Does AI promote Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion?

Caroline Anukem portrait

Written by Caroline Anukem

Caroline Anukem is Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Beaconsfield High School in the UK. She is a driving force, a change-maker, and a relentless advocate for equity.

As the new term is upon us, it is essential to delve into a topic that has been sparking conversations and debates across various sectors; artificial intelligence (AI). With its rapid advancements and widespread use AI has become both a revolutionary tool and a subject of scrutiny. In this piece I will particularly focus on its potential impact on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Can be defined as a “Double-Edged Sword”

In recent years, AI has emerged as a powerful tool that promises to revolutionise industries and transform the way we work and live. From predictive analytics to natural language processing, AI technologies offer unprecedented capabilities to automate tasks, analyse vast amounts of data, and even simulate human-like behaviours. As a result, AI has found applications in diverse fields, from healthcare and finance to marketing and entertainment.

However, in parallel with the transformative potential, AI also raises significant ethical and social concerns. One of the most pressing issues is the perpetuation of biases and inequalities within AI systems. Despite the promise to be objective and impartial, AI algorithms often reflect and amplify the biases present in the data they are trained on. It is important to recognise that artificial intelligence does not account for representation and definitely has its own biases. It is fair to say that most artificial intelligence programmes draw its answers from existing information on the internet which we all know is heavily skewed towards a white, male, privileged voice. What this means is that there are ultimately gaps in how ‘diverse’ or ‘inclusive’, or well-balanced, its conclusions are. The results will ultimately produce discriminatory outcomes, reinforcing existing inequalities and marginalising already underrepresented groups.

The Biases Embedded in AI Systems

The biases embedded in AI systems are evident on several layers and thus pervasive, reflecting the biases inherent in society at large. For example, AI algorithms trained on biased datasets may exhibit racial, gender, or socioeconomic biases, leading to discriminatory outcomes in areas such as hiring, lending, and criminal justice. Similarly, AI-powered recommendation systems may reinforce stereotypes and narrow perspectives by promoting content that aligns with dominant narratives and preferences.

Moreover, the lack of diversity in the development and deployment of AI technologies exacerbates these biases. The underrepresentation of women, people of colour, and other marginalised groups in the tech industry means that AI systems are often designed and implemented without sufficient consideration for diverse perspectives and experiences. As a result, AI technologies may inadvertently exclude or disadvantage certain groups, serving to further perpetuate inequalities and hampering progress towards equity and inclusion.

The Importance of Addressing Bias in AI

Addressing bias in AI is not only a matter of fairness and social justice but also essential for ensuring the effectiveness and reliability of AI systems. Biased AI algorithms can lead to inaccurate predictions, unjust outcomes, and diminished trust in AI technologies, undermining their potential to drive positive change and innovation.

Moreover, the consequences of biased AI extend beyond individual experiences to societal structures and norms. By disseminating stereotypes and reinforcing inequalities, biased AI systems contribute to systemic injustices and sabotage efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive society.

Strategies for Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in AI

To mitigate bias in AI and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion, rigorous intentional efforts are needed at every stage of the AI lifecycle, from data collection and algorithm design to deployment and evaluation. 

Some strategies for facilitating and embedding EDI in AI:

Diversifying Datasets: It is essential to ensure that AI training datasets are diverse, representative, inclusive and reflecting a wide range of voices and experiences is essential for reducing bias in AI systems.

Increasing transparency and accountability in AI algorithms can help identify and address biases and ensure that AI systems are fair and equitable. Integrating ethical considerations into AI development processes, such as fairness, accountability, transparency, and privacy (FATP), can help mitigate bias and promote responsible AI innovation.

Inclusive Development Teams: Promoting diversity and inclusion within AI development teams will bring about diverse perspectives to the table and help identify and address biases in AI systems.

Community Engagement: Engaging with stakeholders and communities affected by AI technologies will help ensure that AI systems reflect their needs, values, and aspirations.

Continuous Evaluation and Improvement: Regularly evaluating AI systems for bias and fairness and implementing corrective measures as needed is crucial for promoting equity and inclusion in AI.

As a baseline, implementing some of these strategies and encouraging collaborations across disciplines and sectors, will work towards creating AI technologies that are truly equitable, diverse, and inclusive, and yoke the transformative potential of AI to build a better future for all.

In Conclusion

As we work through the complex intersection of AI and EDI, we cannot downplay the profound implications of biased AI systems and the importance of promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in AI development and deployment.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of algorithms to determine grades is another example of the pervasive impact of bias in education assessment. By addressing bias in AI and committing to a culture of inclusivity and accountability, it will be possible to harness the full potential of AI to drive positive social change and build a more just and equitable world for generations to come.

What are your thoughts on the intersection of AI and EDI? Share your insights and experiences with. Let’s continue the conversation and work towards a future where AI truly reflects and serves the diversity of human experiences.


#AllTheThings

Helena Marsh portrait

Written by Helena Marsh

Helena is a WomenEd co-founder, mum of three and experienced school and Trust leader. In her ninth year of secondary headship, Helena has also held the role of MAT CEO. An advocate of flexible working, Helena co-wrote the ‘Flexing our Schools’ chapter in the first WomenEd book and has been an active supporter of the Flexible Working Ambassador Scheme and the MTPT Project.

Spending the day among some incredible inspiring women at the ‘Breaking the Mould’ event on 9th March at Milton Road Primary School, Cambridge, was a fabulous way to mark this year’s International Women’s Day. 

Hannah asked me to contribute to the event when we met for an after work mocktail in May 2023. At the time, having this little spot of feminist joy to look forward to on the horizon really uplifted me at a particularly bleak moment in my leadership career. 

Several months later, I was not disappointed. Featuring amongst a programme of kick-ass women gave me a real sense of personal and professional rejuvenation. 

