Leadership programme

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – it matters and it’s hard to get right

Joel Edmund

HLTA

Wapping High School

Within the modern educational day job, working alongside students from all backgrounds, do we ever stop to think whether this work covers all the protected characteristics when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for staff and students? As someone who works with a majority of students from different cultural, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds, with all different needs, from physical disabilities to non-visible, I try to think that I’m doing my best to ensure that every child matters and is included within the education system to get the best learning they can achieve.

The positive thing about having and teaching DEI in schools is that it prepares students for the future, makes their school experience more enjoyable, creates a safe space for pupils to come and learn, and a second home, because all members of staff are the extended family to our learners. It opens different perspectives through our learning so that we can see other walks of life.

However, within schools, we need support in promoting DEI within our establishments to ensure that our learners become the model citizens we try to motivate and inspire. There has been a shift in thinking on DEI by some parents due to their lack of school-specific knowledge about what is being taught, and the constant misinformation from social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat. Furthermore, the emergence of influencers’ presence on social media platforms has directly impacted parents' understanding of how DEI should be treated in classrooms, sometimes making them more reluctant to support educators in tackling the critical aspects of DEI in lessons. For example, the lack of communication between home and school in this digital era has been observed as creating a disjointed understanding of the main messages of DEI, which has led to conflict and disagreement between pupils and teachers, teachers and parents on issues like black lives matters, transgender people, and other current recent public debates.

We take DEI at Wapping High very seriously, as we are very good at celebrating, displaying and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, which makes me very proud to be a part of the Wapping community. We hold culture days when we invite the students and staff to come to school in traditional dress to represent their cultures. We also deliver personal growth sessions that highlight and address age-appropriate current affairs issues for all year groups. On Friday lunchtimes, we allow the students to lead and take Jumu’ah (afternoon prayers), which they organise, bringing the school community together.

Since joining the DEI Working Group as part of Next Big 10 with other members of staff from both primary and secondary schools, I have had an insightful journey. We are working towards making a universal DEI diagnostic or script to help support those needing to have those sensitive conversations with parents and carers of our learners, reassuring them and making them feel comfortable with the topics discussed. In trying to finalise these questions for our staff, pupil and learner survey, we have had a few bumps in the road, for example making them user-friendly, whilst recognising that some of the words may be challenging for both parents and learners to understand, but I'm sure once we have got this right, the feedback from the diagnostic will be insightful, enjoyable and exciting to discover.

I would like to thank Gary Nelson, Tom Raw, Jonathan Palmer, Serra Saunders, Nicolette Sorba and the Big Education Team for letting me be a part of something big and beneficial to all schools. I look forward to the next steps and the project's journey, as it has given me a broader perspective on how we look at schools as a whole.

Joel Edmund, HLTA, Wapping High School

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This blog is from a school taking part in The Next Big 10, a programme for schools who are transforming education against strong headwinds

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