Diversity Matters – My #BAMEed Pledge

Why does Diversity Matter?

I have been involved in a lot of conversations in the last year about the lack of diversity in the education system, especially in leadership. I passionately believe that our school staff bodies and leadership teams should reflect the communities that we serve. #WomenEd has done a lot in the last 2 years to raise the profile of the need for more female leaders. As a community we have identified the challenges and shared some possible solutions. With #BAMEed we are yet to identify all of the systemic barriers and how to counteract them to support BAME educators in their careers.

Why am I collaborating with the DfE?

Through the two teaching schools I was working with at Harris and the one I am now working with at GLF we have successfully bid for 3 Diversity and Equalities Grants to support educators with the hidden characteristics of race and gender progress on their leadership journeys. I am also a volunteer coach for the DfE’s Women Leading in Education pledge. The DfE are funding 80 grants around the country, plus the 8 regional networks. Most of these leadership programmes are focusing on #womened and #bameed.

Why am I speaking at public events about Diversity Matters?

I was invited to speak at the SSAT conference in November about our Diversity and Equalities grants and how we hope to affect change in the system through our leadership programmes targeting women leaders and BAME leaders. The irony was that the conference was held in the diverse city of Birmingham but there was only one person of colour speaking at the conference/ in the programme. I presented to a room of 100+ predominantly white, male Headteachers. The atmosphere in the room was interesting to say the least! I will also be on panels at BETT, Academies Show, Teach 2017 – these discussions are really key to elevate and amplify the issues.

Why am I supporting the Teach First BAME network?

Jess Boyd contacted me last year and asked me to coach her through the above scheme. She had galvanised a group of Teach First teachers who wanted to create a BAME network within the Teach First community. With Ndidi Okezie at the helm of a forward-thinking and outward-facing organisation I knew this would be a ground-breaking opportunity to engage with and to support. I went to the Town Hall meeting in November which was an open forum to launch this network – well done Jess and the team for a thought-provoking event.

Why am I supporting the #BAMEed community?

Allana Gay is a #WomenEd Regional Leader and friend I have made through our activity. Amjad Ali is someone who I have gotten to know through grassroots and CPD opportunities over the last few years. Just like #womened needs our #heforshe allies, the #bameed community needs white allies to help amplify the voices of the under-represented. They have made it very clear from the beginning that the community is very inclusive and collaborative – welcoming anyone who wants to support and contribute to the movement.

Why does #WomenEd care?

Intersectionality is an issue. If you are #bameed and #womened then you double the barriers to overcome to progress as a leader. At our unconference in October we organised a #BAME panel to initiate and elevate the discussions about race. Our panel of high profile educators included @ndidi1st@benniekara@jazampawfarr‍ curated by @equitableed‍ with @angelabrowne@naureen@jopenn@candidagould‍ amongst the audience. As a group we reflected & discussed some of the issues facing women of colour in education. This safe space  incubated the discussion – we processed our thoughts and articulated our concerns/ visions for the system.

Why do we need to talk about representation?

As a result of the discussions at #womened, Cath Murray a journalist from School’s Week contacted me as she was conscious that the 3 articles that came out of our event were written by white men.  She was keen to counterbalance the voices being represented. I moved the discussion on to race rather than gender as we had invited the #heforshe advocates to attend, speak and write to help cascade the message that we need to work together, both genders, to create equality for all. I had initiated the BAME panel as I had had repeated conversations about racial identity.

Cath subsequently wrote and published this brilliant piece on ‘Is Race the Elephant in the Room?’ Read it here: ELEPHANT IN STAFFROOM

Ndidi Okezie from Teach First went on to write this opinion piece on ‘We need to get over the taboo of talking about race’. Read it here: RACE TABOO

Schools’ Week get it – they have done shout outs for mores submissions by women and by BAME so that all experiences are represented. Leadership Matters also get it – I have helped them recruit more BAME leaders to be Ambassadors as they knew they were under-represented. Ross McGill aka Teacher Toolkit gets it and has recently published a list of #101femaleeducators to follow on Twitter. It caused a bit of a stir, despite his best efforts to raise the profile of female tweeters. He will soon be publishing in collaboration with #BAMEed a list of #101BAMEeductors to follow too – it will be interesting to see how this is received in the twitter world.

Why am I reflecting on ways Aureus School can flip the system?

The conversation has only just started and needs to be opened up, we need transparency, we need to challenge the system. Starting up a new school enables me to do things a bit differently. With core values of #wellbeing, #diversity and #equality I need to ensure that we ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’. I don’t want our values to be tokenistic or ‘laminated not lived’. Imagine how disappointed I was then when recruiting my Governors that we initially only received applications from white male volunteers. I am not discrediting their experience and their potential input but I am keen to model a diverse team at every level of the Aureus staff structure.

Challenges and solutions I am creating strategies for (they are still a work in progress):

What are the barriers for BAME teachers?

I am excited that Jess, my coachee, is pitching a PHD to research this as I currently make judgements and increase my understanding based no anecdotal feedback. Through her research and through the Diverse Leaders programme I am curating I will gain more insight in to the barriers – personal and systemic – that are holding BAME educators back.

My pledge is to tweet, blog and speak about my findings to amplify the discussions.

Why do we have so few BAME teachers?

Teaching is not seen as an aspirational profession for some cultures. Schools need to work on their careers guidance to raise the profile of educational careers for all students.

My pledge is to ensure that career guidance at Aureus School crosses some of these cultural barriers.

How can we recruit more BAME leaders?

BAME teachers are in a minority, so the progression of those who do enter the profession represents a small group of teachers and leaders.

My pledge is to ensure that at Aureus School and across the GLF trust that our talent management identifies and nurtures the potential of diverse leaders.

Why do we have a blockage in the BAME leadership pipeline?

BAME teachers seem to leave the system or get caught in the system at middle leadership level. I will continue to research and unpick why this is.

My pledge is to embed unconscious bias training and an equitable talent-spotting system at Aureus.

How can we support & develop BAME leaders on their career progression?

Career planning, development and coaching is something that our profession does not do very well, in my opinion. Through our #womened events and programmes we are addressing this for existing and aspiring women leaders.

My pledge is to volunteer to run practical sessions at #BAMEed events and support those who are writing applications and letters to help them get through the door to interview.

What are my next steps as a systems leader?

As a Headteacher and a leader in a MAT/ TSA, as well as co-founder of #womened I will continue to be part of a growing community of educators who are challenging the system. My first step is the launch of a new blog called ‘Talking Heads’ where I will profile a different Headteacher each week – to share different leadership experiences, identities and trajectories – thus breaking down some of the perceptions of Headteachers. Read it hereTALKING HEADS

I am really interested to continue this discussion and create momentum with a much needed change in the education system. I am excited to part of a movement which will support our #BAME and help to amplify the discussions at events in the coming months.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Affecting change for BAME educators, leaders and students.
  • Recruiting a diverse staff of teachers, leaders and governors at Aureus.
  • Creating a culture based on the values of diversity and equality.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Amjad Ali and Allana Gay for launching #BAMEed.
  • Jess Boyd for initiating the @TFBAMEcommunity.
  • Ndidi Okezie, Cath Murray and Schools’ Week for amplifying the discussions on race.
  • SSAT for asking us to speak at their conference about Diversity.
  • DfE for funding the Diversity and Equalities programmes.
  • Leadership Matters for acknowledging they needed more diverse ambassadors.

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