Global Citizenship and the Role of a Global Network in Education

Nadim M Nsouli portrait

Written by Nadim M Nsouli

Nadim M. Nsouli is Founder, Chairman and CEO of Inspired Education. Founded in 2013, he re-evaluated traditional teaching methods and created a new model for modern education. Today, 80,000 students in 111 Inspired schools across 24 countries benefit from a student-centred approach and globally relevant curriculum.

With digital communication facilitating the exchange of ideas, the world is more interconnected than ever before. As such, it’s increasingly common for individuals to identify as global citizens. This presents opportunities for young people. Yet also poses challenges. 

Adapting to globalisation necessitates a strong sense of self-identity and an open mind. Individuals engage with other cultures and challenge stereotypes. Thus, learners must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and values to navigate and contribute to the world in which they want to live. 

There’s a growing recognition that educating for global citizenship is of importance. In 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said “Education is about more than literacy and numeracy. It is also about citizenry”. Global Citizenship is an all-encompassing concept that acknowledges the web of connections and interdependencies in the world. According to Ban Ki-moon, “Education must fully assume its essential role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful and tolerant societies.”

Students’ desire for international travel and cross-cultural programmes has been apparent for some time. In the past, a one-dimensional approach to this was for an institution to partner with a pre-existing educational facility in the location of interest. However, we’ve witnessed a substantial transformation in the way educational institutions operate, i.e., the emergence and rapid growth of global school networks. With a presence across countries and continents, they’re bringing about a new age of learning possibilities.

Educational institutions are recognising that global citizenship education can develop and enhance much-needed values and skills that will better equip students in a changing world. The concept of ‘global campuses’ has gained prominence, wherein the focus is on cultivating a multicultural ethos. 

The Inspired Education Group demonstrates this model with 111 institutions that provide its students with opportunities beyond the capabilities of a single entity. Nadim Nsouli, CEO and Founder, describes it: “We’re now present in 24 countries around the world. This allows 80,000 students from different cultural backgrounds to meet and learn from one another.” Each campus offers a safe space to explore complex and controversial global issues. This approach encourages learning from, and about, people, places, and cultures that are different from our own.

Beneficiaries of the Global Approach to Education

Academic freedom and inquiry are encouraged in international education. It’s a force for promoting open, safe, and peaceful environments. The ability to cultivate global citizenship is grounded in the commitment to giving learners the tools to bring about positive change. 

To be effective global citizens, individuals need to be proactive, innovative, and adaptable. They must be able to identify and solve problems, make informed decisions, think critically, articulate persuasively, and work collaboratively. 

An educational institution is traditionally centred on imparting knowledge to its students through academia. However, the acquisition of these ‘soft skills’ is also needed to succeed in workplaces and other aspects of 21st-century life. At the crux of fostering global citizenship education – and by association, these skills – is a network. 

How a Global Approach Translates to the Classroom

The powerful message of Aesop’s quote “In union there is strength” has never been more relevant than it is today, as educational institutions embrace multiculturalism. Many campuses are now interconnected, which allows students to access any of them – and their specialisms – with ease. This is even more powerful with the addition of extracurricular activities facilitated abroad, providing invaluable experiences. Nadim states: “To develop a rigorous global understanding, an education for global citizenship should also include opportunities for young people to experience local communities. Global campuses, exchange programmes and summer camps offer this.”

Teaching global citizenship itself requires methodologies that facilitate a respectful and empathetic atmosphere. This includes techniques like in-depth discussions and cause and consequence analyses. The objective is to foster critical thinking and encourage learners to explore, develop, and articulate their views while respectfully listening to others. “This is an important step,” says Nadim, “These methods of critical discussion may not be unique, but used in combination with a global perspective, they build understanding and foster skills like critical thinking, questioning, communication, and cooperation.”

Facilitating a participatory classroom environment requires a significant shift in the role of the teacher. They move from being the primary source of knowledge and direction to a facilitator. One which guides as students adapt to think critically, assess evidence, make informed decisions, and work collaboratively with others.

Creating an active classroom environment requires the adoption of a learner-centred approach. This means that the teacher becomes an organiser of knowledge, creating a holistic environment that supports students. As Nadim affirms: “Rather than being passive individuals simply answering questions and competing with their peers, learners must assume an active role. This means taking responsibility for their learning as well as their understanding of the global context of their lives”.


The notion that all human beings are equal members of the human race is central to the concept of global citizenship. Regrettably, entrenched beliefs in the supposed superiority of certain groups persist in our words, actions, and systems. The educational space is no exception. It can manifest, knowingly or unknowingly, in policies and curricula.

We view the world based on our own culture, values, and experiences. Hence a range of perspectives will exist on any given issue. Thus, gaining a comprehensive understanding of a subject relies on the exploration of other cultures.

As the world grapples with complex problems, global citizenship education has emerged as the gold standard of any institution. This is fuelled by a growing movement promoting peace, human rights, and sustainability. These three pillars are the foundation upon which global citizenship education stands. As Nadim remarks, “The future belongs to young people who can think critically and creatively, collaborating across borders and cultures.”

