

How Working from Home Makes People Happier – Remote.co

The productivity pitfalls of working from home in the age of COVID-19 | Stanford News

Ten Facts You Should Know About Telecommuting (baselinemag.com)

Coronavirus: Why some people want to keep working from home – BBC News

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Is your DEI team an unhealthy microcosm of your school or organisation? How you can journey through and learn from the process, in order to inform your future practice.

Caroline Davis portrait

Written by Caroline Davis

Caroline Lucy Davis, International English Teacher & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advocate with a particular interest in the intersection of gender and race.

This article, which was presented at the AIELOC (Association of International Educators and Leaders of Colour) online conference 2019, discusses my experience of working on DEI initiatives where there was evidence of clearly inauthentic and tokenistic practice to achieve certain targets and tick box exercises. My journey is one of  discovery to disruption to learning and exiting one educational organisation’s version of cultural relations and DEI work. 

I became a member of my organisations DEI team and discovered a fractured, non-communicative, barely functioning group receiving very little guidance. If I examine my reasons for seeking out the team at the time I did, it is really quite simple and why others may do the same. I was struggling with certain issues surrounding gender in particular and I wanted an outlet. I would later learn that I was certainly not alone in my experiences. My experiences also resurfaced my long-term interest in social issues and experiences of marginalisation. I found the lack of initiative and direction of the DEI team very infuriating and was keen to move things forward. 

So I found other ways to impact DEI initiatives through external volunteering opportunities sometimes connected to the organisation. I joined local and expatriate women’s groups, ran International Women’s Day events and was involved in a Global Race and Culture Working group. I networked internationally and it was this extending of my circle which was very enlightening and liberating for me. After quite some time of learning and leading more these initiatives, as well as feeling frustrated by the lack of movement on issues, I became lead for the DEI team. Excited, I threw myself into my new shiny (unpaid!) role in an area that I felt passionately about. 

I researched and thought carefully about how I would establish a representative team and one that would work on the areas of EDI that mattered most, and were most pressing to the staff. My team was going to be functional and effective! I read about how to have inclusive meetings and communication, as I had been long-term recipient of the opposite at the organisation. I had become used to hearing the same old dominant voices and seeing the same old faces…those faces that were all so similar to one another.

Working conditions did not make communication, meetings, organising events or initiatives easy, and then there were the office and organisational politics. Despite the challenges and we had some successful, if with less attendance than hoped, events and initiatives. 

At the same time, the idea of a microcosm became apparent to me when discussing issues even within the EDI team. We just did not seem to have the same understanding or experience of things. Could the EDI team, as representative of the wider organisation, be part of the problem? I indeed found clearly inauthentic and tokenistic practice to achieve certain targets and tick box exercises and even found my work accredited to someone else.

After delivering a presentation on racism in the UK and the lack of people of colour at senior leadership in the organisation, a manager approached me to say they had never noticed any racism and that was why they were so proud to work for the organisation. It was alarming that evidence can be so clearly under one’s nose, but remain unseen. Do we need to see racist acts to figure out that racism must be at play if there are no people of colour at senior leadership levels?

Clearly DEI teams can be unhealthy microcosms of wider organisations, just as classrooms, offices, schools, organisations can be unhealthy microcosms of wider society. So how do we journey through and learn from the process to inform future practice.

In my experience, the learning is the work and it is as rich, as it is exhausting. Keep a record of what you learn and how you learnt it. Seek out opportunities and reach out to the wider network. Stretch your microcosm bubble, perhaps you can burst it! By expanding my network and volunteering, I came to understand that there is a bigger world out there and people who see what you see, and want to make a genuine difference. I learned a great deal and despite the apparent silence, I believe I did disrupt things. I had felt invested and at the same time captive there and in the end decided that it was best for me to exit that educational organisation’s very outdated version of cultural relations and DEI work. This is how to journey through, learn from the process in order to inform your future practice.

 

 

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Anti-bullying beyond Anti-Bullying Week

Hannah Glossop portrait

Written by Hannah Glossop

Head of Safeguarding at Judicium Education. Previously a Designated Safeguarding Lead and Assistant Head, Hannah now leads audits and delivers training to support schools with all aspects of their safeguarding.

2021 was yet another year where we saw a raft of deeply worrying examples of bullying. Research from the Anti-Bullying Alliance highlights that bullying continues to play a big part in young people’s lives: “Data we collected from pupil questionnaires completed between September 2020 and March 2021 also showed that one in five (21%) pupils in England report being bullied a lot or always.” High profile cases such as the institutional racism within the cricket world show that bullying in relation to our nine protected characteristics is a problem that goes far beyond schools. 

Anti-Bullying Week 2021 brought with it a range of wonderful resources, tweets and articles in relation to anti-bullying back in November. As we march through the academic year, it is essential that we do not lose momentum and that we pay particular attention to tackling any bullying related to protected characteristics. So how can you do this?

1.Involve your pupils. 

Consider an anonymous survey of your pupils, asking how many have witnessed bullying at school. This will give you a much clearer picture of how much is going on at your school and which groups are particularly targeted. Show students that you are taking bullying seriously and involve them in the policy decisions. Create a version of the bullying policy that is accessible for younger pupils.

2.Embed a culture of vigilance.

Empower both staff and students to act when they see or hear bullying taking place, either in person or online. Review the ways in which bullying is reported at your school-will all staff know how to progress bullying disclosures? Do students recognise that many nasty remarks may violate the Equality Act? Do students have a way to report bullying which avoids them having to speak face-to-face to a member of staff? Promote your anti-bullying work around the school, share it online and tell parents and carers. If pupils know you are taking it seriously, they are more likely to report it.

