Journey to the Job

Azuraye Williams portrait

Written by Azuraye Williams

Year 6 Teacher, Science, PE, Diversity and Inclusion Lead.

Initial Thoughts

It can be so hard looking for a new job as a black or brown teacher. Your first thought might be to look at the teaching staff of the school and see if there are any other people of colour working there. With the recent statistics that have been made wide news, you will understand that it can sometimes be quite hard to find such a place. 

 

Once you have searched, you may have a few of the following questions to think about:

  • Is the school ‘ready’ to have a black or brown teacher there?
  • Am I ready to work somewhere that I will be ‘culturally alone’?
  • How will the school deal with anything towards race, identity, racism and culture?
  • How will they respond to me if I talk about something I feel uncomfortable with?
  • Will the school support my progression or will I just be there to ‘tick a box’? 

 

These questions will be flowing through the minds of people of colour before they even think about if they really want to apply for the job. Sometimes this process alone is enough to talk you out of even applying. 

 

The Process

The next thought is the writing process. You may worry that to even be in with a chance of an interview your letter has to stand out even more – especially if your name is of a cultural background- as the schools may have already shown that it does not openly employ black or brown people.

 

Then you think about the interview with thoughts such as:

How can I seem as though I can ‘fit in’ to the school, while also wanting to embrace my own true self?

Or, 

Will I see someone who looks like me on the interview panel?

 

What Now

Now although I say this, I am not speaking for all black and brown people or indeed about every interview. I just wanted to speak my own truth to share experiences and conversations I have had with other black and brown educators. 

 

The reason I say this is because although it is important to teach the children about different people and cultures, to truly bring the teaching world alight for people of colour, it starts at the top. Employing people of colour and actually listening to them when they make suggestions or point out something in school rather than just feeling it is ‘the right thing to do’ to tick a box or ‘look good’ from the outside.

 

It isn’t enough for schools to put a plaque up and a heading on their website to say they are anti-racist if their whole culture and ethos shows the opposite. Employing and learning about other cultures is one thing but truly allowing eyes, hearts and minds to be challenged in their biases and allowing the discomfort this may bring to elicit deeper change is what is really needed in schools.

 

So many black and brown teachers enter into this system as enthusiastic, knowledgeable and hard working individuals and yet they leave the profession years later being down-trodden, overlooked, misrepresented and sometimes (more often than many would like to say) mistreated.

Remember, this is a whole school approach and it is everyone’s responsibility to develop this across school. Higher leaders and educators have the capacity to make these real changes as without the support and backing from those higher up in the hierarchy, no amount of diversity lessons will make any real difference to the school culture.

Supported by


It is about time Initial Teacher Training and Education embraced diversity and inclusion

Davinder Dosanjh portrait

Written by Davinder Dosanjh

Executive Director Leicestershire Secondary SCITT

Thirty-five years in education as a teacher, senior leader, Her Majesty’s Inspector, senior lecturer, teacher educator, I had hoped we would have moved much further forward when we talk about Diversity, Equity and inclusion. I am still not seeing Initial Teacher Training and Education embracing the diverse voices and representing BAME. The decision makers and those on the working groups advising the Department for Education, are the same white faces, from the same organisations.

Policies and initiatives such as the Core Content Framework, Early Careers Framework, have missed opportunities to embed diversity. We are still wedded to the Teachers’ Standards. Teacher Standard 3 and Part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards make no strong statements about embedding diversity, equity and inclusion. The Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework opportunities have merely amplified the Teachers’ Standards into ‘Learn that..’ and ‘Learn how to..’ statements. Examples of systemic racism. These frameworks are a minimum entitlement, so they imply diversity is not part of that prerogative.

Those that train teachers are predominantly, white and middle class. I have been involved with teacher training at a university and a SCITT. Whilst working with both organisations I have asked and sought to be on national bodies which represent these sectors. Never managed to get through the red tape and procedures which maintain the institutional racism. I am just as qualified, have the experience and the track record. Still working out what I am doing wrong or to flip it the other way, what are these national organisations doing which perpetuate these barriers? You have got to be voted on, seconded and then your mates vote you in because you have had the time to network with them. Time to re-examine the criteria for national bodies, working parties, time to have a transformation, give others a voice.

If you have been on a national working group, advisory once, you are to be commended, then pass the baton onto someone else. Insist these groups are diverse and heard at a strategic level. 

We need to undertake a more wide-ranging review at the trainee’s journey from pre-application, application, interview, the programme and actual training experience. We need to ask ourselves some critical questions. Then follow the sequence of auditing, action planning, accountability and assessing impact. A starting point are some self-assessment questions below:

Pre-application

Is the marketing diverse and showing a range of positive diverse role-models?

Are we appealing to a diverse range of communities, using a range of networks (Asian radio) not just the traditional career fairs, university, school events?

Application

Who interviews?

Are all interviewers trained beyond safer recruitment, such as Diversity training?

Do we interrogate the data? (those made an offer, rejected, reasons why)

Teacher Educator and Placements

Who are the teacher educators?

Are they diverse?

Can we talent spot and seek out diverse teacher educators?

Are we carefully matching the right teacher educator to the trainee?

How do we deal with any issues of discrimination?

Curriculum

What is the golden thread of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

Where is it? What is it?

Who is delivering/facilitating?

Are the role models diverse?

Do we share the mic and encourage allyship?

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

Are the trainee’s voices being heard?

What questions are we asking about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

Governance

Is the Steering/Partnership Group diverse?

How can we seek out colleagues from our partner schools to be part of the group?

Is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion a regular agenda item?

I would hope we have moved forward and that any teaching training provider, whether school or university could not ignore a trainee being called a ‘paki’ by pupils like I was. Despite me raising objections, I was told to get on with it, despite this being a regular occurrence. We have policies and procedures to formally report such incidents which were not in place when I undertook my training. More importantly, great communities such as Diverse Educators and BAMEed Network.

I am proud to say the Leicestershire Secondary SCITT has increased the diversity of its cohort from 29% in 2015 to 49% in 2020.

Supported by


Diverse Educators: A Manifesto

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Supported by


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

Ninni Makrinov portrait

Written by Ninna Makrinov

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

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

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

A diverse board:

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

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

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

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

Recruiting diverse members:

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Supported by