My session, entitled ‘What’s the point of cake if you can’t eat it?’, focused on my experiences, as a mum of three, of gendered perceptions of leadership. In my 15 years as a senior leader, I’ve been conscious of women stepping away from the profession, and their leadership potential, citing selfishness and a pragmatic need to focus on their families, as the reason. 

To coin a phrase by Summer Turner, I questioned: ‘Are the boys also worrying about this?’ Do men perceive becoming a dad and maintaining their career as ‘having it all’?

Gender pay gap research reveals that they don’t. The Fatherhood Bonus, in stark contrast to the Motherhood Penalty, rewards men for becoming fathers. While women are stepping down or away to focus on caregiving and accepting the inevitability of this pause/permanent freeze in their professional journey, men are, statistically, enjoying promotion and pay progression when starting a family. 

My presentation focused on the factors, institutional, societal and personal, that lead to women feeling as though progressing professionally is not a viable choice once becoming a mum. I concluded that wholesale changes to sector expectations of leaders is necessary. As Jill Berry wisely observes, if having a job and a life isn’t achievable, there’s a problem with the job. 

The other inputs to the day complemented this theme. Particularly Niamh Sweeney’s rousing cry to tackle the injustices within the profession that inhibit and preclude. Niamh’s anecdote from her recent trip to the States chimed with many of us in the audience. The audacious goal of winning ‘all the things’ spoke to a refreshing cultural ambition. Meanwhile, many of the other talks highlighted the importance of acknowledging feminine leadership traits and valuing the benefits of diversity in leadership teams.   

I left the day reflecting on how often ‘having it all’ is misunderstood for ‘doing it all’. My Mother’s Day stash of gifts that I received the following day from my little ones included various iterations of listing pads. As a fan of organisational stationery, I was chuffed with my haul. However, it did make me recognise how much of my sense of success as a mum and leader is measured through my accomplishment of ‘stuff’. Many women that I have worked with pride themselves on getting all the sh*t done and to an exceptional standard, often at the expense of their personal health and wellbeing.

As I acknowledged in my IWD talk, the weight of the mental load that mums carry, let alone mum leaders carry, is immense. It’s important that having #AllTheThings doesn’t necessitate us doing everything but having our fair share of whatever it is we strive for, whether that’s cake, career development opportunities or childcare responsibilities. 


Should schools provide prayer spaces?

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.

The recent High Court decision, ruling in favour of headteacher Birbalsingh’s decision to ban prayer spaces has created quite the media storm. The decision has raised concerns about the precedent it sets for schools creating safe spaces for students and staff, Muslim students and staff in particular. It has also raised conversations about what schools are for and how schools and workplaces can fulfill their obligation to adhere to the Equality Act and The Public Sector Equality Duty – and how they can get around it too.

The responses to the verdict reveal that we live in a society and online world in which Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate is increasing; whilst we have ‘come a long way’ in overcoming Islamophobia since 9/11, a high court ruling like this makes me wonder if we’ve made any difference at all to the safety of Muslims for future generations? The verdict also reveals the disconnect that exists within the school system itself: we have some leaders who are not interested in creating unity and understanding within a diverse country – yet at the same time they ‘tokenistically’ take pride in multiculturalism too. And, we have other leaders in education giving us hope, embedding inclusive and equitable practices in everyday school life. I find it baffling that a simple question about prayer spaces ends up at the gates of a High Court. To me, this not only reveals a lack of unity and understanding in a school but also an absence of a critical skill that should be at the centre of schooling: listening.

Many educators and commentators have been sharing their concerns and outrage about the decision. It will also concern parents and students who regularly use prayer spaces in schools, maybe even at work (many teachers use prayer spaces too). It’s a disappointing decision and whilst several anti-woke keyboard warriors rejoice at the ruling, we cannot let it set a precedent for schools – and I don’t think it will. Schools absolutely should provide prayer spaces and they will continue to provide such safe spaces for students – it’s quite simply common sense. For this blog, examples and explanations are practical and experiential, based on what life is like ‘in school’. Whilst research and data are important, progress, collaboration and community cohesion are also nurtured by listening to the candid, lived experiences of staff and students in schools.

Time and space to pray

In line with the Equality Act, allowing students and staff to pray is reasonable and proportionate to a school and working day. It is comparable to allowing students to have break times, music lessons and god-forbid, toilet breaks. Different forms of prayer and spiritual practice are a part of nearly every faith. In Islam, praying 5 times a day is an integral part of the faith. It takes 5-10 minutes to pray. For the duration of that time, a prayer mat takes up just as much space as a two-seater desk. Depending on the time of year, prayer usually fits into a lunchtime. Just as schools host extracurricular clubs, music lessons sports fixtures and more, prayer can usually fit into this time too. It is not a big ask and it is not disruptive.

Some schools may have a designated prayer room, which is great. Other schools may allocate a classroom, usually near a space where a teacher is ‘on duty’ anyway; the last time I checked, prayer doesn’t require back flips, cartwheels or balancing on one’s head…the health and safety risks are fairly manageable. Some schools might even say, ‘if you need to pray and you have what you need with you (prayer mat, head covering, beads, holy book etc…), feel free to use a designated safe space. It does not need to be complicated.

Prayer spaces are not the problem

To blame prayer and collective worship for peer pressure and bullying is deflecting from the real problem. If children start praying as a result of seeing others pray, or if they simply observe with questions and curiosity, why is this such a problem? If they find it to be a positive experience, surely that can only be a positive learning experience. If the opposite happens, it’s not necessarily a problem either. Rather, it’s a teachable moment and reveals hostile attitudes any school should be aware of. Knowledge about the prejudices within our communities is the first step to safeguarding young people in education. ‘Cancelling’ or banning prayer spaces is not. 

