So You’re the Coachee

Dwight Weir portrait

Written by Dwight Weir

Dwight is a Deputy Headteacher and Life Coach. He is also an inspector for British Schools Overseas. Dwight has a passion for coaching and leadership development.

Oftentimes we hear about the coach and the skills required to be an effective coach. Not much is said about the coachee – the other very important one in the relationship. The coachee, is a person who receives training from a coach. My learnings from various coaching experiences as a coachee have allowed me to craft certain skills and attitudes which I share as the skills or attitude needed by coachees.   

  • You answer your own questions. In answering your own questions, you are often engaged in a radical thinking process, examining your challenge and context and then finding the best way through the challenge. The thinking environment is a philosophy of communication developed by Kline (2009), which enables people to think for themselves and think better together. It is a simple, rigorous and radical set of processes. Coaches don’t answer your questions but provide you with the means to think through and find answers yourself.
  • You take more risks – It is through risk taking that you know if your ideas will work. On the journey to success – radical decisions are made. You make these decisions as you know you’ll be able to reflect and discuss your thought process with the experienced other – the coach.
  • You become more reflective – a great amount of the discussions with the coach is reflective. Researchers such as Muir and Beswick (2007) suggest that there are different levels of reflection that can take place, which move from descriptive to critical forms. It is the critical reflections that help us transform our practices.
  • You must embrace quiet moments – embrace quiet moments as you think through your own hurdles. During the mentoring process these quiet moments are filled with answers by the mentor. Within the coaching relationship you don’t need answers you need a sounding board – the experienced other – the coach, to discuss your ideas. Here you find out for yourself. Notice ‘find out’ not told about. 
  • You become open to criticism – great coaches are frank and open. In coaching relationships you are told the brutal truth about your observed movements, dialogues, expressions and attitude. During your intake session a good coach will ask you how you’d like to be challenged or not. Does it make sense you start this journey, not wanting to hear the truth? Feedback is a gift. You can return the gift. But on these occasions, you keep the gift, as in true coaching relationships trust is the base from which change is realised.

A lot can be gained throughout coaching journeys and relationships. What is more and more apparent is, coaches don’t give answers but feed with questions which enable meaningful thought and self-discovered answers to your challenges. This is a skill only the experienced other could exhibit flawlessly and empower the coachee to unravel options and find answers. I describe this process as a journey, this relationship develops gradually after establishing trust and an openness to feedback from your coach.  

Coaching relationships should be for a proposed period of time. It should be anticipated that the experienced other will equip coachees with the skills to enable their success then release them to grow. 

Can you be coached if you don’t display these attitudes? Of course – it just might take you a little longer.   



Holistic Education for Diversity and Inclusion as Competitive Advantage for Prosperity

Harold Deigh portrait

Written by Harold Deigh

Harold Deigh is an Educator and burgeoning Entrepreneur, qualified in International Business & Management / Economic and Social Policy / PGCE PCET (Post-compulsory Education and Training). His education, like most, includes lived experiences and circumstances, differences and intersections and indelible input of our five senses. His training and teaching experience in IGCSE Business, Humanities, Pastoral care, PSHE, SMSC, Citizenship, Health and Social Care and Well-being. Likewise, he is conversant in Value creation, Sustainability, ICT in Global Society (ITGS), Digital and Financial literacy, Global Holistic education, Customer relationship and Customer service.

It is good to know that life is a relationship – a series of shared moments. Moments of gratitude that we have a wonderful world, beautiful people, we belong, we overcome, with joy to enjoy, through the good education of attitude of appreciation and affection, conscious action and outcomes.

Duty and responsibility, like diversity, calls for accountability. We need to educate well and engage more. We learn, yearn and earn for a good quality of life, lifestyle and existence. To survive, manage and cope with our mental, physical, social and cultural, financial, environmental (natural and physical) health and well-being chores. But most importantly, to prevent and protect, safeguard and uphold such fundamental values of shared humanity and care of habitat (between and within countries) and its efficacious notion to serve and be served for prosperity and posterity. 

The case for Holistic Education (HolEd) in helping understand Diversity and Inclusion (perhaps as seen in symbiotic nature of Biodiversity or Interdependency or Relationship), is inspiration to support a framework as a guide to better positive decision-making, problem-solving and finding right or good solutions. It employs Sustainable Enterprise, Computational Thinking, Input-Process-Outcome methods, benefits of ICT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Sustainability Accounting, Social media, News and Information – that ensures carrying out significant but sensible power of responsibility (…that ‘Power is Responsibility and Accountability’). Engaging due diligence and duty of care, with commendable onus to humanity and habitat. We are bonded in our human traits to good quality of Life, Lifestyle, Livelihood, Liberty, Love, and Alive to enjoy the beauty and goodness they bring, and a gratifying, satisfying life of coexistence, well-being and wellness of mind, body and spirit. Recent research – THE POWER OF HOLISTIC EDUCATION – Bold News ( May 30, 2023,  highlights this.

Good knowledge of the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion (especially as a competitive advantage (The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion For Today’s Companies (– 03/03/2023) is relevant to business bottom line in particular, and society in general. I engage to explore this through the lenses of HolEd. But also embarking on creating and promoting, a comprehensive, and constructive Global Holistic Education Study Programme and Seminars of existing published accredited and approved educational resources and guides  of awareness and appreciation of ‘Good and Valued Education’ and ‘A Better Life…a Better World’ pedagogy. This includes better understanding and empowering of HolEd, addressing and raising awareness of contemporary issues, changes and challenges.

Our task is to show and evidence that HolEd is worth exploring in how to proceed to successfully manage Life, Business and Society, including esteem Fundamental British Values (FBV) of: Democracy; Rule of Law; Liberty; Respect and recognition, both tolerated and celebrated, in institutions, individuals and business entities. Otherwise, its discouragement or slow demise is indicative we are against it and thus harbour unhelpful and toxic consequences for many. I particularly treasure the knowledge acquired in PCET as invaluable, especially learning, unlearning and relearning topics on:

  • Issues, Policies and Values (IPV)
  • Managing the Learning Environment (MLE)
  • Supporting and Tutoring Learners(STL)
  • Teaching, Learning and Assessment(TLA)
  • Emotional Intelligence Leadership

I seek to develop and engage with others, creating an all-round beneficial educational experience of importance, value and worth, with policies, processes and procedures regarding Holistic health, Wealth and Wellness, Nutritious food for our Energy source and sustenance (food for thought!). We thus embrace Fundamental Universal Values, and C21st skills for future prosperity, and good knowledge on survival for sustainable and inclusive successful business and enterprise models. A mantra of ‘No harm, hurt or hate’ to self or others and awareness, appreciation and effective and efficient means to learning, ensuring principled judgements and learning in the philosophy of UBUNTU – “I am because you are”. A conscious relationship has knowledge of good thoughts, intentions, actions and anticipated outcomes. 