A Curriculum That Empowers Young People in Care

Anu Roy portrait

Written by Anu Roy

Anu is a TeachFirst leadership Alumni and digital trustee and teacher committee lead for charities in England and Scotland. She is currently a digital curriculum development manager and works in inclusive education projects incorporating tech.

This year is the first time I have developed and designed curriculum models for young people in the care system. Although students I have taught in previous roles come from a range of backgrounds, this role is the first time I have looked at curriculum specifically through the lens of an education that often forgets the difficulties faced by care experienced young people. 

Out of nearly 12 million children living in England, just over 400,000 are in the social care system at any one time. They face a lot of disruption in their learning journey due to personal circumstances, financial difficulties and challenging home circumstances. This means in comparison to their peers, care experienced young people fall behind in most education and health outcome indicators.

Working with a team of educators, social workers, web developers and UX/UI designers, these are the ways we believe curriculum development can help experienced young people thrive: 

  1. Introduce context alongside technical concepts: technical concepts across all subjects can be difficult for CEYP to master in a short space of time so contextual information wedged on either side of a technical explanation will enable their understanding and grasp to learn and embed the technicality in their wider learning framework. 
  2. Champion peer learning– CEYP could have challenging interactions with direct instruction if it reminds them of unpleasant previous instructor situations therefore activities that use peer learning not only lowers the stakes for them to develop their self confidence and interactivity in a lesson but encourages building friendships within the classroom while learning key concepts together.
  3. Open ended ethos– instructors and teachers should veer away from specifying the outcome of a learning topic as ‘to achieve grade _’- instead the learning objectives should first be anchored to exploring the curiosity around the topic with prompts such as ‘what would happen if____?’ or ‘what could we learn if we explored how___’. Academic pressure to perform instantly can feel overwhelming for CEYP. While they should not be met with lowered expectations, instead the reframing helps to welcome them to first explore before learning the topic and moving on to an evaluative stage where they gain more agency. 
  4. Knowledge connection outside the classroom-Learning feels more relevant for CEYP when they are introduced to topics through the lens of real world use. Introducing a curriculum through a skills development framework linked to increased employment motivates them to understand the use of each topic, further strengthened by real world examples, work based scenarios and soft skill demonstrations. It helps them bridge the transition from education to active skill application and any learning based curriculum should also have opportunities through project work for practical applications related to public speaking, project management, team building and problem solving for CEYP to gain experience in these areas. 

Many educators are unaware of the students in their classrooms who come from a care experienced background. While this should not be the only aspect of their identity to focus on, a student centered approach to relationship building alongside these curriculum findings should enable educators to build strong relationships by understanding the story and journey many of their students have taken to make it to the classroom and learn each day. Aimed with this knowledge and bespoke approach, schools and their wider communities can foster a sense of belonging for care experienced young people, something they have been denied of for too long. 

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.

‘What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There...’

Audrey Pantelis portrait

Written by Audrey Pantelis

Audrey Pantelis is an associate coach, consultant and trainer. She is a former Headteacher of a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities school and a current Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant and leadership coach.

We are, without a doubt, going through some tumultuous changes right now.

It’s a challenge not to be impacted by the troubles that surround us, and I do find it interesting that there is so much backlash regarding the lack of commenting on the Israeli-Hamas conflict by diversity, equity, and inclusion leads.

Do we HAVE to speak on everything?

The conflict is especially complex, and I find it interesting that it has a long historical narrative.  Naturally, what is happening right now is horrific and deserves our voices to decry, denounce and condemn all those who are causing the horrendous losses of life.  That is not in dispute.  However, these same voices have been silent during the past ten/twenty years – or did I miss something?

This idea of difference and the subsequent displacement is something that I can resonate with – and while the conflict is not just about race and religion – there is a similarity with the concept of superiority and inferiority that is echoed when considering the definition of racism.  As I have said, this is not about racism.  

I don’t know how many of you have watched ‘This Is Us’ (2016-2022).  It is an American TV series that follows the lives and families of two parents and their three children born on the same day as their father’s birthday.   It tells of the trials and tribulations of triplets – Kevin and Kate are the biological children – of parents Jack and Rebecca – and Randall is adopted by Jack and Rebecca following the death of the third biological triplet.  Randall is Afro-American and was ‘left’ at the fire station – a fireman takes Randall to the hospital and Jack speaks to the fireman following the death of the third triplet and adopts Randall.  During Season 5, the episode entitled ‘Brotherly Love’ shows characters Randall and Kevin having a deep and healing conversation that addresses their upbringing and the way that they perceive one another.  The discussion confronted issues around race and their family dynamic, specifically Randall’s experience of being a black child adopted by a white family and the microaggressions he faced.