‘Banning’ or ‘cancelling’ (on and offline) doesn’t work. It is a power-based behaviour management tool fuelling a notion that education is based on ‘controlling the masses’. We all learn through conversation, discussion, listening, knowledge, understanding, boundaries and respect, not necessarily in that order. By no means are any of the latter ‘easy’ to achieve, but from working with teenagers I’ve found they’re open to a heated debate, discussion, learning, understanding and compromise. 

School is a place of work and I’m not sure why we expect teenagers to just abide by ‘yes and no’ rules with little to no explanation. Plus, if they find a reasonable solution (like praying in a classroom for 10 minutes at lunchtime), what’s the big deal? Secondary school students are a few years away from further education and the workplace, which we all know thrives on innovation, creativity and autonomy. In this case, a blanket prayer ban in a school (their current place of work) completely contradicts the 21st century workplace they will inhabit. It doesn’t make sense. 

‘It’s inconvenient: we don’t have time to police prayer spaces’

Like any theory of change, whether that be introducing a mobile phone policy or changes to a uniform policy, navigating any arising teething issues (by students, parents and the community), takes time and flexibility. None of this is impossible if it is built firmly into the school culture, relevant processes and policies. These policies and processes may be safeguarding, anti-bullying, behaviour management and curriculum. All of the above are part of a teacher’s and a school’s day-to-day functions; navigating prayer spaces is no different to introducing a new club or curriculum change. Plus, we somehow managed bubbles and one-way systems post-lockdown…I think schools are pretty well equipped to create a prayer space for all of a matter of minutes in a day!

Prayer is not ‘an add on’

Faith is observed differently, from person to person. It is a way of life, and an ongoing lived experience; for some it is an integral part of their identity and for others it is their identity. Prayer is a major part of several religious practices. Like some people are vegan and vegetarian, prayer is not just a choice and something to switch on and off – it is an intrinsic part of an individual’s life. Some individuals, as far as they possibly can, plan their days, weeks, holidays and more around prayer. Not only is it a religious obligation, it is also a source of wellbeing and peace. In a time where health and wellbeing are paramount in education, denying prayer spaces seems counterintuitive. Enabling some form of space (like we do options on a menu) for individuals to pray is a minimal request and something schools can do with minimal disruption. However, if cracks in the system are revealed and outrage spills online and at the High Court, there are bigger questions and concerns to address.

Schools don’t need to be ‘impossible’ or difficult spaces – and they shouldn’t be made out to be like this either. One high court ruling does not define the state of schooling in the UK. I have too much respect and experience (or maybe good fortune) of working in schools that enable, or at the very least, welcome conversations around inclusion, safety, flexibility and authenticity. None of the latter disrupts mainstream education and a student’s chances of attaining a grade 9. However, many other things do and those are inequitable opportunities, ‘belonging uncertainty’ (Cohen, 2022) and denying the identities of the young people we teach. 


Why are we still denying part time and flexible working to those in leadership roles?

Maz Foucher portrait

Written by Maz Foucher

Maz is Regional Representative for the MTPT Project in Devon and a former Assistant Headteacher and KS2 lead, based in Devon. Having juggled full time teaching, school leadership and parenting, she has a great understanding of the challenges faced by those with a young family. After moving on from school-based roles, Maz studied for an MA in Education Leadership specifically researching teacher retention, and now works in education publishing.

While researching teacher wellbeing and retention, I have often come across the suggestion that working part time or flexibly aids both the wellbeing and retention of staff. However, I have also found that this is still not an option available to many of those working at a leadership level, so let’s look at the facts.

24% of employees in the UK work part time and these are primarily women (ONS, 2022). This is echoed within the teaching profession, also at 24% (School Workforce Census, 2022). However, while the education profession is predominantly female, fewer women work part time in education (29% – School Workforce Census, 2022) compared to the overall UK labour market (36% – ONS, 2022). Additionally, when compared to different age ranges and genders, it is most likely that those working part time are women between the ages of 30 – 39 (ONS, 2022) This coincides with the age where many women start a family, and this is also the demographic most likely to leave teaching entirely (DfE, 2022). 

If we look more closely at the 24% of teachers working part time, when this is broken down by role we can see that: 

  • 26% of class teachers work part time
  • 11% of deputy heads work part time
  • 6% of headteachers work part time.  

 (School Workforce Census, 2022).

It is clear from these statistics that, of the women in education who are working part time, the vast majority of these are not doing so at a senior leadership level. This could mean that they have decided for themselves that leadership is incompatible with part time working and parenthood. However, these statistics could also indicate that these women are not being encouraged, supported or allowed to work in senior leader roles part time. Indeed, despite ongoing headlines about the benefits of flexible and part time work, there are many schools and trusts who persist with a policy of no flex/part time at leadership level. 

It could be said that it is preferable for leaders to work full time. The need for leaders to be present to deal with staffing, behaviour and safeguarding issues is a very real and relevant argument. From my own experience, I know that when headteachers and senior leaders are not present, it can lead to additional pressures on those within middle leadership roles. In a profession where 78% of school staff are experiencing stress (Teacher Wellbeing Index, 2023), it could be argued that exposing staff to additional pressures that they are not paid/contracted to handle is counterproductive. 

Additionally, employers are within their rights to deny flexi and part-time working requests if they can prove that these will hinder business outcomes. In the case of education, I have heard arguments that part time leadership can impact on the smooth running of the school, its pupil outcomes, Ofsted ratings and pupil numbers, especially if parents consider leadership to be inconsistent and therefore chaotic. 

However, there are also many positives to having leaders work flexibly or part time. And given that women, particularly those in the 30-39 bracket, are most likely to request this sort of contract, the all-too-common policy of no flex/part time options at a leadership level could also be seen to be seriously disadvantaging aspirational women in education, forcing them to choose between their family and their career. Is not uncommon to see female education leaders step back from these roles, leave teaching entirely or indeed find themselves demoted, when family commitments require them to reduce their hours at work. 