Physicians are made to “…first, do no Harm” – the Hippocratic oath. Society must emulate further: no harm; no hate; no hurt; no hostility or humiliation. Challenging times and daily chores come and go, so does rampage, anger and rage.  As ‘valued educators’ we can courageously and confidently contest and seek to cancel amongst others, the Ills of society, misguided values, bad role models, stereotyping, by addressing and preventing the causes of these. But ensure society is imbued with the indelible disposition to heal, help, capture, cultivate, collaborate, celebrate humanity with co-existence of culture, commUnity, sustainAbility and harmony as we grow to, love and adore, create and appreciate, give and serve, care and share. There is such a thing as society… consciously functioning with humility and hope, to create, produce, sustain value and worth of a beautiful world and wonderful people…the opportunity of presence, acknowledgement and participation of individuals with varying backgrounds and perspectives, embracing our concerted successes from good education, accomplishments and achievements.

Peanut Brittle or Marshmallow? (Growing into Flexible Working)

Erin Skelton portrait

Written by Erin Skelton

Erin is first and foremost an educator and her extensive experience includes a diverse range of roles, encompassing both pastoral and academic leadership positions, across both independent and state education settings. Prior to joining Bright Field, Erin’s most recent role was as Assistant Head and Head of Sixth Form in a top independent girls' school. In this role, she nurtured her students, instilled a sense of purpose and provided invaluable mentoring to prepare them for life as a woman in the 21st century and beyond.

It’s 8:39 on a Monday morning as I sit and type this. I’ve already had breakfast, fed the dog, emptied the dishwasher, folded and put away the laundry, and undertaken the mammoth task of ensuring that my son was prepared for the day and is sitting on the school bus. My first meeting isn’t until 10:00… Normally, with military precision I would be up, packed and gone by 7am on the dot to get myself to school for 7:45. Logged on, armed with the first of many caffeinated drinks, I would already have sent multiple emails and dealt with numerous issues before anyone else arrived; after all, I had spent the last seven years as Assistant Head in charge of a large Sixth Form in a top independent school. 

And yet, here I am, on a Monday morning, sitting in my home office. I am one of many senior leaders in education who have opted out of senior leadership. If you’re reading this, then I’m sure that you have read the constant stream of headlines and statistics about teachers at all levels wanting to redefine what their working lives look like. Well, I am one of those people.

Full disclosure, the decision to step out of a SLT position has been a challenging one. As an Assistant Head, on a good day, I felt like I was making a significant difference to the school and students; I felt a real sense of purpose, like I was an empathetic superhero. That is a feeling I still love and it’s one of my core values. But realistically, I knew that to achieve that I was working sixteen-hour days, I was at every school event, answering emails at 11:00pm before I closed my eyes, and the first thing I would do in the morning was to check my email with dread to see what had come into my inbox whilst I was sleeping. I was sacrificing my time, my family and ultimately my wellbeing, and I was measuring my sense of worth solely by my job. But what about the holidays, I hear you say. Most Heads of Sixth Form work most of school holidays; we field university and UCAS application issues, worries about mock and real examinations, we prepare for and support Y11 students around GCSEs and entry to our Sixth Forms and we work tirelessly around A level results, university admissions and UCAS clearing. Almost every issue that lands with us is a matter that could change the course of a young person’s life. It is not a job for the faint of heart.  

I spent so much of my time giving inspirational assemblies and talks about knowing your worth, being brave and following your dreams, that I had ultimately known for several years, that I needed to do that for myself, even if I knew that I would probably have to unravel many of my own self-beliefs to get there. I loved my role and I love my school. I was also fully aware that I could have tried to find a better balance, that I could have had healthier boundaries around my job, but the nature of my role meant that if I did that, it would be the students who lost out, because my role wasn’t about ticking boxes, it was about people and what made me a great Head of Sixth Form was that I was invested in ensuring every student was happy and as successful as possible. 

Cue discussion about being authentic and following my dreams… The reality was that I felt trapped; I had been a teacher for eighteen years, all of which had been in some type of leadership position. I had no idea what it was to not have leadership responsibilities and like so many of my colleagues, I thought the only thing that I could do was “teach”; we forget the vast skill sets that teachers have. I made lists, I sounded people out, I listened to podcasts, and I read. I tried to remember what my dreams actually were.

Eight months ago, armed with my thinking, I walked into my Head’s office after psyching myself up for three months to speak to her. That initial conversation with my Head set things in motion, and I returned to my school in September as a part-time main-scale teacher for the first time in eighteen years. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

We are educationalists not simply teachers. We have a vast skill set and are not defined by the parameters of a job description. Teaching seeps out of our pores and when you work outside of one singular educational setting you get a real sense of how this is a superpower that can be applied in so many areas of life and work.

I didn’t step down, but I did step out. I think it’s important to think about the language that we use when we talk about changes in the ways people work. I have had such mixed responses to my decision. When a person wishes to work more flexibly, particularly when the decision has nothing to do with childcare needs or health, that decision is often questioned on the grounds of their ability to “cope”. We shouldn’t have to cope; there are no awards for giving so much of yourself into any role that you have nothing left. I am a highly successful, highly competent leader in education; I didn’t fail because I wanted to step out of the parameters that were defined for me, I wanted to draw my own.

Flexible working doesn’t come without its challenges. I work full-time across two roles: one teaching and one largely within educational settings both in the UK and globally, plus some additional passion projects. Balancing the demands of both roles requires a lot of organisation and commitment to both institutions equally. I would add that as teachers, we are very institutionalised; our days run to a formulaic schedule, and we become adept at putting ourselves last during the course of the school day. This is a real issue for everyone I have met who has moved to part-time teaching or moved out of the classroom altogether. Suddenly there isn’t a bell telling us when we can go to the toilet, a timetable dictating how we spend our days, or a salary that we receive irrespective of the additional hours we put in. Suddenly we have to navigate part-time working conditions, changes to the complexity of how our tax, pension and benefits are calculated and sometimes a lack of understanding from the full-time staff managing our HR and payroll.

