Empowering PSHE Leadership: Leading with DEI Principles

Malarvilie Krishnasamy portrait

Written by Malarvilie Krishnasamy

Malarvilie is a seasoned leadership consultant, coach, and trainer with over 20 years of experience in education. As a former history teacher and senior leader, she passionately advocates for coaching as a catalyst for transforming school cultures. Malarvilie offers accredited courses, endorsed by The Institute of Leadership, which develop emotional intelligence and assertive leadership skills. Her reflective and supportive programmes enhance staff morale and well-being, promoting humanity in leadership. A vocal proponent of equity, diversity, and inclusion, she actively engages as an ally through speaking engagements, workshops, and amplifying the work of others. Malarvilie is also deeply committed to promoting Personal, Social, Health, and Economic (PSHE) education, recognising its pivotal role in nurturing well-rounded individuals.

I’m excited to tackle a topic that’s not just important but essential in education: leading PSHE with a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) lens. As educators, we know that PSHE isn’t just about teaching facts; it’s about nurturing well-rounded individuals who are equipped to navigate the complexities of life. That’s why it’s crucial to infuse DEI principles into our PSHE curriculum, acknowledging and respecting the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences of our students. Join me as we explore how embracing DEI principles can transform PSHE education and create a more inclusive learning environment for all.

In many cultures, discussions about puberty, relationships, and sexual education may not happen at home. This leaves young people to rely solely on their friends or inaccurate information from the internet. This highlights the importance of PSHE education as a reliable source of accurate information. By providing comprehensive and inclusive PSHE/RSE in schools, we can ensure that all young people have access to the correct information, regardless of their background or cultural context.

Moreover, fostering an inclusive environment in PSHE lessons creates a safe space where students feel comfortable discussing their experiences and asking questions. This helps break down barriers and ensures that every student feels valued and supported in their journey through puberty and relationships, not just in terms of biological changes but also emotional and social aspects.

But leading PSHE isn’t just about delivering lessons; it’s about cultivating a whole-school approach to well-being and inclusivity. This involves considering staff values and providing them with comprehensive training sessions to navigate sensitive topics effectively, ensuring alignment with the values of the school, the curriculum, and the 2010 Equality Act. Staff members, while bringing their own values, must understand and adhere to the principles outlined in the Act, which mandates the promotion of equality and diversity within educational settings. 

Additionally, understanding local and national statistics regarding teenage health issues, such as drug use, alcohol misuse, underage sex, lack of condom use for teenagers, and teenage pregnancies, equips educators with evidence to emphasise the importance of PSHE education. By sharing this information and ensuring staff awareness of their duty as PSHE teachers within the British curriculum, we can empower them to confidently and effectively deliver PSHE education, thereby supporting the well-being of our students.

But PSHE leaders often get left out in the cold. Schools know PSHE is important, but they don’t always give leaders training to lead effectively. 

The challenges faced by PSHE leaders extend beyond traditional teaching roles. Effective communication with staff, parents, and students is paramount, but the support in developing these skills often falls through the cracks. PSHE is a whole school subject. Unlike other subjects, it’s rare to have dedicated PSHE teachers, and leaders must coordinate a diverse group of educators, each with their primary subject expertise. This aspect is often underappreciated, with a mere 1 management point failing to reflect the intricacies of PSHE leadership.

Additionally, the unique pedagogy required for PSHE is often overlooked in training programs, preventing the ability to deliver PSHE effectively. It’s time to invest in the professional development of our PSHE leaders.

That’s where the Level 5 Inclusive and Progressive Leadership of PSHE Course comes in—a comprehensive solution to bridge these gaps. This course equips PSHE leaders with the skills, knowledge, and awareness needed to excel in their roles. From diplomacy and communication to the unique pedagogy of PSHE, this program addresses every facet of effective PSHE leadership.