The first question this raises is how valued these women feel within the workplace when their experience and expertise is suddenly overlooked once they become a mother and are no longer available for full time hours. I’ve heard this described as ‘Your skills are only valued if you’re there full time.’  I know many who suddenly feel like their level of competence or their commitment to their school is in question, made to feel like a burden on their workplace, that they are workshy or lazy if they can’t work in the same way that they could before motherhood. This additional pressure could be a catalyst for why these women often end up leaving education entirely.  While there are many inspirational female teacher-parents who are forging the way forwards in leadership roles, it is clear from the data that very few mothers are finding that the workload, the pressure, their school’s policies and their own family set-up are allowing them to do this full time.

With all this in mind, if we also consider the persistently huge gender pay in education – the third worst across all sectors at 20.4% (BBC, 2023) – alongside the knowledge that women who are mothers are the demographic who are most likely to ask for part time work, we can begin to see how the policies which do not allow part time and flexi working at a leadership level are in fact indirectly discriminatory towards women. When we know that it is illegal to discriminate against the protected characteristics of sex and maternity/pregnancy (Equality Act, 2010), it begs the question as to how long it will be before cases of this nature end up in court? 

Personally, I have often said that the teaching profession is full of intelligent and creative people who should be open and willing to rethink how we organise the workforce. Retention is always a better and cheaper option in the long run than recruiting and retraining new staff. In a teacher retention crisis, where we desperately need our experienced teachers to remain in the workforce to support and mentor the new teachers we require, we must celebrate and share examples of where flexible or part time working at a leadership level is proving to be a successful strategy for retention. There are many schools and trusts out there who are able to retain aspirational women at all levels of the profession when they become mothers by supporting them to work PT or flexibly. Imagine a world in which a mother returns to the profession with the conviction that they are still a very valued and an integral part of the workforce, even if they can only commit to part time work? Isn’t this better than losing them from the profession entirely? 


Diversity in the Curriculum: The Vital Role of SMSC Subjects

Laura Gregory-White portrait

Written by Laura Gregory-White

Laura is an RE Regional Advisor for Jigsaw Education Group. She has over 15 years experience as an educator and curriculum lead across Primary and Secondary.

In today’s pluralistic society, where diversity is a fundamental part of who we are, conversations around diversity in schools and the curriculum are increasingly important. Subjects like Religious Education (RE) and Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education (PSHE) are vital tools in our curriculum offering. Investing in these subjects, invests in our children and young people’s successful development of the skills and knowledge that help to navigate the complexities of our diverse world with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to social justice.

In Primary schools, where all the teaching staff will have an impact on curriculum development, it is crucial that we are giving them the necessary time and expertise to enable this. From the teachers developing and delivering the individual lessons, the subject leads with oversight for the entire curriculum journey, to the senior leaders who set the values that underpin curriculum design within a school. We all share the responsibility of designing curriculum that not only imparts knowledge but fosters a sense of belonging and inclusivity preparing our children to become global citizens. This journey begins with a deliberate and conscious approach to curriculum design. Every decision we make, from the voices we amplify to the resources we use, must reflect the diversity of human experience.

When facilitating discussions with RE subject leads on this topic, we speak about the implicit and explicit features of the curriculum. The implicit being those decisions we make as curriculum designers about what we include and represent. It means asking ourselves critical questions: What perspectives are included in our syllabi? Whose voices are being centred? Are we offering a diverse range of representation? These considerations extend beyond the mere content of our subjects; they seep into the language we use, the images we present, and the values we share. These decisions may not be explicitly obvious to the children in our lessons, but it frames a journey for them that better represents the world they are growing up in. Without this careful consideration, we can unintentionally establish an unconscious bias or reinforce stereotypes. 

Alongside these implicit considerations is the explicit curriculum, where we dedicate time in lessons to directly address issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB). It’s about more than just ticking boxes; it’s about fostering meaningful dialogue, challenging biases, and nurturing a culture of respect and understanding. SMSC subjects provide the structured opportunities for students to explore complex societal issues, interrogate their own beliefs and biases, and develop the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate an increasingly interconnected world. For staff to feel confident in leading these discussions, we need to support the ongoing development of their knowledge and understanding of these issues as well as the ways in which safe learning environments can be established, and discussion and debate can be managed. This will support them in feeling confident to plan in these explicit curriculum opportunities for our children. 

This is not a small job or short conversation with a defined end point. This is ongoing work, and it should be contextual. It is important that schools support their staff to engage with this through investment in high-quality resources, providing the time and opportunity for evaluation and review, and dedicating time to ongoing learning and development for staff. 

In a world dominated by technology, AI, and algorithms, education needs to do more than impart knowledge. It must nurture empathy, compassion, and a sense of collective responsibility. To achieve this, we must elevate and enhance subjects like RE and PSHE. They are essential components of a well-rounded education that prepares students to navigate the complexities of the modern world.


Reflecting on Privilege and Pupil Premium

Gemma Hargraves portrait

Written by Gemma Hargraves

Gemma Hargraves is a Deputy Headteacher responsible for Safeguarding, Inclusion and Wellbeing.

I recently attended a national Pupil Premium Conference in Birmingham. The first speaker asked for people to raise their hands if they have personally experienced poverty – I have not, so I did not raise my hand. The number of people who did was striking. I was reminded of my experience at Bukky Yusuf’s session at the first Diverse Educators conference when we were asked how many boxes we tick in terms of diversity. I am very aware of my luck, my privilege, and whilst my father would have proudly proclaimed his working class roots he made sure I had a comfortable upbringing never wanted for anything. 

