For my Diverse Educators co-founder Bennie Kara and I, education is a place where everyone should be celebrated in every classroom in every school. We’re keen to help schools create a culture of belonging for all, and to deliver an inclusive curriculum where diverse experiences are represented. Below, I’ll lay out some top tips on how to do just that, for both teachers and school leaders.
Events in the US, particularly the murder of George Floyd and subsequent fallout, has placed a massive spotlight on racism. Millions of people around the world currently have a front row seat via their phones of the levels of brutality, injustice, bias and inequality black people are subject to. Often there is a disconnect between US events and those here in the UK, however amidst the COVID-19 pandemic the world has taken notice, with protests taking place in a number of countries, the UK included. Black British citizens argue that the UK isn’t innocent, that it is also complicit in racial injustice, bias and inequality. Racism in the UK is usually described as covert, which means it’s more subtle and intertwined in society, making it less obvious. One example would be microaggressions, which I would say are more than just insensitive comments. I know from experience; these can be painful and stick with people for the long term.
How was your last term?
The final term of the year was obviously very different to normal. My school reacted thoughtfully and decisively to closure by setting up an online provision focused on supporting students to access education. The provision constantly evolved to incorporate different forms of education experiences, using technology to support students further.
How can teachers and leaders take advantage of what’s beyond their schools’ walls? In the Innovate My School Guide 2018/19, an eclectic selection of educators share their own community-oriented successes - here’s a sneak peak...
Andrew Moffat is a well-known and respected figure in education. This passionate assistant headteacher made headlines after resigning from a school following a backlash against his sexual orientation and “some of the resource books being used in literacy lessons”. Since then, Andrew has continued to inspire educators as a school leader, founder of Equalities Primary, a speaker and author (No Outsiders In Our School: Teaching The Equality Act In Primary Schools is available from Routledge now).
As Sir Tim Berners-Lee noted, “The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information.” The internet is a place designed for humans to connect. Those who know me (Nicole Ponsford) know that collaboration and celebration are my jam. Over the last decade, I’ve been fortunate to be part of and create a range of online communities - from my new startup, The Gender Equality Charter (GEC), my new #Edtech50-winning WomenEdTechers (the digital side to WomenEd), to those first few curriculum-based blogs I did as an NQT. I have learnt a few things along the journey, but there is one thing that stands out.
When there's a push to disrupt the status quo, those that feel most comfortable within it become defensive; questioning the change and downplaying it, or perhaps even claiming there is no problem. They may go one step further and warn of dire consequences, claiming the privileged will become the disenfranchised, which they’ll argue is no better than the current system. People are resistant to change, especially if they benefit from the current norm.
When training to be a teacher 10 years ago, I was told emphatically that I should not tell students that I’m gay because it would give them “more ammunition”. Comments like this grossly underestimate our young people who, in my experience, are more open-minded and accepting than their parents and many of my former colleagues. Comments like this force teachers and school leaders to let down some of our most vulnerable students by not being a visible role model they can identify with. I believe teachers should lead by example and that’s why, as part of LGBT History Month in February 2017, I finally came out to over 1,000 students in assembly.