Stepping out of a leadership role and remaining in my school has also personally been a real challenge for me. I now know that I could have undertaken my SLT role part-time as well as taking on my new role with relative ease. I am also slowly settling into being a classroom teacher where there are no expectations for me outside of that role. It is hard to have to say ‘no’ when students approach me for support, or you can see colleagues struggling with the burden of their workload or a problem they would have previously approached me to solve, particularly given the nature and size of my previous role. At present, there is still a lot that I am doing behind the scenes to support which I am not paid to do, but I do so because I care, and my decision has had a significant impact on the school.

If you can make peace with the frustrations, flexible working can give you space, time, and a balance to your perspective and the way you live your life. It’s very early days for me, but already I am excited about utilising my skills in new ways, taking the time to meet new people, read inspiring books and work more creatively on projects that have a wider impact. I am noticing little things, taking reflection time, being out of doors, being more present with my family, resuming old hobbies and taking up new ones.

I find myself growing to fill an expansive space and I welcome it.

Make Yourself Heard

Bennie Kara portrait

Written by Bennie Kara

Founder of Diverse Educators

Public speaking is a fact of life in the teaching profession. We speak to students all the time in classrooms, but every so often, we are called to deliver assemblies, or to deliver training to staff, or to speak to governors. Some of us are supremely confident in talking in front of students, but shudder at the thought of talking to a group of adults. If you’ve ever felt a sense of dread when you are asked to stand up and deliver spoken content outside of the classroom, you’re not alone. According to the British Council, 75% of us suffer from anxiety about talking in front of a crowd.

Speaking in front of the crowd may tap into a range of fears. We might fear being nervous and how that might affect our assignment. We might fear judgement, or fear that we won’t get everything across that we want to say. We might fear that people won’t listen. We might fear forgetting what we are saying in the moment, stumbling, freezing, feeling embarrassed. These are valid fears and affect most of us.

Whose voices are valued in the public space? Some people are less confident in their speaking abilities because their voices have been silenced. In the UK, global majority teachers work in a predominantly white British teaching workforce; we know the statistics on the ethnic make-up of leadership teams in education. Global majority teachers may suffer from the voicelessness that is part and parcel of existing in marginalised groups.  This isn’t just true in terms of race and ethnicity; it is also true for sexuality, gender, disability, and neurodiversity.

Voicelessness erodes confidence. So it is hugely important that we learn how to find a voice in the public space and to feel like we belong there. 

Finding your message

Regardless of the occasion, it is important to define the message. Speaking in a staff meeting, delivering a talk to parents – what is it that we want to get across? Not just in terms of the information, but also about you. How are you defining your leadership in the moment through what you say and how you say it? 

The message might be small, or it might be momentous. In either case, we need to find ways to define a sense of who we are as engaging speakers and to ensure that we can convey our message effectively. This takes thought, planning, and crucially, constructive practice.

The best public speakers have elements in common. One of the most powerful tools in public speaking is your ability to tell a story.  Storytelling is vital in public speaking, in the appropriate contexts. An assembly without a story, a keynote without anecdote can feel dry and impersonal. The most skilled public speakers I have encountered know how to weave a story into the talk with a deftness and ease that seems intuitive. 

But storytelling is not intuitive for all. Some people are completely comfortable in selecting anecdotes, examples, stories, tiny useful narratives for the public engagement. Others have to think more carefully, but that careful process can lead to brilliant, engaging public speaking. 

The Diverse Educators ‘Make Yourself Heard’ Course

Designing this course, for us, means that we can support you in developing the right mindset for public speaking and provide you with practical strategies to make yourself heard.  It aims to develop a voice with you in small groups so that you have the chance to listen, learn, practise and hear feedback. 

If you would like support in developing your voice, join us on the ‘Making Yourself Heard’ course using the details below:

Monday 15th January and Monday 11th March 4-5pm

Part 1 – Monday 15th January 2024 4.00-5.00pm

The first session is an intensive look at how you can plan, develop and deliver talk in public so that you can create impactful messages.

Part 2 – Monday 11th March 2024 4.00-5.00pm

This second session aims to support you in considering how to speak impactfully in public. It will cover planning, rehearsal and delivery style in a safe, supportive space with fellow educators.

Nb/ Both sessions will be held on zoom, they will be recorded so purchasing the recording is also an option if you are unable to make either of the dates.

Has EDI become a commercial business?

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

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

Last year, on my return to work after a short maternity break, I wrote a very candid post about leading EDI in schools. Almost a year on, I have had some wonderful opportunities with DiverseEd, The GEC, Teachit, Edurio, Schools Week, SecEd, Middle East Eye…all talking about diversity, equality and inclusion in education. Now working in the Higher Education sector, I am learning so much about intent vs impact, using Driscoll’s model of reflection. In using Driscoll’s model, I find myself questioning the EDI ‘work’ more and more – not its necessity (believe me, it’s more needed than ever), but whether or not it is making a sustainable impact and lasting change, or whether it is simply at risk of being a step on a ladder, a set of buzz words and a marketing asset for schools and organisations.

Is it right to be an EDI Lead?
George Floyd’s murder can be regarded as a watershed moment for anti-racism work, but also for diversity and inclusion. With the rise of Gen Z, Gen Alpha and social media, the EDI landscape has, in many ways, rocketed and quite rightly so. Although many think it drives a cancel culture and a call out culture, it has also led to meaningful change for people with protected characteristics. Equally, a growing number of companies are making EDI roles bigger, smaller or redundant. Speaking to friends and colleagues in the ‘field’ (especially global majority heritage colleagues), it seems EDI is a thriving, purposeful business, but one which is exhausting and draining too. To be completely candid, I have reflected and wondered whether I am toxically ‘profiting’ from my own ‘EDI’ trauma, story, knowledge, expertise (whatever you want to call it) and sometimes feel a level of guilt, imposter and also, loss.

It’s tough being vulnerable in the public and professional eye, laying bare your identity for the sake of strategy, culture, governance, policy and practice. I also worry about what’s next? Not necessarily because I think EDI will become redundant (this thought in itself is  problematic and misplaced). Rather it is mentally and physically tough to work in a field so rich and granular, that I worry where and how the energy can be sustained.

The work is purposeful, important and of value. However, for it to be impactful and fulfilling we must start holding organisational leads, middle management, policies and practices to account. If there are policies and practices which have a detrimental, and historic impact on individuals with protected and non-protected characteristics (socio-economic status for example), no amount of training is going to fix that. Experience and very loose, qualitative research (candid conversations!) reveals consistency and commitment to inclusion at middle management level is just as important (if not more) to creating a culture of belonging. 

