#LGBTed: Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

This weekend sees the official launch of the latest grassroots diversity network, #LGBTEd, co-founded by Hannah Jepson and Daniel Gray, in collaboration with Claire Birkenshaw and building on the legacy  of David Weston.

#WomenEd is in its 4th year and #BAMEed is going into its 2nd year. Both have created momentum with the nationwide discussions about diversity, equality and inclusion. #LGBTed joined us at the Diverse Educators event in January along with #DisabilityEd. We believe it was one of the first events in the country to address the intersectionality of our identity.

 

I am proud to have supported #LGBTed in initiating this much needed next step in our shared vision and collective journey to make our schools more inclusive, to ensure that our schools are safe spaces for all of our students and for all of our staff.

Moreover to model the fact that edu events can have diverse line ups and panels. That there are educators and experts who can represent #BAMEed #WomenEd #DisabilityEd and #LGBTed. That there really is no excuse for a manel!

DT5c7bxX4AAxae_

One of my Deputy Headteachers, Bennie Kara, delivered a cracking closing keynote at Diverse Educators I on ‘wearing all the labels’. She asked us to not to tuck her labels in for her. The metaphor of wearing multiple hats and having multiple labels sticking out extended throughout her anecdotes which were heart warming and uplifting but also a reality check.

As an Asian, bisexual woman Bennie has taught me a lot about the true meaning of diversity.  Before she started at Aureus she asked me if she was allowed to be openly out. I was shocked that she felt like she needed to ask my permission for this, she explained that you cannot ever assume as even the most liberal leaders had recommended to her in her career that it was best to keep these things private. I had to check my straight white privilege.

Discussing some students who were vulnerable to homophobia in our first term, she educated me once more on the fact that gender and race are generally, what you see is what you get, but with sexuality you need to out yourself in each new connection/ conversation. I had to check my straight white privilege once again.

I consider myself to be very open, liberal, empathetic and supportive of people from diverse backgrounds, but how much did/do I truly understand about the experiences of others?

I attended the Educate and Celebrate school leaders training day in the Autumn term to develop my understanding and awareness. It was my 2nd encounter with Dr Elly Barnes who is an inspiring  facilitator. I booked her to join us at our whole staff INSET in January to kick start our 2nd term. She was just what we needed to take our diversity and equality vision forwards.

EC-Main-Logo-White-Background

All of my teaching staff and the operations team at Aureus have been recruited through a values-led approach. I made it clear from the outset that my non-negotiables were to have Diversity, Equality and Wellbeing as 3 of our core values so all of my team are on board with this, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the reception, reflection and discussion in our LGBT+ training session. There were staff who I thought may struggle, who may get uncomfortable with some of the activities, but instead I saw a real commitment from everyone on the team to tackle prejudice and discrimination.

aureus-values-wheel-v2

In the Spring Term we launched our Prejudice Log. Yes, it is mandatory to report on racism and homophobia, but we also log incidents involving the other protected characteristics. In our opinion there is not a hierarchy of which discrimination is palatable, and which is not.

As February approached, Love was our value of the month. I knew I wanted to tackle the low level homophobic comments in a formal way, so I planned an assembly on ‘Love Without Labels’ using the video that Elly had shared with the staff. I did wonder how our students would react, whether there would be a ripple across the assembly hall or uncomfortable shifting in the seat but there was not.  I checked my white straight privilege yet again.

I reminded myself that I was not outing myself, I was vocalising my advocacy for celebrating difference and accepting one another.

LOVE WITHOUT LABELS 2

Yet, despite our values, our assemblies and our reflections. Despite our Educate and Celebrate posters in every room and despite high profile challenge of inappropriate language the explicit homophobic comments continued. I had lost count of the homophobic incidents  I had investigated and sanctioned.

Bennie came to my office one day in a contemplative mood and said: “I think it is time”. Time for what? I queried, was I late for gate duty again? “I think it is time I did my coming out assembly. They need to know that their words are hurting people in our community, that their words are hurting me”. I nodded in agreement. I checked her slides, I sent her a vote of confidence and I reassured her that it would be okay.