Spending the day surrounded by educators who care deeply about supporting students and families eligible for Pupil Premium I was struck by the need to get to know these students at my school better. Since joining the school in September I know some very well, for various reasons, but others I have not met yet. Sean Harris’s keynote was compelling about rewriting the story of disadvantage in schools and communities. 

We cannot assume all students in receipt of Pupil Premium funding face the same challenges. When I say “we” I mean myself, as Deputy Headteacher in charge of Pupil Premium strategy, but all teachers and staff in schools. Vital here are Form Tutors who see the students every morning and offer a caring and consistent welcome. Also, Receptionists, canteen staff, all teachers and leaders in schools. “We” here should also mean policy makers – those who decide who qualifies for Pupil Premium, and Service Pupil Premium, and who doesn’t but who also need to be supported (of course this is all students but I am especially thinking of those who are only just above the Pupil Premium qualifying line, disadvantaged sixth formers, of young careers, of others with additional needs). We must all endeavour to know these pupils as individuals and to give them opportunities to shine. 

There are practical and logistical challenges of course. Schools Week this week reported that school will have to wait until May to find out their pupil premium funding allocations for 2024-25. The data was supposed to be out in March but had been hit by a ‘problem’ with identifying eligible reception pupils. This clearly makes it more challenging for schools to budget and perhaps recruit but we just not lose sight of the children affected. Similarly, when focusing on outcomes, Progress 8 or some other measure we must remember there are individual students and families behind these numbers. 

Of course, our approach must be intersectional. A child is not only “Pupil Premium” they may also be a devout Muslim, disabled, a child of LGBT+ parents or indeed all or none of these but we will only know and be able to celebrate this if we get to know the pupils and families better. We must find funds to support them in ways they need, not what we assume will be generically helpful.

And while literacy is of course important and key to probably every Pupil Premium strategy, and improving educational outcomes can be transformative, we must also focus on cultivating a sense of belonging, confidence and joy. I’ve been doing a lot of work on inclusion, diversity and belonging in schools over the past few years, but this conference gave me a renewed focus on poverty and inequality. In the spirit of pledges from previous WomenEd and DiverseEd events, I am now committing to spend more time reading, thinking, and researching about poverty and inequality in my community but also, of course, getting to know the students and families so they can truly flourish. 


Diversifying Coaching in Education – A Funded Opportunity for the #DiverseEd Community to Train to Coach

Yasmin Ariff portrait

Written by Yasmin Ariff

Yasmin Ariff is a Partner and Director of Education at the CVP Group. CVP Group specialise in professional coaching training for managers and business leaders. They create coaching cultures across UK organisations, supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.

I wish I’d found coaching earlier in my teaching career. It has made me a better person on so many levels. But it came at a cost. Having invested £8000 of my own money into coaching training, it’s fair to say, although it’s been worth it, it also broke the bank balance. 

It made we wonder whether coaching would ever be a truly diverse and inclusive profession when only those with a higher-than-average income could afford the training. Even hiring a coach can cost around £100 per hour. 

So, how can we, as leaders, democratise coaching in Education?

How can we create a pool of coaches that represent the diverse backgrounds of our Educators?

If only there was a government-funded training programme for aspiring coaches that removed the barrier of cost…

If only there was a coaching training programme that promoted and included a range of diverse educators… 

Look no further!

CVP Group and #DiverseEd are partnering to deliver a funded training programme in October 2024 for aspiring coaches in England.

To apply, you will need to complete this #DiverseEd EOI and they will then send you the CVP ROI with the #DiverseEd Referral Code.

Introducing the Level 5 Coaching Professional Apprenticeship

Our unique approach supporting aspiring and existing diverse leaders will support you to:

  • engage with your workforce
  • promote active listening skills
  • deepen your understanding of what motivates teams
  • improve staff retention
  • support other aspiring or existing diverse leaders 

The 12 month apprenticeship programme is delivered online including an End Point Assessment.

The Level 5 Coaching Professional Apprenticeship enables learners to work towards a nationally recognised qualification that meets coaching professional body standards (ICF, EMCC and Association of Coaching). The coaching professional standard has been created by leading organisations with existing coaching cultures and expertise in leadership.

Selection of company logos

Figure 1. Organisations who created the coaching standard

In a group dedicated solely to Diverse Educators, you will cover coaching disciplines such as:

  • how to plan and structure coaching sessions;
  • cognitive behaviour techniques to reframe limiting beliefs;
  • principles of neurolinguistic programming;
  • schools of psychology such as Carl Rogers, Gestalt and Freud;
  • leadership theory and change management;
  • managing and celebrating diversity in your coaching practice;
  • ethics and professional codes of conduct for coaches as well as how to demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders.

Over 12 months you will be provided with the tools you need to create a coaching model tailored to organisational needs.

Our #DiverseEd cohort will also have the unique opportunity to attend additional #DiverseEd sessions with Hannah Wilson to explore diversity, equity and inclusion in coaching further. 

Coaching Professional Level 5 Pathway

Figure 2. The Coaching Learning Journey

The apprenticeship requires the application of coaching skills in the workplace which will be tailored to fit into your day-to-day job role. Coaching apprentices will receive wrap around support throughout the year so they can apply their coaching skills in the workplace. Many of our current apprentices are using their coaching skills to develop different aspects of education such as:

  • teaching and learning
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • well-being and leadership.

Ongoing careers guidance and support for apprentices includes attending a range of webinars delivered by expert coaches which demonstrate how your coaching skills support career advancement. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities to develop personally through CVP’s well-being events, an online community and learning forum as well as your bespoke personal development plan, including an opportunity to win our Easter fitness hamper with CVP’s annual spring into fitness competition.

