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Embedding anti-racism and gender equality: where to begin...

After leading an extremely successful inset session with my own staff, I left feeling quite elated. Not only did everyone contribute, everyone was also willing to share their own views and opinions, free from any anxiousness about asking questions, leaving me with the realisation (not for the first time, might I add), that I have the pleasure of working with a wonderful team of staff who really understand, and truly believe in, our school values, curriculum drivers, the quest for social justice and our pivotal role in making change happen. Our school culture has created a safe space, rich in discussion, where we all felt comfortable sharing our life experiences and how these might have an impact on our work as educators. Creating a school where equality is truly embedded into its very fabric is not a challenge for us. It is a journey we have been on since I became head teacher there in 2016. What has become clear to me is that anti-racism and gender equality cannot be embedded in a school unless everyone is willing to put in the personal work that is required. When I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE! Emotional literacy is key: a willingness to address any discomfort and defensiveness head on, leading to the reflection and growth that is necessary to be able to focus on the task at hand which is: positive action towards anti-racism, gender equality, and eventually equity. No, we cannot change the systemic issues, they are for our government to accept are a national reality and prioritise more highly, but we can, as school leaders, effect positive change ‘on the ground’. Our role is fundamental. School leaders will have to do a fair amount of personal work in order to effectively lead their school in the quest for equality. This in itself is courageous leadership. Being willing to be vulnerable; being willing to explore your own identity and how that can impact on your professional life; having the skills to develop similar skills in your staff. School leaders must cultivate the right kind of ethos and culture whereby staff not only have the opportunity to work on their own personal development, but also relish in doing so. Once that is done, then the real work can begin.

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