To flip from business to culture, it is integral that leaders and managers intentionally and uncomfortably make the difficult changes necessary to create equitable work environments. Celebrate whistleblowing and call our culture, scrutinise and fix representation gaps, embrace flexibility and use positive action, inclusive recruitment strategies; do what you have to do to create a trusting and lasting culture for every employee and student.

Diversity across the curriculum is scratching the surface.
Whilst a diverse curriculum and EDI training is wholly important, and can have a life changing impact on young people (especially Early Years), it is but one cog in a set of very large and complex wheels. In my relatively short time of working in this space, I’ve learned just how easy it is to become a ‘tickbox’ or a ‘box ticker’, without even realising. All too often EDI is boxed in; it’s carved out like an isolated gym session (stick with me). We all know 1 run, 1 personal training session, or 1 class a week will not make a difference to our health unless we see to our eating habits, our mindset, consistency, our NEAT actions. A brilliant guest speaker may leave us high on endorphins like a Spin class, but then what? EDI is a hard, constant and ‘infinite’ journey that should never be redundant or complete – the world is ever-changing and diversifying, in our lifetime at least. If this thought leaves you exasperated or frustrated, flip those feelings and be curious instead: it provides a perfect opportunity to speak to an EDI specialist or students and staff with protected characteristics to ask, how can inclusion and belonging become an active part of day-to-day, micro and macro policies and practices in your workplace? Listening is important, developing and actioning a plan is fundamental.

In her book, The Courage of Compassion (2023), Public Defender, Robin Steinberg says ‘the struggle for social justice is won […] one person at a time’. With every feeling of imposter and exhaustion I simultaneously realise just how purposeful, impactful and necessary equality and diversity is – in education, the workplace and society. Of course, the ‘business’ of finding solutions and making a tangible impact is very important, however the ongoing work, the self-reflection, the side-by-side influences, are perhaps integral to keeping diversity and inclusion at the centre of every business and organisation.

Launching a network for new leaders made me a better ally

Ben Hobbis portrait

Written by Ben Hobbis

Teacher, Middle Leader and DSL. Founder of EdConnect and StepUpEd Networks.

Are you a new leader, like the idea of leadership but struggle to find the balance between teaching and leading? Are you someone who wants to lead or be a leader, but not knowing how to get there, feeling a bit stagnant? You might be a leader developing, but in the wrong organisation? You might not see leaders like you? This is why Step Up was set up.

Step Up is a new network for new and aspiring leaders in education, particularly at middle and senior leadership levels in schools. Upon starting the social media account, and subsequent network, we surveyed people to find out who our community are and what they want/need. This has been incredibly useful. It’s been great getting to know our community. 

From this research and insight, we have constructed five ‘leadership themes’ that we base our content and output around. We base our speakers, events, blogs and much more around these themes. The five themes are: Leadership Journeys, Leadership Barriers & Challenges, Leadership Development, Leadership Wellbeing and Leadership Diversity. Now, whilst many of these will overlap when people speak, present and write to these. 

I personally as the founder wanted to ensure that whatever we do, we are inclusive and that we are diverse in order to create a community where our network members belong. Now, as a heterosexual, white, able bodied, cisgender man who doesn’t have children and is fairly financially stable, I know I’ve had it easier than others. However, I have always committed to be an inclusive ally and a HeForShe ally also. I have been a keen supporter and champion of Diverse Educators since signing up to social media and their journey started. One thing I have released is that I’ve continued to learn as an ally.

One of the biggest learning curves was Step Up’s Launch Event. As I co-hosted alongside one of my fellow network leaders, WomenEd’s own Elaine Hayes, I listened attentively to our speakers. I listened to their vulnerability; to their negative and positive experiences; to their struggles; to their hopes and wishes; to their experience and tips. I felt quite emotional in parts listening to in some cases abhorrent behaviour that they (or colleagues, friends or family) had been subjected to as part of their journey. 

I’ve summarised some of the key takeaways from some of the presentations, that may be useful for the audience reading this…

Parm Plummer, WomenEd’s Global Strategic Leader and a Secondary Assistant Headteacher based in Jersey presented on Women in Leadership. Her talk initially started with sharing the fantastic work of WomenEd: their campaigns, partnerships, networks (including their global reach) and the development opportunities they provide for female leaders. Parm then went on to help navigate the process of stepping up as a female leader. Initially, sharing the only image of a woman that came up during a Google search; before going on to provide tips to write a job application through to negotiating your terms. Parm gave tips including finding allies and joining networks.

Helen Witty, a neurodivergent Lead SENDCo based in the East of England who gave a pre-recorded video on Neurodivergent Leadership. She shared an insight into her job and life, as a SENDCo with ADHD. She shared about how being open about her ADHD at her job interview and how it positively impacts her life and those who she works with. Helen also gave a fantastic insight into the role of a SENDCo, for all those who aspire to this role.

Stephanie Shaldas, a secondary deputy headteacher leading on diversity and inclusion based in London. Her talk Leadership in Colour: Senior Leadership as a Black American Woman started with a story from March 2021 whilst she was working as an Acting Co-Headteacher. This story was based around Prince William visiting her school. What was a forty-five minute visit, led to a weekend of trending on Twitter, including one Tweet: ‘Who dressed up the secretary in African cloth and trotted her out?’ Stephanie went onto talk about her journey and how she felt like school leaders didn’t look like her, when she was in her early career. She shared her inspiring path to leadership including her own education as well as teaching and leadership roles at middle and senior level spanning both curriculum and pastoral. As Stephanie said, “If I can, then you can!” – find your why and explore your passions!

Mubina Ahmed, Head of Science Faculty, based in London gave a presentation titled: ‘Using my minority lens to lead.’ Mubina went on to talk about how she used her minority ethnic background to her strength in her leadership journey. She posed the key question: ‘Do we have equity in teaching?’ Mubina used research and evidence to back up every piece of advice and information that she gave; talking about building allies to help you bring your chair to the table. 

Albert Adeyemi, co-founder of Black Men Teach and a Head of Year based in the East of England gave a talk based around wellbeing and belonging in leadership. He spoke eloquently about the importance of wellbeing, how every interaction with others builds up to this. He narrated the sense of being needed versus feeling wanting and knowing what you need to fill your cup, to achieve wellbeing and belonging. The part that really blew me away was a surprise from Albert, a spoken word about belonging; a part of the event which brought a tear to my eye.