Conclusion

Leading PSHE with a DEI lens is not just a responsibility; it’s a commitment to creating a safe, inclusive, and empowering learning environment for all students. By incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into our approach to PSHE, we ensure that every young person receives the support and education they need to navigate the challenges of puberty, relationships, and well-being. 

Equipping staff with the necessary training and awareness of their duties under the 2010 Equality Act empowers them to deliver PSHE education effectively, promoting the health and well-being of our students. Let’s continue to champion a holistic approach to PSHE leadership, where every student feels valued, respected, and supported in their journey toward adulthood.

Click HERE to download your free PSHE DEI self-assessment!

Click HERE to download your free KS2 or KS3 Diverse Perspectives self-assessment!

Also for further resources have a look at the The Diverse Educators’ Inclusive RSHE Toolkit – Inclusive RSHE Toolkit | Diverse Educators We are collating a growing bank of resources to help you to review and develop how inclusive the RSHE provision is in your school. 

 

 


The Differences Between Equality and Equity

Governors for Schools portrait

Written by Governors for Schools

Governors for School finds, places, and supports skilled volunteers as governors and trustees on school and academy boards. They support schools across England and Wales to run effectively by finding high calibre governors to bring their skills and expertise to the table – and improve education for children.

One of the reasons many governors volunteer their time to local school boards is to help make the educational landscape a fairer and more inclusive place. However, for all pupils to thrive, governors must appreciate the diverse and complex ways in which some members of the school community face a disproportionate number of educational obstacles compared to their peers. Such groups of pupils can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Pupils from less advantaged households. 
  • Students who have English as a second language. 
  • Pupils who have a disability as outlined by the Equality Act 2010. 
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • People from ethnic minority backgrounds. 
  • And much more.   

Since launching our Inclusive Governance campaign, we’ve noted that one of the best ways governors can do their bit to make schools more inclusive is to make a conscious effort to discuss equality and equity in board meetings. But what do these terms mean?   

Put simply, equality means treating everyone the same way, irrespective of factors such as status or identity. Equity, on the other hand, means treating people differently in certain circumstances for equality of opportunity to be possible.  

Creating equity is important within society as it puts students on a more level playing field, leads to better social and economic outcomes across wider society, allows students to feel more engaged and looked after, and leaves staff feeling more confident that they’re succeeding in their role.  

The following illustration from the Interaction Institute for Social Change demonstrates that while equality means giving everyone access to the same resources, some people may not be able to utilise these resources due to factors outside of their control. As such, governing boards must put measures in place to ensure their actions are both equal and equitable, ensuring every pupil has the same experience.  

When it comes to speaking about providing equity within schools, it’s important that governing boards are… 

  1. Advocating for equality and equity within the wider vision and strategic direction of a school.

Consider whether the school’s vision and strategic direction is relevant and beneficial to all pupils. Governors could, for example, ask questions about targeted measures the school is taking to raise attainment among less advantaged pupils or those with special educational needs and disability (SEND), as well as how they will measure success in this area. Beyond academic attainment, governors may ask questions about whether the school is living up to its stated values, such as community-mindedness, compassion, or friendship. For example, does the school provide reintegration support for vulnerable pupils who may have spent time outside of school? Is this support appropriate and tailored to their different and potentially complex needs? 

  1. Having discussions with students, caregivers, staff, and other stakeholders to understand how policies and actions being taken by the school are likely to affect them.

Having meaningful discussions across the school community can be a great way to catch underlying flaws in current plans. For example, ensuring lighting and paint colours on walls take into consideration visually impaired children. Other issues could include talking to people within the transgender community about changes to policies surrounding changing their names on registers. 

  1. Looking closely at budgets and determining whether the school’s financial decisions benefit pupils in an equitable way. 

As a board, listening to every governor’s perspective about the allocation of resources is a great way to ascertain whether funds are appropriately spent. For example, a governor with a background in SEND issues may have a very different perspective from a governor with experience of an alternative provision education. As this campaign highlights, attracting governors from a wide range of backgrounds onto school boards is one of the best ways to ensure pupils from across the community are well-represented.  