It was a fascinating watch – most notably because Kevin admits that he has been actively racist in his sibling rivalry – he connects Randall’s blackness to the way he was treated within the family and then tries to take him down a peg or two because of it.  I was moved by it because of the admission by Kevin and how it resonated with my own lived experiences.  Randall was always made to feel that he should be ‘grateful’ for being found and taken in by a white family.  The parallels between my understanding and Randall’s understanding of whiteness aren’t that different:  wanting to be part of the majority when you are the minority; attempting to ‘blend in’ using language, accent, and behaviours; ensuring that you are no ‘different’ than anyone else through an understanding that merit gets you where you aspire to be.  Emotionally detached and focusing on what can be ‘seen’ rather than ‘felt’.  However, the idea of ‘whiteness’s superior identity to blackness’s inferior one’ is not enough for Kevin’s character and his need to try and ‘take him down a peg or two’ appears to be predicated on fear.  Fear that Randall just might be better than Kevin.  Randall plays into this – he is a high achiever, and he aspires and achieves success.  Would he have done this if he had been raised in his own biological family?  This we do not know, but we do know that Randall is living his life as best as he can – but he still feels ‘othered’ and not ‘enough’ despite his achievements.

Back to the title.

The history books tell us how one-sided life has been for those who are considered ‘other’, and it feels as if we are now at that reckoning.  

By continuing as we were doesn’t cut it in the world – different times.

When George Floyd was murdered in 2020, the world watched, horrified and stunned at seeing what had been happening in plain sight.  Maybe it’s a modern characteristic that we now seem to have ringside seats to horrific and heinous crimes, but with this opportunity, we need to be change-makers – not from our keyboards and phones but from our platforms, our places of work, wherever we have influence.  Consistently chipping away at the rock will disintegrate the mountain.  

But it’s difficult.


Because we cannot control everyone’s attitudes or actions and approaches to everything.  However, polarisation appears to be king – you are either FOR something or AGAINST something, and nuance is not brought into the narrative because it doesn’t fit the ‘for or against’ stance.  Equally – having a strong conviction about right and wrong is not to be condemned either – but we do need to listen to and be able to understand viewpoints that differ from our own, even if we don’t agree with them.

The hierarchical, colonial, and restrictive structures of the past no longer serve us – the old rules are now proving to be obsolete and hanging on to them scares the heebie-jeebies out of most of us – change can be considered to be fearful.  However, what I believe is more fearful is the desire NOT to change, adapt, or try to do things differently.  

We can aim to do what we can, with intention and with integrity; and with the idea that the next generation brings their energy and innovation to understanding old and entrenched viewpoints.  We need new eyes on old situations.  As educators, we are responsible for ensuring that nuance is part of how we think about things and how we can apply it.

Take Back the Narrative: Reflections on #DiverseEd Conference

David Church portrait

Written by David Church

David is an LGBTQ+ education consultant and former Deputy Head Teacher. He has over 10 years experience in education and is passionate about supporting schools to develop an LGBTQ+ inclusive culture and curriculum. Outside of education, David is a Regional Ambassador for It Gets Better UK.

Attending the #DiverseEd Conference in Bristol on Saturday felt perfectly timed. The backdrop of recent developments from the UK government regarding the trans community weighed heavily on my mind as I prepared for the day ahead. It seemed as if the trans community was under siege from multiple angles: teachers potentially being allowed to discriminate against trans young people in schools ( and the proposed ban on trans women from women’s wards (–and-male-only-wards). 

As a cisgender gay man who had previously faced adversity under the infamous Section 28 (and the legacy since), I felt a deep empathy for the trans community, witnessing their increasing vulnerability and the reported surge in hate crimes against them (

As an LGBTQ+ education consultant, I was acutely aware that action was needed to ensure the safety of trans+ children, young people, and staff in schools. Fortunately, the conference offered a range of sessions on just this, highlighting the need for greater trans inclusion & diversity.

Every session I attended resonated with me on both a personal and professional level, but my mind was consumed with the urgent need to address the ongoing challenges faced by the trans community. 

The first workshop I attended was led by Sarah Bonnell School, focusing on social justice in schools and empowering students to enact change within their communities. Their discussion of “cold anger” as a catalyst for change struck a chord with me ( This anger, when harnessed, could drive the transformation needed to combat the prevailing discourse around trans inclusion.

Equally, Shaun Dellenty’s keynote, highlighted the importance of challenging the narrative of fear and division, emphasising that we are stronger together, whether or not we identify as trans. The theme that stuck in my mind: How do we channel this anger and negative energy into positive action?

Similarly, in Bennie Kara’s keynote, the power of stories to reshape narratives was explored. She discussed how we need to move beyond viewing the trans community as victims or dangerous (a perception which has continuously been fed by media and entertainment). The history of LGBTQ+ rights is full of unsung heroes such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who spearheaded the original Stonewall uprising. Yet, their stories are often overlooked in the narrative of our school curricula.

It is imperative that we teach about these individuals to reframe the narrative and challenge prejudices and biases. This will foster a more respectful society, one that goes beyond mere tolerance to genuine acceptance of every individual, regardless of their identity.

Jo Brassington, in their session on trans and non-binary inclusion in schools, passionately reminded us that silence and indifference regarding trans+ inclusion make us complicit. It reminded me of the words of David Morrison, Chief of Army in the Australian Army, which echo this sentiment: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

This is not about understanding what it means to be trans but about having compassion and acceptance for every trans person; knowing them as individuals and hearing their story. Stories have been central to human culture since time began, and it is now time to reshape these stories in the public eye. As agents of change, we must stand with the trans community, working towards a compassionate view that acknowledges them as individuals.