The #DiverseEd Coaching Community

We are building a #DiverseEd coaching community which will be the first of its kind.

We know the current coaching landscape in Education is not representative of the leaders it serves so we want to upskill educators as coaches in our community to empower each other.

CVP Coaching apprentices will be the first to pilot a funded coaching programme for the #DiverseEd community, where CVP coaching apprentices will have an opportunity to join the #DiverseEd Coaching directory. 

The inaugural cohort will run October 2024 and we anticipate that places will be in high demand.

What Attendees are Saying About Us

Here’s what our current trainee coaches have to say about the programme:

“This course has been the perfect opportunity to keep learning and development at the heart of what I’m doing. It’s extremely well organised and resourced. Yasmin’s care, expertise and passion ensures we as the participants are motivated and supported every step of the way.” 

Claire, Senior Leader Education.

“Great session, the demonstration where we got to see it in action was really powerful to have that practical example. It is about simple steps being done well. You have to learn the art (which can be complex) and then not let it cloud your basic best practice.” 

Apprentice, Masterclass 2.

“The level 5 professional coaching course was thoroughly enjoyable and purposeful. I refined skills that were instantly transferable to the workplace but also deepened my reflective practice to understand how my own principles surface at work. I felt fully prepared going into to EPA and confident enough to show off my portfolio. Lots of elements in the portfolio I still use in my coaching sessions today. The course complemented full-time employment in education and didn’t seem too laborious as all the tasks seemed purposeful.” 

Rosie, Assistant Headteacher

Join Us in October 2024!

To be eligible for funding you must meet the following criteria:

  • Work 16 hours or more per week;
  • Have lived in the UK / EU for 3 years or more prior to enrolment;
  • Spend over 50% of your working week in England;
  • Have a contract of employment.

Are you interested but not in employment? Do you live outside England? We are pleased to open this programme to diverse leaders beyond England on a self-funded basis. If you would like to have a conversation with one of the team at CVP Group to find out more, reach out to sarah@cvpgroup.co.uk

What Next?

Whether you have made your mind up or would just like to find out more about the course content, please complete the Register of Interest Form that #DiverseEd will send you and our coaching engagement team will contact you to set up a meeting.

I will be delivering a large part of the programme. With over 20 years’ experience in schools, I am looking forward to reconnecting with leaders to create powerful coaching cultures in schools.

To find out more about my own journey as a leader in education, visit my website here.


Breaking the Silence: Empowering Education in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Angel Hinkley portrait

Written by Angel Hinkley

Mathematics Teacher & facilitator of the Anti-Racism Society at Drumchapel High School.

In the midst of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, a silence pervades many educational spaces. As a facilitator of an anti-racism club at my school, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of this silence. Young minds, already vulnerable to the nuances of prejudice and discrimination, now grapple with the weight of divisive rhetoric surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict. They perceive this silence as implicit approval of ongoing injustices, further deepening their sense of injustice and helplessness.

The reluctance of educators to delve into the Israel-Palestine conflict is understandable. The daunting prospect of navigating this politically and emotionally charged topic—compounded by the fear of inciting controversy or inadvertently projecting personal biases—often leads to a preference for silence. However, this silence is more harmful than engaging with the complexity of the conflict. Within this complexity lie the most profound lessons of humanity, empathy, and critical thinking. By choosing silence, we fail our young people, perpetuating ignorance and apathy in the face of suffering and injustice. To combat this, as educators we should acknowledge and understand our own biases, being transparent about them with our pupils, fostering an environment that encourages insightful conversations, thereby promoting critical thinking, understanding, and unity.  

Recognising the need to break this silence, I embarked on creating a resource that could serve as a bridge to support educators. This resource is the result of deep reflection, where every word and every activity were meticulously crafted to promote love over hate, encouraging pupils to think critically. At the core of this resource is the work of Banksy, an artist known for using his art as a form of activism. Banksy’s pieces provide a unique perspective on the conflict, blending political and social commentary with powerful visual storytelling. This approach offers young people a unique lens through which to engage with the complexities of the Israel-Palestine situation, challenging their preconceptions and encouraging them to confront injustices and connect with the human stories at the heart of the conflict.

PSE teachers warmly welcomed this resource, and a defining moment for me was during a school assembly when the resource was showcased on the “Respectful” slide, aligning perfectly with our core values of being Ready, Respectful, and Safe, signifying the end of silence. This moment filled me with hope for the potential to effect change, but it also served as a reminder that our work is far from over. Breaking the silence is an ongoing journey that requires continued effort and commitment. Together, we can amplify unheard voices, challenge perspectives, and build bridges of understanding, paving the way for a future rooted in empathy, justice, and peace. 

In the heart of every educational journey lies the potential to shape a more just and empathetic world. Breaking the silence surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is not just an educational imperative; it’s a moral one. As educators, it’s our responsibility to equip our young people with the knowledge, skills, and empathy they need to navigate the complexities of our world and to advocate for a more just and peaceful future. 

I am immensely grateful to my Education Scotland Building Racial Literacy colleagues and Jehan Al-Azzawi for their invaluable feedback and support in refining this resource. Their input ensured its accuracy and effectiveness in fostering meaningful discussions within the classroom.

Here is the link to the Israel-Palestine resource


A Class Apart

Dr Teresa Crew portrait

Written by Dr Teresa Crew

Dr Teresa Crew SFHEA is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy with research interests relating to various social inequalities. More specifically Dr Crew's research explores the barriers faced by working class people in education. She is the author of the book "Higher Education and Working Class Academics: Precarity and Diversity in Academia" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) which examined the experiences of working class academics. Her second book, “The Intersections of a Working Class Academic Identity. A Class Apart”, will be published by Emerald in July 2024.