Catch up with the rest of our Inclusive Governance campaign  

For more support on pushing for inclusive practices within your governing landscape, you can have a look at our campaign webpage. You can also follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook for updates on the campaign.   

 


Has EDI become a commercial business?

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


My Journey as a Part-time Senior Leader

Harroop Sandhu portrait

Written by Harroop Sandhu

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

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

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

Within this experience, I’ve uncovered valuable insights.

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

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

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

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

Tips

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

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

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

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

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

Tips

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

Myth #3: Missing out on Connection and Opportunities.

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

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

Open conversations marked by transparency with superiors foster mutual understanding.

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

Tips

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

Myth #4: Flexibility Equates to Unreliability.

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

Tips

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

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


Turn Up, Speak Up and Speak Out

Frances Akinde portrait

Written by Frances Akinde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASUWT | Big Conversation on Racial Justice

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

Anti-racism charter: Framework for developing an anti-racist approach | National Education Union (neu.org.uk)

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

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

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

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

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

Jobs and recovery monitor – BME Workers 2023 | TUC

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

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


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. 


Teach First and diversity in the teaching workforce

Jenny Griffiths portrait

Written by Jenny Griffiths

Jenny is Teach First’s Research and Knowledge Manager. She is an expert in research related to teacher development and educational inequality, with a particular interest in understanding teacher retention. Prior to working at Teach First, Jenny achieved a BA (Hons) and MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and an MSc from Birkbeck, University of London. She taught History and Sociology and was a Head of Department in London schools for nearly a decade.

The proportion of postgraduate trainees reporting their ethnic group as belonging to an ethnic minority, has increased from 14% in 2015/16 to 22% in 2022/23 (UK Government, 2023). This is similar to the diversity of the working age population (21.8%) (UK Government, 2023). However, research by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) shows that 60% of schools in England have no teachers from ethnic backgrounds other than white, and pupils – 35.7% of whom are from a minority ethnic background – are less likely to encounter teachers from black, mixed or other ethnic backgrounds (NFER, 2022). In fact, a significant number of the pupils in of schools will have no experience of a Black teacher throughout their time in school (Tereshchenko, Mills & Bradbury, 2020). We believe that this lack of representation, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects, may make it harder for young Black pupils to engage with these subjects and pursue related careers.  

Over the past 20 years Teach First have screened approximately 120,000 applications and assessed over 50,000 candidates for a place on our training programme. We are committed to increasing diversity in the teaching workforce and we’ve learnt a lot about how to root out bias in our application and assessment process, but we are committed to continuing to learn and improve. 

As part of that work, along with Ambition Institute, we supported the NFER to carry out research looking at racial equality in the teacher workforce. This research showed that the most significant ethnic disparities are seen at the early stages of teacher’s careers, starting with ethnic minority people being over-represented among teaching applicants, but having a lower acceptance rate compared to other groups. We are pleased that Teach First are the only ITT provider where an ethnic minority group, those of mixed ethnicity backgrounds, has the highest acceptance rates. We also have less disparity in acceptance rates between ethnic groups than other providers, but we are continuing to work to reduce this gap still further (NFER, 2022). 

Our recruitment strategy is designed to identify potential and reduce the risk of bias in our decisions, first by removing personal details in applications. The most significant change however was the introduction of contextual recruitment at the application stage. This allows us to take greater account of the different backgrounds of applicants in order to attempt to offset the impact of socioeconomic disadvantage. Applicants complete a short survey about the type of school they attended, whether they were eligible for free school meals, socioeconomic background and any significant disruption such as time in care, refugee status, or being a young carer. Whilst applicants must demonstrate clear evidence of our competencies, this screening helps us to understand where grades that are lower than our traditional entry level requirements are not necessarily reflective of potential. This approach has led to a 15% increase in offers to join the training programme overall and Black, Asian and Ethnic minority representation increase from 12% in 2017, to 18% in 2018 (after the introduction of contextual recruitment), and to 22% in 2019 with changes to our selection day processes. 