The #DiverseEd Conference offered a glimpse into the power of collective action, empathy, and storytelling to take back the narrative, ensuring that the voices and experiences of the trans community are heard, respected, and valued. We, as educators, have a unique opportunity to lead this transformation, shaping a more inclusive and compassionate society by ensuring our curriculum fosters a positive narrative of a range of trans people; from the books we read, to the significant role models we explore and the policies we have in place. Taking back the narrative is not just a goal; it’s a collective responsibility that we must all be conscious about in our schools.

Environment and Identity: A Fragile Balance

Rachida Dahman portrait

Written by Rachida Dahman

Rachida Dahman is an international educator, a language and literature teacher, and an educational innovator. She started her career in Germany as a teacher trainer advocating the importance of relationships above academics. She then moved to Luxembourg where she teaches German language and literature classes to middle and high school students. She is an award-winning poet, co-author of the best-selling book, ATLAS DER ENTSCHEIDER Entscheiden wie die Profis- Dynamik, Komplexität und Stress meistern.

In a complex world with complex problems, young people are struggling to uncover their identities. Social media and social constructs simplify thinking into binary perspectives that are limiting their capacities to grow and develop an understanding of themselves and the world. Unfortunately, some school curricula and environments may be contributing to this growing problem that directly impacts student wellbeing.

So much of students’ worlds seem to fall into a good/bad, right/wrong, preconstructed view of what they should think, believe, feel, and who they should or should not be. In this binary construct, students are not able to explore their own perceptions, opinions, or understandings because they have not had the freedom to develop the ability to observe, ask questions, discuss, and learn about differing perspectives in a constructive way. Schools should strive to create an environment that welcomes and encourages students to share, explore, and grow. In order for them to feel safe to do so, the atmosphere must not be argumentative. Rather, it must be one that approaches differences from a lens of love and learning.

It may seem easier to avoid discussing controversial topics in order to steer away from conflict and difficulty that stir emotions. However, when we participate in this avoidance, we miss out on an opportunity to teach students how to explore their feelings, have rigorous, meaningful conversations, and learn from those with differing viewpoints in a positive way. By modeling an avoidance behavior, we are inadvertently supporting this binary way of thinking that leads to a hindrance in student growth. In order to assist in students’ development, schools can create an environment where people are able to discuss controversial subjects in a respectful way that comes from a place of learning, understanding, and growing rather than judgment.

Schools should be a safe place for contemplation, evaluation, and learning and not one that prescribes what students should think and how they fit into a pre-described way of being. This freedom, or lack thereof, has a direct impact on student wellbeing. Educators should be inviting students each morning to feel strong and capable, supporting them in framing their own personalities and identities. In order to do that, they must feel safe sharing who they are in an environment designed to listen and learn without fear of others jumping into a defensive or attack mode. A safe space environment is cyclical in nature. In order for students to feel heard without judgment they must also learn to listen without judgment. One cannot occur without the other.

Students must learn to find value in the opinions, thoughts, and beliefs of others. Educators can assist in this learning by teaching students that there are 101 perspectives on the same problem. Rather than always presenting a definitive answer, issues can be explored from various angles. In addition, we must teach and model the use of kind words that are full of love rather than aggression, and that strive to unite rather than divide. As you enter your schools every day, ask yourselves these questions:

  1. Am I encouraging differing viewpoints and creating a safe space for them to be shared?
  2. Am I modeling a behavior of openness for judgment-free conversations?
  3. Am I demonstrating kind, accepting language?
  4. How can I help students to avoid defensive or aggressive language and responses?

The formation of identity and wellbeing is fragile. Schools have a responsibility to create environments that are conducive to open discussions, free from aggression, and safe for honest and authentic conversations geared toward learning, understanding, and growth. It is through this climate of successful cooperation and mutual support that we can counteract the negative impacts of binary thinking and help students create healthy identities.


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!

A journey with the experienced other - coaching and leadership development

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.

Coaching is the process used to enable the coachee to reach their goals or achieve clarity about their life, whether it’s about leadership development, career change, family, personal development or just managing work-life balance. This blog will focus on coaching as a vehicle for leadership development.  

Leadership development training encourages the use of hands-on practical training (Woyach and Cox 1997). The training is more effective if it is context specific (Creasy and Cotton 2004; Barnett 2001 and Kouzes and Posner’s 1995) and engages the use of a mentor or coach (Paterson and West-Burnham 2005) and is personalised (Owen 2007 and Patterson and West-Burnham 2005). 

Coaching has played a significant role in my own leadership development journey. As a not so recent participant in one of the UK’s flagship leadership development programmes, we were grouped according to where we lived or worked for group coaching. We participated in many leadership development tasks which involved role playing, presentations, discussions and a variety of simulation activities. Even after almost 10 years since the training, this has been the most effective CPD I have ever had, for a number of reasons but more so due to the dynamic coaching relationship I had with an experienced Headteacher – the experienced other. 

Even though I have studied, researched and written about leadership and leadership development, I haven’t had the time to exclusively link coaching theory to coaching practice. Being part of a coaching group propelled me further towards developing my own leadership due to expertise of the experienced other. Having been on this journey, coaching relationships can be likened to a journey with ‘three-selves’; self-discovery, self-realisation and self-actualisation.  

