Written by Rosemary Hoyle

Primary School Governor and Chair for over 20 years.

Inspired to write this post by a recent online event held as part of the Freedom to Learn Festival I have been prompted to draw together all my recent thoughts on diversity and the role of governance.  In the opening remarks one of the speakers stated that it is a ‘schools’ purpose to create the next generation of global citizens’ and, not to give the game away too soon, that is surely why diversity matters!  Looking back over earlier posts that I have written about the core functions of governance and, in particular the one about vision, values and strategy, I can see immediately how the board can lead in this area.  In the strategic aims of the school I chair, agreed by the board after consultation with children, staff and the community, we felt strongly that there was a need to make diversity explicit so we state that we want to be – 

A school that is at the heart of the community; a good neighbour and engaged with community groups of all ages. A school that builds on our pupils’ own experiences, interests and strengths and helps to develop their sense of identity as local, national and global citizens.  

In order to do this, we state that we want ‘A curriculum that exposes children to other cultures and offers opportunities to explore a wide range of ideas’.  After listening to the presentations at the Diverse Educators event I think this needs to be even stronger, wider and bolder in its aspirations.  It isn’t just learning about others is it? Another of the speakers at the online event talked about being able to be your own authentic self and, surely, in order for that to happen you have to believe that your own ethnicity, your own culture and religion, your own sexuality, your own gender identification or your own disability has a place and is valued and represented in the world around you. 

So, let’s get back to the beginning – Yes, for this very important reason diversity matters and it matters to the whole school community.  It matters in the curriculum we teach our children and it matters in the resources that support this work.  It matters in the public information, the displays and the literature that families see about our schools.  It matters in the workplace, in the leaders and staff that the children (and staff) see around them every day in school and it matters in the board of governors. It is part of the ‘ethic of everybody’. (1) It should be a thread that runs through every part of our education system and we, as governors, have a big part to play in leading this. Mary Myatt suggests that governors ‘might ask themselves whether their work is underpinned by doing right by everybody?’ (2)  Any boards that have been involved in the Ethical Leadership in Education Project will have given a lot of consideration to this recently but take a moment to look around the boardroom table for there are real dangers in group think from a board that lacks diversity. In the 2019 NGA survey 93% of respondents identified as white and only 10% reported being under 40! (3)   

Then look up from that table and look at the school you lead, support and challenge, and ask yourselves are we really inclusive – does diversity matter here? (4) (5)

Here are a series of questions that we governors should ask

-of ourselves:

  1. How does our board reflect the diversity of the school community it serves?
  2. Is valuing diversity explicit in our vision and strategy?
  3. Do we/Should we have a governor who is focused on diversity?
  4. What training have we undertaken as a board to challenge and reflect on our understanding of diversity?
  5. How often have we talked about this at a board discussion? 

– of our school:

  1. Does our public information reflect the diversity around us?
  2. How and where is diversity evident in our curriculum – right from the Early Years?
  3. Do we have resources for our children from Early Years onwards which have a full range of representation – books, dolls, displays around the school?
  4. Are our staff confident to answer questions and continue conversations with children about diversity – do they know what language to use?
  5. What CPD have they been able to access to help them with this?

Notes:

  1. Dame Alison Peacock quoted in Mary Myatt, Hopeful Schools,2016, p 60-62 
  2. Mary Myatt, Hopeful Schools,2016, p 61
  3. National Governance Association, School Governance in 2019, [online] at https://www.nga.org.uk/Knowledge-Centre/research-(1)/Annual-school-governance-survey/School-governance-in-2019.aspxaccessed 21/08/2020
  4. The Ethical Leadership Commission, Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, [online] at https://www.nga.org.uk/ethicalleadership.aspxaccessed 21/08/2020
  5. National Governance Association, Everyone on Board, NGA [online] at https://www.nga.org.uk/News/Campaigns/Everyone-on-Board-increasing-diversity-in-school-g.aspxaccessed 21/08/2020

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