Jaycee Ward, a phase leader in a Yorkshire primary school, spoke about imposter syndrome, based around her journey as a young senior leader. Jaycee narrated her journey to date and how she has completely changed her narrative and inner critic. She shared her five top tips for combatting imposter syndrome: Seek Support, Embrace Vulnerability, Celebrate Achievements, Self-Compassion, Self-Reflection. Something, everyone at the event resonated with.

Nicola Mooney, a secondary deputy headteacher based in the South West of England, who also volunteers for WomenEd and MTPT Project, gave an interesting presentation on ‘non-linear career paths’. She shared her journey through her career to date including multiple maternity leaves and periods of IVF. Nicola shared how by not going through the ‘traditional’ upward trajectory has enabled her to be successful both as a teacher and as a mother. It was a talk many welcomed, knowing it is not as simple and always useful to be continually promoted.

I feel very privileged to have spent time in the virtual room with these fantastic Diverse leaders. Step Up (and I) will continue championing for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the education leadership sector; and will ensure everyone has the chance to share their stories. If you want to get involved and find out more, then follow us on X (formerly Twitter) @StepUpNet_Ed and check out our website:

“But is it age-appropriate?”

Gerlinde Achenbach portrait

Written by Gerlinde Achenbach

Gerlinde Achenbach is a senior education consultant and former primary headteacher. Her career spans more than 35 years, with over 30 years teaching in schools. Since 2021 she has been supporting schools across the UK with Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, specifically LGBTQ+ inclusion. Her expertise is in leadership and changing school culture.

It’s now 20 years since Section 28 was repealed in England yet in primary schools we’re still, it seems, reluctant to talk with young people about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or more. Some of us can’t get past the LGBT+ acronym, never actually defining what each letter stands for. 

“Can I say ‘gay’ in Year 2?” one lead teacher for EDI was asked recently. We were talking during a recent 1:1 coaching session on developing best LGBT+ inclusive practice across the school. Deeply frustrated, the teacher bemoaned her experience with colleagues: “Some of them won’t include it beyond PSHE. Others never get round to it, telling me they’ve run out of time.”

Many primary class teachers are fearful of parental backlash in front of groups of other parents and their children. Some know that their senior leader colleagues are just as wary. And it’s true, this is one area where some parents and carers often feel emboldened to speak their mind. It’s embarrassing to be on the receiving end and, if you’re not confident about why we’re including LGBT+ themes in our learning and our environments, it’s easier to put your head in the sand. But let’s not forget that it’s statistically very likely that every family will have someone – parent, uncle or aunt, sibling, cousin or grandparent – who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or more.

“We want to make sure it’s age appropriate…”, say primary schools.  

The DfE’s compulsory guidance on RSE came into force in September 2020, stating, ‘Primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it appropriate to do so.’

With an independent review currently in progress to advise the Secretary of State for Education on what is appropriate to teach in relationships and sex education and health education, and at what age’ , the stakes for ‘age-appropriate’ are high.

Of course, it’s important that the curriculum is appropriate for the age and experience of the children in each year group. But let’s not forget that when we talk about equity, diversity and  inclusion, we’re moving beyond curriculum into the realm of whole school culture. The reservations we may have about being LGBT+ inclusive in younger year groups do not sit well with a culture of inclusivity and belonging. As a Primary Headteacher, I know that the majority of primary schools now include at least a handful of same-sex parented families, and often at least one child questioning their gender. That’s not forgetting the afore-mentioned LGBT+ relatives and friends. Surely we owe it to all the children living in LGBT+ families to see their own lived experience validated by our practice and provision? At the very least, our culture and curriculum should reflect and represent our LGBT+ children, both those who know it already and those who will know it soon enough. It’s our moral duty.

So, what could be more appropriate, for EYFS up, than talking about how families are made up differently, and that they have love for each other in common? Quite simply it is appropriate to have a curriculum where we share stories with young children about families and individuals who may dress, speak, identify or love differently from those they know, whilst talking about kindness and respect. We must also surely help children try to understand the injustice of being discriminated against, or harmed, simply for loving someone of the same gender. 

We know that learning about sexual orientations other than heterosexuality does not ‘make you gay’, any more than learning that some people question the gender assigned them at birth ‘makes you trans’. Young people are discerning and knowledge is power. If any of the above applies to them, they will learn about it in a safe, accepting space. If it doesn’t apply, they have learned respect and compassion for others. Is it then morally acceptable to put our heads in the sand when we know that through educating our children, we educate our families and our communities? 

Put simply, LGBT+ inclusion is about showing respect and compassion for all LGBT+ people as equal members of our diverse school and wider communities. It’s about being included in every aspect of school life and knowing you belong. 

It’s always appropriate, at every age.

Guidance for Navigating the DEIJ Journey

Doline Ndorimana portrait

Written by Doline Ndorimana

Doline Ndorimana is a passionate educator dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) and advocating student voice and agency. She is a DEIJ Workshop Leader, Middle Years Program Language Consultant, an Accreditation Evaluator for the Council of International Schools, and a member of the TIE editorial team.

I love my job as an educator and I love spending time with kids, especially teenagers. I believe each child should feel a sense of belonging at school, that is why I champion the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). However, it is not only for our students but also for our colleagues. If our colleagues don’t feel that they belong, they will not be able to serve our students well. This is what makes the job of a DEIJ leader in schools important and challenging at the same time. Experience over time has changed the way I see and do this work. Through frustrations, disappointments, failures, and good wins as well, I’ve grown to see DEIJ work as a complicated marriage worth fighting for. On the one hand, it’s conflict work and on the other hand, it’s relational work.

To deal with conflicts, we have to maintain an open dialogue where the goal is not proving that we are right but making things right. To maintain a good relationship, we have to constantly work on it. It’s not linear, but cyclical, and just because we have already dealt with an issue, does not mean that we will not deal with it anymore or re-adjust our expectations as we grow and change. It also means that, oftentimes, we will take one step forward and three steps back. Consequently, as DEIJ practitioners, we constantly negotiate and regulate expectations, norms, and practices, which can take a toll on us and affect us negatively if we are not careful. I’ve thought about a few guidelines that can help us maintain our sense of self and wellbeing so that we can continue to do this important, complex, and rewarding work.

Guide One: Get To Know Yourself as Much as Possible

It can be difficult to get to know yourself, especially when people are constantly evolving; but in this context, it’s an important task to undertake in order to effectively extend your thinking and make you a better version of yourself. Without personal introspection and understanding, unprocessed emotions and insecurities can interfere with your growth. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people think, wanting or even needing other’s approval and validation. But these external affirmations can put too much emphasis on the ego and without regular praise, you may begin to question your values and self-worth. Good, constructive feedback from knowledgeable and experienced people can be beneficial to your personal growth. However, if you don’t have a strong sense of self, rather than truly listening to and learning from this feedback, you may get caught up in hurt feelings, pushing back, or even trying to prove you’re right or justify your position.