At the time of my training, coaching was only a theory for me, group coaching was an even more distant concept. The experience gained as part of the group coaching enabled us to collaborate professionally at an authentic level due to the conventions of group coaching which became apparent throughout the coaching experience. Learnings from the group coaching appears to be performance focus (McGurk 2012) as there was a focus on development orientation, effective feedback, performance orientation and planning/goal setting. From this experience it was evident that the growth expected in group coaching is collective as the outcome will be achieved as a result of the collective sum. Whilst participating in group coaching a number of variables became evident during the process:

  • Collective Growth – the collective process we used as a coaching group to develop our ‘virtual school’ (a project within the training) was dependent on a combined effort. This might not be the same for all coaching groups but can be expected when group coaching participants are working towards an agreed outcome, knowing that the progress of the group is dependent on the progress of all. 
  • Cooperative Reflection – as we developed our virtual school we regularly reflected on our progress and the impact we were having as a team. We always evaluated our efforts with the intention to improve. This was, reflection with a purpose.
  • Collective Honesty and Openness – we benefited from this process as we knew that collectively only honesty and openness truly informed each of us on our individual and collective process. The idea that feedback is a gift kept us open to feedback knowing that gifts can be returned or embraced. The relationships that we developed meant that as we fed-back to each other we respected the feedback given, knowing it was honest. 

In addition to group coaching we also had one to one coaching sessions. These were particularly helpful as I focused on my own development outside the group and the impact it had within the group. This approach was more intense as the focus was more on the individual and our areas for development. This level of coaching involved powerful questioning, Using ideas, shared decision- making and encouraging problem-solving. 

Coaching as part of leadership development is most effective when you are on a journey with an experienced other. Genuine experience in the field helps the experienced other to relate, ask thoughtful, reflective and relevant questions linked to the context in which the coachee works and is developing their leadership. 

Effective coaching during leadership development fosters and unearths the ‘three-selves’; self-discovery, self-realisation and self-actualisation.

DEI in our Independent School

Jami Edwards-Clarke portrait

Written by Jami Edwards-Clarke

Director of D&I at Hurstpierpoint College, Housemistress and PE Teacher

Recently, we have seen change of all types firstly in the fight against a global pandemic and secondly with the Black Lives Matter movement which has brought to the forefront issues surrounding inequality around the world.

Naturally, we have all been challenged to take a deeper look into how we live our own lives, perform our jobs and even analyse our subconscious thoughts and feelings. Our school, as an independent school of excellence, is not exempt from this challenge and has therefore decided to tackle this head on with the creation of a role –  the Director of Diversity and Inclusion. 

As the postholder, my hope is to work closely with a team of well-informed staff members along with passionate students to bring about positive changes so that we think more critically about diversity and inclusion. Working together with both the pupil and staff platform, I hope to create opportunities for change within our academic and co-curricular programmes, ensuring that when our students leave Hurst they have a thorough awareness of issues surrounding race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, class, religion and therefore head out into the world with everything necessary to find their way.

We started this journey with the creation of staff and pupil platforms along with holding an INSET outlining our goals for moving forward. In both cases, the support from members of staff and pupils has been overwhelming and brilliant which will help to drive this movement forward with great positivity and gravitas. I feel incredibly excited and optimistic that we can and will make huge strides towards a more diverse and inclusive environment for all members of its community – staff and pupils alike.

It is important for us to remember that our school is an independent school. It sounds silly to say, but this statement leads us to consider what it is that a school is for. We can probably agree that the role of school is to educate our young people – but what does the word ‘educate’ really mean? Is it to enable young people access to the best academic outcomes, achieving the top grades at GCSE and A-level? Is it to enable young people access to the job market, ensuring that they leave school able to achieve wealth and prosperity? Or is education about more than just grades and careers? Is education about exposing young people to what it truly means to be human, in all its messiness and uncomfortable truths, in the hope that the next generation can make the world a better, more equal place?

Over recent years, our academic curriculum has been fine-tuned to ensure young people are able to achieve their full potential. This has been supplemented by co-curricular and pastoral programmes that ensure the whole child is nourished with an extremely rich diet. This is to be celebrated. Yet as academic programmes have been fine-tuned to meet the needs of the new exam specifications, what social, cultural and historical learning has been lost as a result of the formal learning programmes followed by each department?

Staff Training

In our end of year INSET session, Heads of Department were invited to reflect upon the diversity contained within their curriculum areas with their staff. The reflection was structured through a series of questions that placed the teachers into the role of the student, considering the view of the world they were left with at the end of their courses. You can see the questions below:

  • You are a young person at the end of your learning journey within the department. What view of the world have you developed through our learning programmes?
  • You are a young person who identifies as belonging to a minority group. What view of yourself have you developed through our learning programmes?
  • What culturally diverse learning opportunities are already overtly present within our curriculum?
  • What opportunities are currently being missed to engage with culturally diverse learning in our existing curriculum?
  • What changes could be made to our curriculum in order to make it more culturally diverse?