This improvement notwithstanding, we know there remain particular challenges in attracting Black and other underrepresented groups into teaching, especially in STEM subjects. To address this we are working in partnership with Mission 44 to recruit and train Black STEM teachers to work in schools serving disadvantaged communities in England. Our initial research specifically looked at how to attract more STEM graduates from Black and mixed Black ethnic backgrounds into the teaching profession. Motivation to enter teaching varies individually, but also differs between social groups. A discrete choice experiment enabled us to test elements of our programme where we felt changes might have the biggest impact on recruitment. 

What we found was that Black and mixed Black STEM graduates saw salary as being of high importance. We also found that location mattered: respondents indicated a clear preference for a guaranteed placement in London or within 60 minutes of their home address. Perhaps more interesting in terms of understanding changing work and lifestyle priorities, was the interest in lifestyle benefits, such as restaurant or gym discounts, as being likely to motivate more graduates to apply. Focus groups elaborated on some of these responses, indicating the importance of financial and societal pressures in decision making. In teaching where starting salaries are perceived to be relatively low, the importance of career progression was clear. Another finding central to our understanding and future work, was the concern of Black graduates about the level of diversity and inclusion in the schools where they would be working. There was a wariness of being in a school with an exclusively White teaching workforce, and despite clear desire to be a positive role model, these concerns posed a perceived risk to their wellbeing which needs to be addressed if we want to address ethnic inequalities in the teacher workforce in a sustainable manner. 

You can download our report on this work to read the findings from the research in full and the recommendations proposed. 

Despite some gains, we know that disparity remains and we remain committed to reviewing, re-evaluating and improving our practices to support diversity and inclusion in our education system, for teachers, schools and pupils. 

 


How Well Do You Know Your Governance Professionals?

The Key logo

Written by The Key

The Key is the leading provider of whole-school support for schools and trusts.

On International Women’s Day (8 March) 2023, GovernorHub, part of The Key Group, released a research report delving into the salaries and working patterns of 1,298 governance professionals working in schools and trusts. 

It sheds light on the often-hidden roles of governance professionals, who this research reveals are indeed predominantly female, and explores how their salaries fare against those in comparable roles in other sectors. 

See the key findings of the report below, and some recommended actions to help overcome pay disparities to support the recruitment and retention of talent in these important roles.

Key findings

The survey of 1,055 clerks, 100 governance co-ordinators and 143 governance leads found that:

  • Around 90% of governance professional roles in schools and trusts are filled by women, making this one of the most female-dominated careers in the education sector and beyond
  • The majority (85%) of clerks surveyed reported working part time – for governance co-ordinators it’s 49%, and for governance leads it’s 37% – which is far higher than the government’s national employment data at 23% of working-age people working part time in 2021
  • Almost a third (30%) of all female governance professionals surveyed reported having taken a career break due to caring responsibilities, compared to 4% of male respondents
  • Clerking roles in schools and trusts appear to have the largest salary discrepancies, with a median salary of £25,000 pro-rata, which is substantially lower than the median salary for equivalent roles in the local government (£33,782), public services (£33,636), and not-for-profit (£31,620) sectors
  • Over half (54%) of clerks surveyed reported feeling ‘underpaid’ or ‘extremely underpaid’; comments from some respondents suggest this is often caused by needing to work more hours than are allocated to each task or meeting 
  • A lack of visibility and understanding of clerking roles, combined with their increasing complexity, might be contributing to the stagnation of pay felt by many clerks surveyed

A quote from one part time clerk respondent illustrates a lack of awareness, in some cases, of this role:

“Having worked for 10 years with the school, I had to ask for my salary to be reviewed a couple of years ago and the rate was upped. I checked my letter of appointment and it said my salary would be reviewed every year – I pointed this out, but it isn’t reviewed every year. I think my role falls through the cracks. As a part time employee, I don’t know if I am missing out on any other work benefits, pension etc., and whether I’m entitled to equipment to help me to do my job.”