When you are getting closer to knowing who you are, you will understand that serving the cause is more important than belonging to the cause. When the importance of belonging to a cause outweighs the importance of the cause, you are more focused on finding and creating opportunities that validate your choice of doing this work and belonging to the cause rather than truly serving the cause. In other words, you spend more time trying to show and prove to people that you’re right. Your focus then becomes things that are out of your control and that leads to burnout. But if the focus is on serving the cause, and in the case of DEIJ work, creating a culture of belonging and inclusion for all, then the focus is not on an individual’s vision. The cause is much bigger than that. You’re learning to know who you are and who you are becoming, and you don’t need to prove that to anyone. What actually matters is looking at how we can fix the problems we face. How do we get to a resolution? How do we find common grounds so we can all be part of the solution? 

Guide Two: “The First Step to Engagement is Disengagement” (Simon Sinek)

As DEIJ leaders, we often face difficult conversations with our colleagues, particularly those who are resisting change, and sometimes this leads to insensitive comments that can trigger strong emotions. Here we have a choice. We can either act on those emotions and be confrontational with our colleagues and ultimately lose them, or we can stop, take a step back, listen, sit with our own emotions, and get curious. Why am I feeling this way? What is it that was said that got me this upset? What are my emotions telling me? Acknowledge and unpack these emotions. Once you know what’s going on, you can deal with them and then move on. Whether it takes 30 minutes or two days, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we work through this process, otherwise these unprocessed emotions become a distraction to our goals. Once our emotions are processed, we can then shift our attention to our goal and ask ourselves, what do I want from this conversation? Why did I go to speak to them in the first place? It’s only then that we can disengage ourselves and listen from our colleague’s frame of reference and not our own because the highest purpose here is progress or resolution. This is when we say to our colleague that “in the interest of building a safe place for everyone at work, I would love to have your thoughts. I want your input because I want you to be part of the solution. We need everyone, including you. Help me understand!”

Guide Three: Know Your School Community 

As we get into these roles and settle in, it’s good to communicate and exchange with other DEIJ leaders from other schools to learn from each other, but we need to remember that our schools are different. Comparing and contrasting schools and wanting to do the same thing as another school did can be detrimental to our work. The process is too slow and we’re not making progress. I need to push and challenge more, just like it was done at X school.” These are some of the thoughts I’ve had before. But X school’s DEIJ journey, as well as its environment, might be different from your school. If we think of DEIJ work as a complicated marriage that’s worth fighting for, then working on your marriage using someone else’s marriage toolkit might not work. You need to find your own toolkit and that requires spending time trying different tools until you figure out which ones work for you in your context. In order to find the right tools, it is important to get to know our own individual school cultures and members. Hearing and learning from other DEIJ leaders are important as long as we remember that our situations are different.

In their book School Culture Rewired, Gruenert and Whitaker offer a list of things that convey a school culture. They suggest we look at “the social glues that hold people together, the way things are done, deeply embedded beliefs and assumptions, the pattern behavior that distinguish us from them as well as a set of behaviors that seem strange to new employees” (2014). These things will indicate what ought to be celebrated, ignored, and ultimately what to anticipate. Spending time learning about our school communities will best prepare us for our roles as it will give us the knowledge we need to make a strategic plan with actions specifically designed for our schools and communities. But this can only be effective if done, planned, and mapped in conjunction with heads of school and senior leadership where questions, apprehensions, and negotiations will inform our work ahead, which brings me to the next point.

Guide Four: Have a Shared Vision and Values

It is important that DEIJ leaders and senior leadership have a shared understanding of the job responsibilities and challenges. It is essential to sit down with senior leadership and decide on shared values and a vision of what DEIJ work will look like and how it will show up in the community. Without shared values and a shared vision, it is easy for cliques to be created. It might seem to some that only a certain group does the work and others are viewed as “not willing” to do the work. This creates division and ultimately slows down the process and progress. Remember that our job is to bring people together and avoid the “us versus them” mentality. Moreover, without shared values and a shared vision, we end up being the only ones trying to make the marriage work, which never works.

Discuss what you want to see in your institution with senior leadership before going out on the field. For example, if one of your core values is to “embrace and respect the uniqueness of each individual of our community,” discuss what that means practically and how this shows up every day. Does that mean that we encourage everyone to live their authentic selves and show up as their true selves? Great! Do we have structures and systems put in place for people to be their true selves however they define it? This is important because we cannot ask people to be their true selves if the environment itself is not ready for people to see and support them. For example, if we have a teacher who shows up and asks everyone including colleagues, students, and parents to address them as “them” and “Teacher Smith” or “Mx Smith” because they are non-binary, are we going to be supportive? Will we as an institution be able to stand up to parents and other shareholders who express discontentment and say, “This is who we are and aspire to be. We are an inclusive school, and we embrace and respect the uniqueness of each individual of our community. We believe it is good for our students to be exposed to a great diversity of people and perspectives.” Can we as an institution do this, knowing that we might lose enrollments and the board might get involved. Does the board share our vision and values? This is only one example of the kinds of courageous discussions that we need to have before we tell people that they can be their true selves. If our answers to the questions above are no’s, see that as a first step in the right direction. We have had these important discussions and realized that we have work to do as an institution, and that is fine. What is not fine nor fair is to expect the DEIJ leader to fix an institutional challenge by themselves. Instead, a collective effort spread throughout the different parts of the organization led by both the DEIJ leader and senior leadership is required, so our school can live up to its vision and values. 

This is a hard task to do. It is not only a step but an ongoing process, a strategic plan that represents mid-to-long term goals. It is both the foundation and frame of our DEIJ work. In other words, it is what will make or break our continuous efforts for making our schools a safe and inclusive place for all.

Guide Five: Explore Emotions

DEIJ work is both conflict and relational work and as such, emotions have a great role to play. When dealing with implicit biases, it can feel as if our identities are challenged and being confronted with the idea that we have either contributed directly or indirectly to systems that have harmed and left many people behind can be hard to take. Much harder is when, as educators, we come to realize that there is a chance that some of our students that we deeply care about were left behind due to our own implicit biases. In this case, grief, remorse, shame, and anger are only a few emotions that can be experienced. As DEIJ leaders, it is important that we recognize and understand this.