While there was much to celebrate in our curriculum, it was recognised by all that there was much still to do. While equal representation of gender was an area of real strength, with a concerted effort made in typically male-dominated subject areas such as Psychology, Physics and English to better represent women, more work needs to be done to strengthen the recognition of the contribution of BAME and LGBTQ+ groups. However, many departments began to uncover some uncomfortable truths about the relationship between the learning experience within their curriculum areas and the content of the exam board specifications which they deliver.

A running theme throughout the reflection was that curriculum content determined by specification lacks diversity, particularly in studied set texts and persons of interest. This is extremely problematic for the world view our students are left with, which has become dominated by the achievements of the white, heterosexual male.

Many HoDs articulated this frustration, while also commenting on their desire to do better. In Physics, we have pledged to celebrate the contributions of more diverse Physicists. In Business and Economics, they have pledged to challenge the view that the marketplace, its workforce and consumers are there to be exploited. In the Sociology Department, the LGBTQ+ community in Brighton will continue to be celebrated for the pursuance of identity and rights issues. The Modern Foreign Languages Department has pledged to include more cultural case studies that expose our young people to issues within French and Spanish speaking countries beyond Europe.

An area of significant influence could well be sport and the arts. Perhaps articulated most beautifully by a student of Dance:

“I have learnt through the study of Dance that I do not have to identify myself with a socially constructed label in order for me to make sense to others for whom I do not represent the norm or for whom I represent a threat to their own sense of self. It is ok to simply be who I am”.

Dance student

These curriculum areas create the cultural fabric of any school and therefore will be fundamental in providing our young people with a meaningful exposure to the reality of what it means to be human. From the field, to the stage or to the art studio, each recognises its importance in developing a greater sense of awareness within our community. Each also recognises that this will require them to take a greater level of risk within performance, challenging the conventions and structures that have been embedded into the very fabric of the college throughout the course of its history and questioning its output in creative and sporting endeavours. We cannot afford to simply continue to play it safe – and nor should we.

The most important change to make is with the exam boards themselves. Therefore, the most important pledge to make of all will be for HoDs to lobby exam boards to include greater diversity within specification content. Hurst has the chance to pave the way for independent schools to join forces to challenge exam boards and also the Department for Education to develop a broad and balanced curriculum that embraces and celebrates diversity as a core principle.

While we continue to uncover some uncomfortable truths in the independent sector, it is important that we take conscious steps to embed long-lasting, meaningful change that will enable our young people to be the generation that makes a better, more equal world for us all.

The Voices of Our Staff Platform:

I believed myself to be an inclusive, liberal, accepting woman. I’d like to believe I still am, but I was, and continue to be, incredibly naive about how the world works, and the disadvantages too many people face. I was sat watching When They See Us (Netflix, true crime) and got halfway through the first episode before breaking down in tears. The reality was finally hitting me in waves, I’d sat for weeks watching the news, my anger building. The social media accounts I follow increased to include more education and understanding; the conversations with friends focused on clarifications and questions. This shouldn’t be a post about my white experiences, but merely a recognition that we all have a lot more to learn. 

I want to understand, I want to empathise, I want to change and support, empower and encourage. I want to do this without being a ‘white saviour’, so I also need to learn how. How to speak about race – which I think focuses on listening – so that’s why I’m part of this group. I feel proud to be part of this strong and united group of staff and students, and am eager to see how our ideas, discussions and momentum positively affect individuals, communities and lives.

Phoebe Lewis, Psychology Teacher

The current state of the world demands that we do all that we can, as individuals and collectively, to strive for social justice and equality. I hope that the discussions and education delivered through this platform will broaden the perspective of staff and students alike and will result in real progress towards greater diversity at Hurst. Such progress will enrich and enliven the experience of everyone.

Hannah Linklater-Johnson, Head of Higher Education

I, like so many, have been affected by the BLM movement. For me the response represents more than an intellectual argument about equality and academic discussion about race issues. For me the news coverage and the videos I have watched evoke an emotional response. Initially these were all coloured by the sour taste of fear, fear stemming from the stirring up of memories that had been hidden away from public view. However, the bitter taste instilled by white supremist groups and thoughtless comments is being tempered by a gradually growing sense of hope. 

For me there was no option of not being a part of the Diversity and Inclusion group at our school. I needed to be a part of the change I wanted to see happening and this gave me the platform for my voice to be heard. This group will help Hurst move towards fully embracing a culture that is stronger and healthier, with values built around core beliefs of equality, parity and fairness. Together we are working on changing behaviours, developing new ways of thinking, planning and ensuring that all parts of policy creation or decision-making are scrutinised under this new light. To quote Maudette Uzoh, this platform exists to help us ‘cultivate an environment where it’s impossible for racism of any sort to sprout or thrive’.

We are looking to develop our INSET training and our department meetings not to tick the box or create a moment to celebrate how ‘woke’ we are. Our aim is to educate ourselves, each other, our staff, our pupils, and our parents. To push forward positive change. A change we hope to see not only reflected in reducing bias, through training and awareness, but also in policy change so all processes are embedded with the expectation to always create a culture that embraces diversity and is founded on inclusivity. This means becoming a community in which any form of racism will not be overlooked, dismissed, belittled, or tolerated.