The echo of footsteps resonating through university hallways often carries with it a narrative of unearned advantage.  This is in stark contrast to the uphill climb some have faced just to set foot on these grounds.  For many working class academics (WCAs) like myself, each step reflects complex feelings of taking pride in rising above class constraints combined with a persistent sense of unease that we do not fully belong within these elite spaces. Far from being unique, this reveals that despite loud diversity rhetoric, quiet biases continue obstructing the WCA experience.

My extensive research incorporating over 250 interviews and surveys WCAs across the UK over the past 5 years reveals systemic barriers continue to make academia an inhospitable environment for many scholars from disadvantaged backgrounds. Nearly 75% faced ingrained classism subtly woven through campus culture via small slights eroding confidence in belonging. These obstacles are likely deterring talented potential working class scholars from pursuing academic careers.

Classist microaggressions served as the ever present undercurrent with manifestations ranging from derogatory comments questioning their credentials and mocking regional accents. Women endured layered inequities – both gender and class biases. Unpaid service tasks consumed valuable time otherwise dedicated to scholarly writing necessary for advancement, reflecting embedded biases limiting their mobility. Ethnic minority WCAs encountered underrepresentation and racialised stereotypes that questioned their intellectual capacity, coupled with the assumption that their presence was simply a result of diversity initiatives rather than merit. 

My research also exposed profound institutional fractures at the intersection of class and disability. Participants recounted struggles to obtain reasonable adjustments. This disregard for individual needs was particularly harmful for those reliant on precarious incomes, as the absence of family wealth amplifies their vulnerability.

Our lived experiences offer a crucial counterpoint highlighting how WCAs display remarkable resilience, strong “aspirational capital” and determination. WCAs typically serve as mentors, role models, and support systems for many marginalised students.  We offer innovative teaching methods and curricular interventions aimed at uplifting excluded voices and dismantling entrenched hierarchies. These interventions, informed by lived experiences at the margins, adds unique depth and insight to WCA scholarship, making us invaluable assets that enrich the tapestry of academic discourse.

Despite our remarkable resilience and talent, WCAs often find their potential curtailed rather than nurtured. Hiring discrimination, promotion bias, and precarious employment create significant hurdles, constructing invisible yet potent barriers to curtail our career advancement. Overburdened workloads and the absence of tailored support networks further exacerbate these challenges, creating a “chilly climate” within academia that often discourages many WCAs from reaching their full potential.

We must actively dismantle these barriers by challenging entrenched structures and disrupting the harmful effects of classist practices that erode individual aspirations and stifle working class potential.  This demands bold, systemic change. 

Key areas of action include:

  • #MakeIt10.  To create real equal opportunities, we must end unfair treatment based on an individual’s social class background and add social class as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010
  • WCAs need stable employment with living wages, enforceable rights, and consistent hours.
  • Targeted career development programmes and mentoring specifically for WCAs.

These strategic interventions, informed by the powerful narratives of WCAs navigating the system, hold the key to unlocking the transformative potential of an inclusive academia. Only then can we ensure that knowledge and empowerment reach all corners of society, shaping a future where the collective brilliance of diverse minds, regardless of background, can truly flourish.


Leaving a Legacy: Saying Goodbye to My Shero – Karen Giles

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

There was a flurry of activity on my social media timeline yesterday following the devastating news that we have lost the beautiful soul that is Karen Giles. The outpouring of love is not a surprise as Karen is a well-known, well-respected and well-loved educational leader. We had been expecting the news for a while as she had been really unwell for a long time, but it is still a shock to realise that she has gone forever.

I had received an early morning text from a mutual friend and spent most of the day crying as different people reached out with personal messages to share their pain of losing our dear friend. I did not know if it was public knowledge so I did not share anything on my socials – just in case people who knew her had not heard the sad news, and to respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time, but by the evening I realised others had shared the news and the ripples of shock had widened. I thought about her and her impact on me all day and went to bed penning a piece to capture the essence of what a special human being she is (struggling to write her in the past tense).

Karen was and will continue to be the epitome of everything I believe in when it comes to leadership: she lives and models her values; she practices what she preaches; she is authentic; she has integrity; she is humble; she serves her community; she advocates for others; she has impact. Above all she has a huge heart, she is very kind and she nurtures everyone around her. She has a very special gift of making you feel like the only person in the room – totally seen, totally heard, totally understood and totally supported. Anyone in her orbit is lucky to sponge up a little bit of her presence. I think we all need to be a bit more Karen Giles.

I met Karen multiple times in a short period of time nearly a decade ago: we were both school leaders in London; we were both committed to empowering women leaders – she attended and supported #WomenEd events; we both contributed sessions to the Leading Women’s Alliance events; and as I started my NPQH she was one of the facilitators on our residentials with Ambition School Leadership. Every time I crossed paths with Karen I fell a little more in love with her. I don’t put many people on a pedestal but Karen was up there – she was one of my ‘wise women’ who became not only a guide but a friend. She relentlessly cheered on, championed and sponsored people around her. I am very lucky and very grateful to have been able to stand in her light and feel the warmth of her soul.

Every time I needed Karen she was there for me, and I know she was there for everyone else in her multiple circles too. She supported me out of a tricky Deputy Headship into Headship, she supported me out of my Headship and into my independent work. She held a mirror up to me to consider my future and helped me realign my Ikigai. I can remember visiting her at her school one morning following a breakfast meeting and she said to me: “Hannah Wilson, where ever you have been, whatever you have been doing, this is your calling”. I supported her through a relationship breakdown and into an Executive role; I supported her in considering her options post-retirement. I was excited at her becoming a coach, finding a home in Barbados and training to be a celebrant. We joked that if I ever got married she would host the ceremony for us. I told her she had multiple books in her and I think she had started a few of them.