3.Identify hotspots.

Identify any particular areas in school, times of the day or online platforms where bullying seems to be taking place more frequently. Where possible, increase supervision in worrying areas or at problematic times of the day. If much of your reported bullying is taking place online, use external resources such as your Safer Schools Officer to explain when online abuse crosses a line and becomes illegal activity-for example hate crime and blackmail. 

4.Curriculum. 

Educate young people around the protected characteristics, what the Equality Act means and what impact this Act has on everyday life. Ofsted have recently updated their guidance on ‘Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools,’  noting that “No matter what type of school they attend, it is important that all children gain an understanding of the world they are growing up in, and learn how to live alongside, and show respect for, a diverse range of people.” In addition, the Proposed changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 include a new section on schools’ obligations under the Equality Act 2020, adding schools, “should carefully consider how they are supporting their pupils and students with regard to particular protected characteristics – including sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and race.”

5.Record and review. 

Paragraph 78 of the Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook lists the “Information that schools must provide by 8am on the day of inspection” and includes:

  • “Records and analysis of bullying, discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour, either directly or indirectly, including racist, sexist, disability and homophobic/biphobic/transphobic bullying, use of derogatory language and racist incidents.”

Rather than seeing this as a mere Ofsted “tick box” exercise, use these records to fully explore which forms of bullying are happening within and around your school. Ensure that each reported bullying instance is recorded, using your behaviour management or safeguarding reporting mechanisms.  Investigate any trends in these reports, share these with governors and senior leaders and take meaningful action to address these. For example, if disability-related bullying is becoming prevalent, think about what resources are needed to both educate children and show them that this form of abuse will not be tolerated. 

Over the coming months ahead of the next annual Anti-Bullying Week, bear the above in mind and remember that embedding some of these ideas could make many of your students feel much less segregated from school life and much more likely to thrive. 

 

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The Power of the Community

Dena Eden portrait

Written by Dena Eden

English teacher and writer based in Norfolk. MA in Educational Research and currently working as an English Standards Leader.

I signed up to the recent #DiverseEd conference knowing I would hear about some brilliant examples of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work going on across education; I didn’t expect to finish the conference feeling empowered. Listening to authentic voices and lived experiences encouraged me to reflect on my own, and has given me the confidence I needed to forge ahead with necessary change. 

As a cis white person I recognise my privilege. As a woman, I have experienced the frustration of my ideas not being taken seriously until a man repeats them. My choice on how to present physically also means people have undermined my intelligence and assume I enjoy shopping and ‘partying’ – they were someone’s actual words. They are surprised when I share my achievements and professional life before teaching. They are even more surprised when they find out I’m gay. Ironically, the part of my identity which is a ‘protected characteristic’ has been met with more positive outcomes than negative. When people ‘find out’ I am gay, women treat me more warmly and men take me more seriously. But that’s a whole other blog post.

I want to share my own experience to try and explain the effect the #DiverseEd conference had on me: despite being invested in creating a truly inclusive environment for a long time, I didn’t feel ‘diverse’ enough to be the person to do that – but at the same time also felt a huge pressure from being part of the LGBTQ+ community to be a voice for those who don’t speak up. Growing up in Birmingham and then living and working in both Mexico and the USA means that I have experience of living life in the role of the ‘other’ –  but also that I have always worked in environments rich in diversity. Embarking upon a career in education in a significantly less diverse area of the UK was a shock to me.

Despite absolutely loving where I live and work for lots of reasons, it does continue to surprise me when I witness the problematic attitudes and language used when talking about diversity and inclusion. Discriminatory language is used without understanding why it is a problem and the pervasive idea that ‘real’ prejudice is overt and/or violent means many people do not recognise their privilege: Prejudice hides behind ignorance; tokenism acts as acceptance; tolerance is sufficient. 

Understanding inaction: providing solutions not problems. 

My experiences have frustrated me and as a result, I approached leadership in the Trust I currently work for to start a conversation; it was met with enthusiasm and support and has led to me setting up an Inclusive Communities group working with outstanding colleagues invested in making long lasting change. 

Up until the #DiverseEd conference, I had some idea of what I wanted us to do – but have been apprehensive. For me, a truly inclusive environment has always been about addressing the root of the issue – people’s mindsets. Until people are willing to admit both their own privilege and the importance of the work that needs to be done, nothing will change. 

Watching the conference helped me to reflect on previous conversations and helped me to understand that I had been too concerned with losing respect or upsetting others by voicing how crucial the work around diversity, equity and inclusion really is. But without action, we are conversationalists not activists; my thinking has now shifted from worrying about reactions to focusing on my own actions. 

Before the conference, I felt like the battle was in trying to get people to appreciate the importance and immediacy of the work that needs to be done – it isn’t work with immediate measurable outcomes for example. After watching the conference, I feel validated in arguing that there should be no such battle. The immediacy and importance of this work is not an opinion – it is a fact. 

So moving forward, rather than focusing on whether the changes can be made, I am focusing on how they will be made. Working with an incredible community and calling on the expertise of my colleagues, we are going to approach people with solutions rather than problems. This is where we are going to start:

  1. Looking at policy within schools and across the whole Trust. 
  2. Educating our staff to be able to challenge one another and our young people – this will be led by training from authentic voices sharing their lived experiences.
  3. Recognising multiple stakeholders in this work: parents, governors and HR should be included in our approach to EDI. 
  4. Working with our incredible curriculum team to explore ways we can include balanced and meaningful representation into our existing work. 

It was overwhelming to think about the work that needed to be done; now I’m excited to get started. We deserve genuine support, not allowances; to be comfortable as well as safe; celebration, not tolerance.  

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