Susan David, in her book Emotional Agility, explains the importance of facing emotions with acceptance and generosity. If we want everyone to be part of the solution, it is important to give time to people to feel and validate their feelings because “when we don’t attend to emotions, they metastasize and they grow and when they grow, they can take over.” Consequently, we arm ourselves even more, and this can mean that we disengage completely and don’t do the work because it is very hard and painful to deal with our own emotions (David, 2016). Let’s say that we see a micro-aggression behavior. We should respond to that and speak to the person in private. I personally believe that a private conversation is always more effective than a public one (although debatable, depending on the act itself). As we’re having these conversations, we need to keep in mind that the purpose is not to shame the person, but to make space for a discussion on implicit biases and its impact on our students and staff. If the conversations become emotionally charged, it’s okay to give people space to feel and let them know that you understand. You can say something like, “I can see you’re upset. It’s hard.  Yes, I know! And what I just said might feel like who you are is being challenged and that’s okay. I understand that this was never your intention. In some cases, like these, we need to move away from intention and focus more on the impact. Doing this work means that we’re just not going to feel good at times and that’s okay because it is through discomfort that we grow. We need everyone, including you, to make this school a place where everyone can belong. I am therefore asking you, as hard as it is, to fight the discomfort and not me.” You can even invite your colleague to circle back within the next few days and revisit this conversation. The point here is to keep people in the conversation and make them aware that it takes all of us to make it happen and that feeling the emotions we feel is part of the process for us to grow. As DEIJ leaders, coaching is part of our job as well.

Senior leadership needs to be in agreement on this practice because one thing that could ruin our efforts is that after this conversation, our colleague turns to leadership who then discredits the work done before. Which, on the one hand, takes away the opportunity for that person to lean into discomfort and to learn and grow. And on the other hand, perpetuates and safeguards exclusionary practices in our institution. This goes back to Guide Four. It is important to understand that by trying to reduce or avoid people’s discomfort, it can reinforce inequities.

The importance of knowing who you are and disengaging so that you can engage are even more important here because, as DEIJ leaders, we have to “be the bigger person.” Being a bigger person does not mean that we do not have boundaries. On the contrary, being a bigger person means that we understand that our mission is bigger than ourselves and that the highest purpose is improvement, not being right. It means that sometimes “we are way-seeking rather than truth seeking,” so when we have conversations with our colleagues, “we can instead look to tell, with them, the stories of their best future selves” (Alchin, 2022).

Guide Six:  Make Parents Your Partners

Every parent wants what’s best for their child and, of course, they are willing to stand up for that belief. We, educators, may not always agree with what parents are fighting for or against but, ultimately, we have the same goal. We all want to develop well educated, thriving students. Oftentimes, we label parents as difficult, entitled, bigots, etc. when they push back against DEIJ work. But, what if instead of labeling them, we include them more in our conversations and initiatives? There’s a good chance that parents are afraid of a new initiative simply because they are misinformed, afraid, or have assumptions that might be wrong. It is up to us to reassure them and give them space to ask questions and hopefully relieve their fears. For example, if as a school we think it is important for our students to learn more about LGBTQ+ education, it might be a good idea to invite parents and share our plans with them. They might think that we are forcing on their children a certain set of values that is not ours to teach, but this will be our opportunity to set the record straight, discover their fears and apprehensions, and figure out together as partners how to deal with it while keeping in mind that we are preparing our students to become empathetic global citizens and that in our community each child should be treated with dignity and respect by everyone regardless of their backgrounds and identities.

If as a school, we believe in multilingualism and the importance of using translanguaging in our classes, teachers whose native language is not English are a great asset. Having parents’ meetings and informing them of our plans might remove the assumptions of some who believe their child won’t master English if they are not only taught by native speakers of English. Instead, we offer them another perspective informed by research and give them the opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns. This way, we can potentially change the narrative, inform parents, and hopefully bridge the gap between what parents think DEIJ work is and what we, as a school, believe it is.

Informing parents of any major new initiative will create important dialogues, get them involved, and inform us of what to anticipate and where the roadblocks are. More importantly, this will foster a relationship that can only be beneficial to making our schools more inclusive.

Guide Seven: Find Your People

Having a support system is very important as the work is extremely demanding and can take a toll on you. It is, therefore, important to be surrounded with uplifting, diverse, critical, honest, loving, and fun people to accompany you on this journey. You will need these people to swear, offload, to laugh, and feel loved; to hear that you’re doing the right thing and that they’re proud of you; to hear when you’re wrong but also to hear, “Here’s another perspective.”

These guides help me navigate the world of DEIJ, a world that I am passionate about and continue to learn from. However, this is only my perspective, and I am forever open to other perspectives.



Alchin, N (2022). Authenticity – what’s really going on? Retrieved from

David, S. (2016). Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. New York: Avery/Penguin Random House.

Gruenert, S., & Whitaker, T. (2015). School culture rewired: how to define, assess, and transform it. Alexandria, Virginia USA, ASCD.

Also Inspired by the work of Simon Sinek, TD. Jakes, Brene Brown, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, Emmanuel Acho, Adam Grant, Anne Laure Buffet, and the amazing support from my People wherever you are in the world. My TIE editorial family and the many many conversations I’ve had with educators, students, parents, heads of school, support staff, and more. Thank you!

My Journey as a Part-time Senior Leader

Harroop Sandhu portrait

Written by Harroop Sandhu

Harroop Sandhu is a senior school leader and professional coach, with 17 years of experience driving successful strategies and improving outcomes in various educational areas. Most recently she has led her school to successfully achieve the Send Inclusion Award, as well as spear-heading the organisation's DEI strategy. Her approach is to ensure that DEI work is integrated within the strategic aims of the organisation leveraging existing leadership tools.

Three years ago, the notion of transitioning to part-time work was nowhere on my horizon.

Life took an unexpected turn when one of my children fell ill, prompting a pause on my career to refocus on what matters the most. Amid navigating my child’s health needs, I found myself in survival mode. Emerging from this challenging period, I returned to part-time work after a two-month gap, encountering initial hurdles. However, as I gradually found my rhythm, an unforeseen preference for this new way of working emerged.

Within this experience, I’ve uncovered valuable insights.

Myth #1: Working Part-Time Means Less Effectiveness.

Contrary to common belief, working part-time doesn’t hinder efficiency; it can actually enhance it. The gift of more reflective time has nurtured my creativity and innovation.