It is a sad and, perhaps, little-known truth, that victims of racism often stay silent. There is a fear of being judged, of being told once again ‘it’s only a joke’, of being told they are ‘overreacting’. There is always another way of being told that one ‘isn’t quite right’ for the job, position, role, without stating the reality of the more appalling truth. Coupled with the emotional response the victim is left knowing, logically, they are in the right, but feeling diminished, vulnerable, exposed, and frightened. It is therefore encouraging that the Diversity and Inclusion group began with members saying that this could not be tolerated, and that to allow one comment to pass unchecked, unchallenged, is to set a tone that suggests racism is acceptable. To support the victim, to stand with them as an ally is to give them the freedom of speech which has so long been denied and is empowering for the community as a whole.

On a personal level, it is this new dialogue I find most exciting. Sharing my experiences and my views, and seeing them being acted upon with sympathy, has been liberating and empowering. There is very little I will not talk about, I am known for being, perhaps, too forthright. But the terrible, overt and violent racism experienced when I was younger and the day-to-day casual racism I have learned to tolerate, is something I have hidden away. It is too painful and too damaging. I have friends and colleagues who have said to me, in the past, that they don’t know anyone affected by racism first-hand. Now, because of the Diversity and Inclusion group, this is the first time I have felt able to say, ‘but you know me.’

Sarah Watson-Saunders, English Teacher

The Voices of Our Pupil Platform

The changes I hope to see are mostly concerned with encouraging the education of pupils about race and diversity. Part of this is to do with the curriculum itself, for instance, there should be more focus in history about the atrocities of British colonisation. Not to make students ashamed of Britain, but to prevent a whitewashed pride inhibiting the desire to improve our country; and there should be more literature written by authors from ethnic minorities in English. Whilst teachers are understandably tied to the exam curriculum, I would argue that as an independent school, petitioning exam boards to diversify curriculums would have more impact than individual students doing so – this platform provides an ideal collaborative way to achieve this.

Outside of lessons, I would also hope for more encouragement for students to educate themselves on racism and how to be a better ally/activist. Many teachers currently have a ‘what I’m reading at the moment’ poster on their classroom doors. Why not expand that to include recommendations for podcasts, films and books which help educate about the experience of ethnic minorities?

Finally, education is meaningless without action. Whilst students cannot yet vote, we are able to email our MP and sign petitions. I hope to see the development of an ‘activist culture’. Students should be encouraged to email their local MP and be given the tools to do so in the most effective manner.

Saoirse, student

I joined the diversity and inclusion platform because I believe every young person must understand issues regarding diversity. There are issues that are sometimes naively neglected because the slavery of the British Empire was abolished or because America has had an African American President. But pretending that this means equality is naive and just because society is more equal than before does not mean we should settle for anything less than complete equality. We, as the next generation of leaders, must understand this if we are ever to see the end of inherent racism. We should all actively educate each other to learn about these issues, which is another reason why I joined this platform.

There’s no denying that the pupils who leave our school are statistically more likely to be successful because we’re a predominantly middle-class independent school. This makes the issue of racism something which should not be neglected because if it is then we would be doing a huge disservice to the future. I believe that the college has to ensure that diversity is a dialogue that is constantly engaged with.

I hope to see more in-class discussions that deviate from subject-based content in the national curriculum and incorporate diversity and inclusion – with teachers taking an active role in reflecting on how they can improve their lesson plans to ensure that these discussions take place; and that the content they are teaching is reflective of the equal society that we will hopefully see in the future.

It’s these changes – such as constantly educating on these issues and ensuring teachers are up-to-date with key issues – that I hope we can adopt as a college which will hopefully allow us, the pupils, to leave the college with an understanding of how an equal and inclusive society could look.

Aengus, student

I joined the Diversity Platform because I felt that, as a community, we have a long way to go in terms of challenging bigotry and making our school a safer and more accepting place for people in all minority groups. Given the extensive white privilege within our context, I think we tend to look past issues like racism because we simply don’t see it as a part of our lives. It’s on the news, social media, TV but not explicitly within our own lives. Due to this lack of experience, we stop educating our children, stop reading articles and watching shows because even though we are aware of racism, and give it a passing “it’s just so awful” when the topic arises, we don’t feel as though we have to fight against it because it has never happened to us.

For our community to begin to function in a way that is accepting and respectful of its students of colour, LGBTQ+ and female, we must begin to educate pupils on these issues and their past. The world is an unfair place and if our pupils go into it with no knowledge of how people should be treated, and the issues brought upon us by the past, then they will have a major shock – because the world isn’t like our community, you can’t just give someone a clearing or pastoral alert if they say something offensive. Often, I hear people referring to us as the ‘bubble’ which would be alright except for the fact that this bubble is causing harm by leaving hundreds of children uneducated about crucial topics. The bubble needs to be reassessed.