Bennie delivered one of those assemblies that I will never forget. An assembly that the staff will talk about in the future. An assembly that the students went home and told their parents about. I couldn’t look at her as she presented as I knew my emotions would come pouring out. My heart was swelling with pride and respect for her.  I  could hear the hesitation in her voice at points as she carefully chose her words to ensure that they landed correctly. I knew that she felt the responsibility that she bore for the students in the room this would affect in the future.

LOVE HAS NO LABELS

We did not receive a single complaint, instead Bennie received positive feedback from students and their parents about her courage. Encouragement from parents we did not expect to hear from. It seems that we under-estimated not only our staff, our students but our wider community too.

So that is why I will support the #LGBTed community each step on their journey:

Not all staff feel supported to share their personal stories. Not all audiences will be as open and accepting. Not all communities will be as supportive. Not all students will know that they are in a safe space where they can explore their full selves and grow in confidence in who they are. Not all schools have #LGBTed who are prepared to make themselves this vulnerable for the benefit of the wider LGBT+ community.

I wish everyone at #LGBTed this Saturday a brilliant day of connecting, collaborating and cheering one another along. I will be following & supporting from twitter. I am sure the event will be as special as the launch of #womened & the energy in the room will be as palpable.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The change that #LGBTed will bring to our schools for our staff and for our students

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Working Class  – Ian Gilbert et al

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Having a brilliant diverse team at Aureus who are passionate about inclusion for all
  • Having a diverse PLN of inspiring changemakers!

Diverse Educators: #BAMEed #DisabilityEd #LGBTEd #WomenEd

Yesterday, was a defining moment in my career.

I am still buzzing from the inspiring and empowering group of diverse educators who came to Aureus for the day for our inaugural Diverse Educators event.

diverse 1

#BAMEed met #DisabilityEd met #LGBTed met #WomenEd. 4 grassroot movements and communities came together to connect, to collaborate. The power of the collective voice.

The impact we can have working together was how I framed the event.  I opened Diverse Educators asking everyone to share their Why. We then did a popcorn sharing of our motivation for getting out of bed early and travelling on a cold Saturday morning in January.

diverse 2

My why:diverse 3

We know our identities are more complex than just our gender. We all wear multiple hats, we all have multiple labels as we define and own our complex identities. What do we have in common? We are all humans. Yesterday, we brought together a group of humans who care deeply about diversity, equality and inclusion.

My proposition was that each community, each movement could challenge their systemic, structural and societal barriers for their label, or we could join forces and be a stronger voice, a stronger community to smash through these glass ceilings and these concrete ceilings together. Moreover with the support of all of the organisations who supported the event as exhibitors and contributors.

A collective mission.  A collective voice. A collective impact.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Each of the grassroots movements shared an update on the progress of their community  and the impact they have made to date:

#BAMEed are a year old and held their first event last May in Birmingham, their 2nd event is soon and they are planning their 3rd for June 2nd. Co-founded by Abdul, Allana, Amjad and Penny they are growing their network and profile. Find out by following them here. An offshoot of @BAMEednetwork is @TFBAMEcommunity co-founded by Jess and Mahlon. They also have a series of events on the horizon.

#DisabilityEd is new on the block and unfortunately Lynne Wareham who is pulling volunteers together was too unwell to join us yesterday to share plans. The sessions that took place started the conversation. More to follow on this one as the community of educators with a disability come forward and join forces.

#LGBTed did a soft launch yesterday and will have a hard launch, an event in the spring.  Co-founded by Daniel and Hannah they have combined forces with David Weston and @OutTeacher. They have  Claire Birkenshaw (first know UK Headteacher to transition whilst in post) as an advisor to make schools more trans aware. Find out more here.

IMG_6592

#WomenEd is now nearly 3 years old! Co-founded by 7 educators, we have 5 of us as national leaders (Me, Jules, Keziah, Sameena and Vivienne) and 60+ as regional leaders in the UK and a further 10 driving the agenda internationally. We are planning our 4th national unconference for Autumn 2018, we have just reached 16,000 followers, we were nominated for a national diversity award, we were named in the TES top 10 influencers and we have a book deal with SAGE education. It has been an epic year for the #womened community! We have also just launched @WomenEd_Tech and @WomenEdBookClub Find out more here.