Recommendations

To help improve working conditions for governance professionals and, in doing so, help recruit and retain valuable talent for the sector:

  • Employers – should use annual appraisal meetings as an opportunity to review and benchmark pay, and follow government guidance on reducing your organisation’s gender pay gap 
  • Self-employed individuals – should negotiate hourly rates in line with benchmarked salaries, as well as hours assigned to each task
  • Everyone working in governance professional roles – should set and share a working-time schedule to help improve work/life balance, and join a union, to help give them a voice and professional advice

Conclusion

GovernorHub’s research report gives governance professionals in schools and trusts the evidence to show what they’re worth, and to look to align their pay with equivalent roles in other sectors. 

The report recommends that employers and individuals take action to overcome the pay disparities, and ensure that governance professionals are recognised and rewarded appropriately. 

By taking these actions, the education sector can strengthen its workforce of governance professionals who play such a vital role in supporting our schools and trusts. Championing these key roles will only serve to support the best possible educational outcomes for our children and young people. 


Top Interview Tips for Neurodivergent Educators

Lance Craving portrait

Written by Lance Craving

Freelance Content Producer and Researcher

Interviewing for a job can be stressful for any educator, but neurodivergent candidates tend to face additional challenges that can make the process particularly tough. For example, people on the autism spectrum might face sensory issues if the interview environment is overwhelming. Those with dyslexia may struggle if asked to complete reading and writing-based tasks during an interview. 

Providing that you prepare for an interview carefully, there’s no reason why you can’t put your best self forward and have a successful experience as a neurodivergent candidate. Here are three tips to help you prepare for your next interview.

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1. Consider disclosing your neurodivergent status in advance

It isn’t essential to disclose your neurodivergent status to a potential employer, but it can be incredibly helpful to do so if you require accommodations for the interview. It might also help you to feel more relaxed and confident in the interview if you don’t feel compelled to hide the fact that you’re neurodivergent. Many people worry that disclosing before an interview could lead to discrimination, but the Equality Act protects you against this. Employers are obliged to consider making reasonable adjustments for interviews when candidates request them, and they cannot discriminate against jobseekers with disabilities.

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2. Use the STAR technique to give concise, meaningful answers

If you worry that you may talk too much or too little during an interview, or that you’ll lose track of the questions and fall off topic, the STAR technique could be useful. It helps you to structure answers to behavioural or competency-based questions to give concise examples of your experience and the results you’ve achieved. STAR stands for situation, task, action, results. You describe the context of your example, the task or challenge you had to resolve, the action you took to achieve the goal, and the outcome of your action. The STAR technique is a great way to answer questions like:

  • Describe a time you resolved a conflict at work.
  • Have you ever had to deal with a student safeguarding issue?
  • What would you do if you noticed a colleague made an error?

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3. Prepare questions of your own

Interviews go both ways. Employers want to find out if a candidate is the right fit for the job, and candidates want to find out if the job and workplace suits them. Most interviewers give candidates an opportunity to ask questions about the role and the working environment. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the job and determine whether the workplace seems supportive of neurodivergent employees. If you have a few questions prepared, this can help you to come across as confident and show that you’re already imagining how you would fit into the role.

Confidence is key to interview success

Unemployment amongst neurodivergent people is as high as 30 to 40%. If we’re to reduce these rates, it’s vital that neurodivergent people approach interviews and jobs with confidence. Doing so will help you to assert your additional accommodations to ensure your interview is as accessible and comfortable as possible. It will also help you to highlight the great strengths your neurodiversity brings that make you such a valuable educator and the right candidate for the job.


The Intersection of Diversity and Climate Justice

Ndah Mbawa portrait

Written by Ndah Mbawa

Ndah runs Happier Every Chapter, a literacy service committed to helping schools and families improve diversity awareness and reading attainment through library diversity audits and the provision of diverse, inclusive and representative bestsellers for children. Her passion for decolonising mindsets within the school-to-workplace pipeline and supercharging the will/skill to read is shared by her teenage daughters, Kirsten & Aiyven.