Change won’t be easy. Many people, from teachers to parents to pupils, may be prejudiced towards minority groups without being aware of it and for this change to occur we have to recognise that. We must see in ourselves, and other people, the beliefs we may hold that aren’t necessarily accepting and could be harmful to others. Instead of punishing this we should recognise it, educate, and work to shift some of those beliefs. For this change to happen we need to re-evaluate our syllabuses. The English syllabus, for example, has next to no literature written by people of colour, and is mostly written by men. Or our sex education department – why do we teach our pupils about only heterosexual relations? Or our History department, we learn about many of these ‘great’ leaders, failing to include the part where they were slave owners! There is so much change to be made and although it may seem daunting at first, and will take time and constant effort, the outcome will be so worthwhile. A community which thrives because you know that every child who enters and departs will see a suitable, well-rounded, non-discriminatory education. This is the time for change and these children are the future. Let them make that change.”

Anna, student

Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.

This Diversity and Inclusion INSET video was created by the staff and pupil platform – please feel free to watch. 

Pride Matters: 5 actions for inclusion and quality for leaders

David Weston portrait

Written by David Weston

Co-CEO of Teacher Development Trust; Chair DfE CPD group; author, campaigner and speaker.

The annual month of pride comes around and it can be a difficult one for school and system leaders to tackle. The will is there, so what’s the best way? How can LGBTQ+ inclusivity be  approached effectively and sensitively with staff, and with children and young adults? 

In this article, David Weston, Teacher Development Trust’s co-CEO (Innovation & Research), draws on his experience as a founder of an LGBTQ+ teacher community, a trainer for LGBTQ+ school leaders and as a campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights. TDT is  a national charity that supports schools to tap into the power of school improvement through people development, inclusive of all.

It’s worth reflecting first that while parties and celebrations are often the visible part, this month is an annual moment to focus all of humanity’s mind on what we still need to do to remove barriers, decrease inequality and create greater inclusion for all people who fit under the LGBTQ+’s broad rainbow. Even here in the UK, pride matters:

  • Because countless LGBTQ+ individuals are still subjected to conversion therapies that attempt to erase their identity, and the government’s promises to deal with this remain unfulfilled.
  • Because LGBTQ+ children are much less likely to receive proper relationship and sex education that helps them navigate their lives
  • Because many LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk of homelessness due to family rejection.
  • Because LGBTQ+ people often face discrimination in healthcare, leading to worse health outcomes.
  • Because transgender individuals are often denied their right to self-identify and face additional barriers in accessing legal and medical support.
  • Because LGBTQ+ individuals still face significant barriers in the workforce, including wage gaps and discrimination.
  • Because LGBTQ+ history is often overlooked or omitted in education, leaving many unaware of the community’s contributions, rich heritage and ongoing struggles.
  • Because suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately high, which speaks to the urgent need for societal acceptance and support.
  • Because many countries around the world still criminalise homosexuality, and LGBTQ+ individuals face persecution and violence, whether as citizens or even as visitors.

There has, of course, been a huge amount to celebrate as well. Pride marches and celebrations now are also a joyful and colourful reminder of the progress made. The ability to legally live freely, to love who you want, to marry, to have children – all these things represent such extraordinary progress. But no matter how far things have come, there are always hurdles that others won’t face. The emerging sense through childhood of feeling different, the attitudes of some groups and traditions that range from making LGBTQ+ people feel unwelcome all the way to genuine fear for their lives.

As a leader, making sure that staff and young people feel included is not just a moral imperative, it has genuine advantages. When adults or children feel afraid to be honest about their lives, constantly policing how they look, what they say or how they react in case they give something away, it affects their performance, their learning, their wellbeing. When workplaces and classrooms feel inclusive, open, with a celebration of difference, it allows everyone to give their best.

Here’s 5 actions that every leader can take:

  1. Policy Review and Implementation: School leaders should ensure that policies are inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. This includes anti-bullying policies, codes of conduct, dress codes, and any other rules or regulations. It should include the way that the school recruits and supports staff and pupils. These policies should explicitly mention protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and should be enforced consistently.
  2. Staff Training: Provide regular training for all staff on LGBTQ+ issues, ensuring they understand the importance of inclusive language, the challenges that LGBTQ+ students and staff may face, and how to address discriminatory behaviour. This knowledge will help them to create a more supportive environment for LGBTQ+ students and staff.
  3. Student & Staff Support Services: Establish or strengthen support services for LGBTQ+ staff and students. This could include setting up an LGBTQ+ Alliance (or similar group), providing counselling services with counsellors who are trained in LGBTQ+ issues, and ensuring that health and sex education classes are inclusive of LGBTQ+ experiences.
  4. Promote Visibility and Awareness: Celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, participate in Pride events, and integrate LGBTQ+ history and contemporary issues into the curriculum. This helps to normalise LGBTQ+ identities and experiences and can contribute to a more inclusive school culture.
  5. Engage with the Wider Community: School leaders should communicate with parents, carers and the wider community about the school’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion. This can help to build a supportive environment not only within the school but also in the students’ lives outside of school.

Together, we learn and we evolve. If you would like to explore how TDT can help your school or trust to embed a thriving, research led culture of professional development that sticks, please get in touch.


LGBTQ+ is an umbrella acronym that includes people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer (or sometime Questioning) and the plus indicates that it encompasses all other related communities around gender and sexuality, including those who are Intersex, Non-binary, Asexual, Aromantic, Pansexual and more.