Success in this arrangement hinges on disciplined time management; I remind myself I’m paid for three days of work, not squeezing five into three.

Liberating myself from guilt and the need to prove myself has been a pivotal realisation.


  • Effective time allocation is key.
  • Balancing work, family, commitments, and especially self-care all demand careful planning and allocation. Don’t put yourself last or squeeze it in.
  • Silencing self-criticism about perceived weaknesses is part of the journey toward self-compassion.

Myth #2: Part-Time Work Signals Lack of Ambition.

Embracing part-time work has deepened my commitment to personal growth.

While some argue full-time dedication accelerates progress, I’ve found fulfilment in having the mental space for development and time to pursue other interests, aligned with my sense of purpose. I have found that I have more time for coaching and other professional development, which in turn benefits my employer and as well as myself. 

This flexibility has also inspired others, resulting in increased requests for flexible arrangements—an indicator of impactful leadership.


  • Celebrate your achievements and acknowledge your aspirations.
  • When you silence doubts, your strength and dreams amplify.
  • Before constraining yourself, seek input from others to broaden your perspective.

Myth #3: Missing out on Connection and Opportunities.

Initially, the challenge of navigating communication arose from a fear of missing out due to absence. However, I’ve learned that communication quality outweighs quantity.

Utilising strategies like follow-up emails and regular check-ins helps maintain involvement.

Open conversations marked by transparency with superiors foster mutual understanding.

Addressing unique experiences benefits not only you but also those around you.


  • Express your needs openly with your line manager.
  • Ensure your scheduled time with your line manager remains intact and isn’t cancelled.
  • Propose suggestions and solutions, but don’t shoulder the burden alone.

Myth #4: Flexibility Equates to Unreliability.

Unreliability often arises from overcommitment or lack of planning. Overcoming guilt and the desire to overcompensate, by embracing strategic time management and open communication was enlightening. Prioritisation, clear communication, and collaborative solutions with my line manager helped navigate this. As well as, balancing tasks and seeking help as needed cultivating a win-win situation.


  • Consider what you might need to say no to when saying yes to additional tasks.
  • Involve your line manager in this process. It could involve acquiring more resources, creating space, or delegating tasks.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek compensation for work beyond your designated hours.
  • Effective leaders recognise their boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no.

I believe that Flexible working is a solution for not only working parents, but for people that are looking to explore personal growth or navigate other areas of life outside of their work. This autonomy can lead to greater job satisfaction and happier employees who are likely to be more creative, innovative and productive. 

Turn Up, Speak Up and Speak Out

Frances Akinde portrait

Written by Frances Akinde

Frances Akinde is: a SEND Adviser & Inspector; an AT trainer; an Art Advocate; an Anti-racist schools coach and a ND Champion. She is a former advisory teacher (SEND/SLCN) and Secondary Special Headteacher (Autism). She holds certifications including NPQH, MAEd, NASENco.

During the last weekend of May 2023, I attended the TUC Black Workers conference on behalf of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers).

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) is a federation of UK trade unions representing around 5.5 million workers from 48 unions across industries, all committed to collective action. One of the main requirements of affiliation is that-

‘An organisation has a clear commitment to promote equality for all and to eliminate all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination, both within its own structures and through all its activities, including its own employment practices.

TUC rules and standing orders | TUC, last updated June 22.

The NAHT joined the TUC in October 2014 under Russell Hobby, who was general secretary at the time. The other education unions that are members of the TUC are the NEU, NASUWT and the NSEAD (a specialist trade union for art, craft & design educators, which I am also a member of), the Scottish union EIS and Welsh union, UCAC amongst others. Out of the four biggest teaching unions, only ASCL is not a member of the TUC. 

The TUC holds a number of annual conferences that supplement the general work of the congress. The Black Workers Conference, in particular, focuses on issues and concerns affecting Black workers in the UK. In this context, Black is used as a political term to describe all workers of colour. The conference is used as a platform for Black workers and their trade union representatives to discuss and address issues around racial discrimination, inequality and barriers to employment. It is also a good chance to network and share experiences.

As a member of the NAHT Leaders for Race Equality network, I saw attending the conference as a chance to learn from the TUC’s anti-racist efforts and how this is being applied in the NAHT and other education unions. 

In October 2022, The TUC released a report, ‘Going forward: An action plan to build an anti-racist trade union movement’. It states that ‘For our unions to thrive, recruiting Black members and addressing racism at work has to be at the core of our work. This will grow our movement, make it diverse and truly representative of the working class of modern-day Britain.’

From Action plan to build an anti-racism trade union movement | TUC

This Black Workers conference was the first since the action plan was launched. Various motions were presented to build on this commitment, including ones from the NEU and NASUWT.

One of NASUWT’s motions focused on tackling Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate in all forms within our education system. This is part of their ‘Big Conversation on Racial Justice’ campaign, which was launched in 2021. 

NASUWT | Big Conversation on Racial Justice

One of NEU’s motions focused on tackling institutional racism for all workers, building on work already presented in their ‘Anti-racism charter: Framework for developing an anti-racist approach,’ which is based on the testimony of over 1000 Black teachers about the impact of racism in their workplaces.

Anti-racism charter: Framework for developing an anti-racist approach | National Education Union (

As well as listening and voting on the motions, I also attended a variety of workshops and talks, which were all very inspiring. 

Overall, I enjoyed attending the conference. I left feeling empowered and energised by the activism I witnessed and the powerful discussions that took place. Since attending this conference, I have grown even more determined to turn up, speak up and speak out against racism and other inequalities.

However, despite NAHT being a large union of around 49,000 members, more specifically, over 100 members within the Leaders of Race Equality network, I was the lone delegate. In contrast, there was a large representation from both NASUWT and NEU.

The TUC’s ‘Jobs and recovery monitor – BME Workers 2023’ report, published May 2023, highlights that-

‘BME workers face systemic disadvantage and discrimination in the labour market, whether it be lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates, lower pay, more insecure work, or occupational segregation.’

Jobs and recovery monitor – BME Workers 2023 | TUC

Black leaders in education are not exempt from this, and sadly, many of us have been the victims of both racism and performative allyship. Therefore, it was disappointing not to have more members from NAHT there. 

With over 800,000 members represented across our education unions, our unions have the power to use their combined voices to successfully campaign for critical issues such as fairer pay and Ofsted reforms. Education’s next priority needs to be committing to actively working together to eradicate systemic racism in education. Part of that is ensuring that Black leaders in education are actively part of national conversations around tackling inequalities, as our voices are crucial.