The issue of climate change affects us all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Be that as it may, it is becoming increasingly clear that certain communities are disproportionately more impacted by the effects of climate change, and that these communities often belong to groups who have historically faced discrimination and marginalization. The intersection of diversity and climate justice is one that cannot be ignored. It must be addressed if the hope to build a sustainable and just future for all is to be realised.

Take the uneven distribution of environmental burdens and benefits as a case in point of how diversity intersects with climate justice. Largely, communities of colour and low-income communities are more likely to live near polluting industries and toxic waste sites, and are therefore more likely to suffer from the health impacts of pollution and environmental degradation. If you don’t believe me, this Princeton University article may convince you. When I watched the critically acclaimed Erin Brokovitch in 2000, I didn’t realise the issue was as severe as Black People being 75% more likely to live in fence line communities than White People in the United States. These same communities are also more likely to experience the devastating effects of climate change, such as flooding, heat waves, and droughts. They are therefore facing a double burden: more likely to be exposed to environmental harms, and more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Coming back to our shores, according to the Environment Agency, households within 20% of the most socially deprived areas in the UK have a greater likelihood of flood risk than households in less deprived areas. The Grenfell tower fire incident of 2017 revealed a deep division between the rich and poor. Had the cladding which the developers used as a case for climate change to reduce the operational energy/emission costs not been flammable, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The tragedy of this community which even though located in one of London’s wealthiest boroughs had become the most unequal place in Britain, exposed the underlining gaping social inequalities in our society as well as poorly informed climate change/justice initiatives and weak control over conditions pertaining to the already constantly degrading state of low-cost renting. This Guardian article put it well when it said, “fire is an inequality issue”. 

Whether in North America, Europe, Australia or Africa, the recognition of traditional knowledge and indigenous perspectives is waning to dire levels. Indigenous communities who have thrived and lived in harmony with the natural environment for thousands of years have developed sophisticated strategies for adapting to changes in the climate. However, today, these communities are often excluded from decision-making processes around climate justice and have little to no voice in shaping policy. Makes you wonder how much education on climate change reaches communities like this in the first place. Surely the Inuit communities in the Greenland or Quebec who are experiencing melting sea ice making hunting and fishing more dangerous and unpredictable wouldn’t mind contributing to initiatives that may affect the future of their natural environment? Maybe we are missing a trick. Maybe by recognizing and valuing traditional knowledge and indigenous perspectives, we can build more sustainable and resilient systems that are better equipped to address the challenges of climate change in those particular places. For the climate justice movement to be inclusive, equitable and authentic, diversity of the key players is critical. Being a global problem, it requires collective action with engagement of a wide range of stakeholders from all impacted communities whether that be the younger generation, women, global majority people and others who have traditionally been excluded from decision-making processes. 

Suffice to say, the intersection of diversity and climate justice is a critical issue that demands our urgent attention and action. The hope of a sustainable and just future for all might be a bit of a struggle to achieve without the due address that this status quo needs. There’s no denying the impact and relentless onslaught of climate change but as a collective we don’t seem ready. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 showed just how much when the low-income communities in New Orleans were disproportionately affected because they lacked the resources to evacuate or rebuild their homes. 

While we carry on with efforts to educate our generation, we mustn’t forget the younger generation who will bear the brunt of our actions and decisions. It is also vital to educate them on climate change and how they can limit its advancement. One excellent way to do this is through books. Have a read of our blog post with some amazing book recommendations to teach children all about climate change in celebration of Earth Day.

If you are an educator looking to improve the literacy outcomes of your pupils especially the lowest attaining 20% or you simply want to diversify your school library collection, then speak to us. Happier Every Chapter works with schools, academies across the UK to improve reading attainment and diversity awareness through diversity audits and monthly boxes/bundles of diverse, inclusive and representative bestsellers with different curriculum aligned themes each month.