A new school year. A more inclusive school year?
In July 2020, I urged school leaders to be cautious. In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal murder and the global reactions to racism, I was approached by numerous education institutions who felt bewildered about what to do next. There was certainly a sense of anxiety. It was understandable that organisations wanted to do something and demonstrate activity. I told them, “If you panic into this work, you’ll soon see that you’ll panic out of it”. In my experience this still stands true.
Over the past year, the most powerful discussions that we have had with school leaders have been about self-reflection, especially how we relate and respond to difference in all its forms. The conclusion of most of those conversations is that when we take an honest look at ourselves and the people around us, we don’t like diversity. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that we are naturally geared towards repelling it. It’s called ‘homophily’, the love of same.
Achieving greater diversity and more inclusive schools requires purposeful self-reflection, critique and behaviour and systems change if we are even going to have a fighting chance to create the change that education still so desperately needs.
The majority of the schools, and groups of schools, we’ve worked with have really taken this to heart. It’s been challenging for them. They’ve had to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and the institutions they’re responsible for. But, they’ve seen how this won’t serve the purpose of creating the next generation of leaders, followers and members of society. This is ground-breaking stuff.
The schools that RSAcademics and All-in Education have worked with have taken the first step in this journey, which is to listen. Listening to staff, students and alumni about their experience of belonging, psychological safety, diversity and inclusion. By supporting the senior leaders through coaching, they’ve been able to really listen to what their peers, staff, pupils and former pupils are experiencing and giving them the grounding for creating an even better experience and future.
The strategy that follows these first steps is long term and focusses on values, the business case for changing the way the school operates, the vision for what an inclusive school looks and feels like and how the institution will hold itself accountable in achieving this change.
Some schools have achieved incredible results, with one grammar school recruiting 80% non-white British staff in this year’s September intake. But, achieving greater diversity is only part of the puzzle, achieving inclusion is a totally different game.
How will you create an inclusive school?
We are delighted to be running with RSAcademics a free case study webinar on 13th October to share our experiences and those of some of our clients over the last year, and we look forward to seeing you there to help you continue your thinking on inclusivity.
If you would like to talk with me or with Russell, or a member of the Strategy, Marketing and Research team at RSAcademics, we would love to arrange a chat. You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Russell at email@example.com or a member of the Strategy team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Johan Jensen, Director of All-in Education