The schedule of the day involved 8 workshops in 4 time slots, 32 facilitated workshops and learning conversations about how we can have impact in our schools for our learners, both staff and students.

At lunchtime there was a buzz in the air as we all made human connections. Collaborations were initiated and I am excited to see how these will develop.

We closed with a panel. A diverse panel. A panel like we should see at more edu-events. It really isn’t that hard to ensure that you represent the voices of the audience and the profession at our events, whether they are grassroots or mainstream. Alison, Claire, Anna, Jonathan and Shirley represented and explored ‘How can we create a cohesive and coherent strategy to ensure a more diverse workforce?’ They reflected and shared how we can move from our why, to our how and to our what.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I asked everyone in the room to then pledge their ‘what’. What is it we can all do differently from Monday? What is we can contribute to drive the diversity agenda?

The reason why Diverse Educators primarily came about was due to yet another poster advertising yet another event with an all white, male line up. We must continue to challenge the ‘manels’ and the ‘wanels’! We must collectively challenge the lack of representation at a lot of events, as well as on SLTs, Governing and Trust boards.  We will not change the ‘pale, male, stale’ face of pockets of our profession unless we challenge and ask for change.

I lost track of how many of these events I saw last year. Equally I was invited to speak at 10 plus events last year about diversity. I challenged each event that when I realised I was the representative. There were not diverse faces on the line up, just my straight, white face and voice championing diversity! They didn’t seem to see the irony? Moreover, on the few events where there was a smidgen of diversity, the diverse voices were marginalised to the small stage and pigeonholed by their topic.

So, it only seemed right for Bennie, one of my fabulous DHTs to close the event for us.  Bennie wears all of the hats.

IMG_6584.JPG

She explored each of the labels she wears. Her speech was passionate, personal and reflective as she shared her dismay at realising that she had a disability – as if it wasn’t hard enough to be a woman, an Asian women and an Asian bisexual woman. Did she really now have to deal with being a disabled Asian bisexual woman. How many labels can one person cope with? How many glass ceilings can one educational leader smash through? Her upbeat voice and pragmatic approach gave hope to the audience that it is possible, if you find the right school, if you stay true to your values. Moreover if you lean in and embrace your authentic self and bring your whole self to school.

 

Before everyone left I played them a song. They wondered where I was taking them when Hugh Jackman appeared on the screen. But a song from his new film: This is Me, made all of the hairs stand up on my arms, my foot tap in and my heart beat. I will be using it in an assembly this half-term as the lyrics are so emotive and powerful.  The Power Pose is a source of strength for #womened, this song could be a source of strength, an anthem for our diverse educational community. Most importantly, our grassroots events are amazingly positive and uplifting, but the trolling has already started. I hope that everyone who joined us yesterday, physically and virtually, ignore the haters, take the lonely negative voices with a pinch of salt and tap into the support and positivity of the Diverse Educators community:

“Reach for the sun… Burst through the barriers… Don’t let them break you down to dust… This is me… I make no apologies… Look out here I come!”

this is me

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The impact this event will have on combining the communities and excited to already be thinking about Diverse Educators II in Jan 2019 – we are thinking 12/1/19 and moving it back a week so more can come
  • The impact that Diverse Leaders will have on our 2nd cohort of delegates – you can register here for our free #BAMEed leadership development programme: https://goo.gl/forms/pQN8cn7Iw3zOPf5I2
  • Supporting the launch of #LGBTed
  • Advocating the developments of #BAMEed and @TFBAMEcommunity
  • What #WomenEd will achieve in our 4th year

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Everyone who came to Aureus yesterday – all of the speakers who volunteered their time for free, all of the exhibitors who provided resources, refreshments (Veema), gave out books (Leadership Matters) and discounted CPD (TES Institute) to our audience
  • Pen who captured the opening discussions and reflections brilliantly.
  • Claire Birkenshaw for educating me and making me more trans aware over pizza and wine!

IMG_6590