We called each other for professional favours and the answer was always a Yes, no matter what it was/ when it was. She contributed to our #DiverseGovernance series during lockdown and she was one of our keynotes at our #DiverseEd event post lockdown. Lots of the posts on X reference how inspiring she was and comment on how she modelled inclusive, servant leadership. I spoke at a few leadership events at her school and spent some time with her associate headteachers. Karen was an introvert and a quiet leader but she had an enormous, yet gentle, presence, she hustled me into many an event that I was not on the guest list for with a smile and a polite request!

‘Yes’ was a word we had bonded over at LWA. I had a run a session at LWA on The Power of Saying Yes inspired by the book by Shonda Rhimes, about grabbing opportunities with both hands. She had made a deal with me, there and then, that if she said yes more could I say a few more nos.  As we negotiated there was a twinkle in her eyes – we were total opposites in so many ways but had so much in common when it came to the important stuff. I really valued the mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual love we held for each other.

When we were writing the first #WomenEd book, 10% Braver, each chapter author chose a role model to amplify and showcase. Karen was my natural choice. At the end of chapter 1 this is what I wrote about her:

“Role Model: Karen Giles

Values-led leaders demonstrate that you can be a leader with a soul. Karen Giles is an Executive Primary Headteacher in London and a facilitator for Ambition School Leadership. I remember meeting her at one of my first NPQH sessions where she invited 64 aspiring headteachers to go for a leisurely jog around the conference room. She was immaculately dressed in a purple shift dress, matching tailored jacket and heels and gracefully leapt like a gazelle. I fell a little bit in love with her on the spot. 

I was delighted Karen came to my session on The Power of Networking at the second Leading Women’s Alliance event. She is an old school networker and I am a new one, and we had a passionate discussion about Shonda Rhimes’ book ‘Year of Yes’. We both agreed that whilst ‘Yes’ is an enabler, women also need to be empowered to say ‘No!’ 

Karen has local, regional, national and global impact as a leader. She has taught and led in London schools for twenty-eight years and is currently a Local Authority School Effectiveness Lead Professional, working with leaders in sixteen schools. Karen has been a Leadership Coach since 2012, leading and facilitating a variety of mixed phase coaching groups and workshops as well as working with both Primary and Secondary participants. She served as an Ofsted Inspector from 2010-15, has been appointed as a Coach for the pan-London GLA Getting Ahead programme and is Primary Director for the London Leadership Strategy. She was the winner of the London Region National Teacher Award for Enterprise and Innovation in 2009 and serves as an advisory board member for the Varkey Foundation. Karen currently serves as Headteacher, a position she has held for thirteen years”.

I didn’t tell Karen I was writing about her, but I sent her a copy of the book with a post-it in it and a card when it was published. I know she was really touched and ever the humble person she was shocked I had chosen to spotlight her. Throughout her illness I have regularly sent her WhatsApp messages and voice notes to update her on the things we would normally discuss. I also sent her  Mum a copy of the book so that her family could read it and play it back to her so she could hear the impact she has had on so many.

Leaving London our in-person catch ups happened less frequently, but whenever we could squeeze in a lunch or a brunch we did. I often drove down to her flat and she would spoil me rotten, and if we met somewhere central she would often arrive giggling that I had made her come out to the sticks to see the cows and the mud. Those who know Karen will remember her for resembling a Hollywood actress as she climbed out of her nippy sports car in a glamorous faux-fur coat.

One of the last times I saw her in person I took her out for a belated lunch to celebrate her 60th birthday. She was so full of life and excited for what the future held for her. It seems so unfair at the timing of her illness, as she stood on the cusp of her 3rd quarter.

Preparing for her next chapter in life and her career she asked me to run a session for her and some of her friends on how to leverage LinkedIn to grow their network/ profile. Not that she needed help with either as Karen was a brilliant connector. This is my LinkedIn testimonial for her:

“I can still remember the first time I met Karen Giles, she glided into the NPQH room and captivated 64 aspiring Headteachers. I have had a professional crush on her ever since! If you have read the #WomenEd book 10% Braver, I wrote chapter 1 and Karen is my role model at the end of it. Making a big impression on me as a senior leader and aspiring Headteacher, Karen became my unofficial mentor and my critical friend (she didn’t have much choice in the matter!) I had coaching as a Deputy Headteacher, a Headteacher and as an Executive Headteacher but it was often Karen I would turn to in a crisis to tap into her calm wisdom. She has supported me through pivotal decisions in both my professional and personal leadership journey. I have learnt lots from her, but we have also become friends through it all. I have heard Karen speak on numerous occasions – for Ambition School Leadership, for the Leading Women’s Alliance and for Diverse Educators – what always shines through is her integrity, her resilience and her quiet determination to do the right thing by her people (her pupils/ her staff/ her community/ her network). She is a brilliant role model, a supportive mentor, a transformational coach and an inspiring leader. If you have not connected with her, then what are you waiting for? Witness her fabulousness for yourselves”.  

As you read the posts of Facebook, X and LinkedIn about Karen you will really capture the essence of her character, and will be able to appreciate the impact she had on so many people. Serving her community as the Headteacher of Barham Primary School for 20+ years she leaves behind her a huge legacy. More than that she was a global thought leader advocating for the rights of children around the world to have a good education.

To remember her, I was going to send something to plant in the school garden and some books to continue her commitment to diverse representation to the school but I have instead decided to create a Just Giving Page for her. The school can then work with her family on how to memorialise her. I love the idea of creating a school peace garden, or a mural, in her name if we can raise enough funds.

Find out more and donate to our fundraiser HERE.

Dearest Karen – you epitomised sisterhood and female solidarity. I am blessed to have met you and to have had you in my life as a mentor and a friend. Go join your loved ones and be an angel looking over us all. Thank you for everything you have done for us all. You will always be my Shero. All my love, Hannah xx