Integrity Coaching, the UK’s leading provider of coaching services for school leaders established by Viv Grant in 2008, has launched a new programme designed to help schools and trusts address institutional bias and drive social change.
Nearly one-year on from the death of George Floyd and inspired by the subsequent work of the Black Lives Matter movement, Integrity’s ‘Race, Identity & School Leadership’ programme is designed for senior leaders who wish to engage in conversations about race equality and achievement, supporting them to create change for their schools, themselves and their communities.
Despite the efforts of school leaders and politicians, inequalities remain a key barrier to the success of many schools. Black Caribbean children remain consistently the lowest performing group in the country (Demie & McLean, 2017).
More than half of BAME teachers report experiencing discrimination and harassment as a result of their ethnicity (Visible Minorities, Invisible Teachers report, NASUWT, 2015). The Timpson Review of school exclusion concluded that institutional racism in schools results in discriminatory practice and shapes teachers’ expectations of behaviour (Timpson Review, 2019). 85.9% of teachers and 92.9% of headteachers in state-funded schools in England are White British, compared to 78.5% of the working age population (Institutional racial discrimination in schools report, Social Market Foundation, 2020).
Director of Integrity Coaching, Viv Grant commented:
“The profound global response to the death of George Floyd in May last year has thrust race equality and social justice firmly back into the public consciousness, and communities are looking to public figures to take the lead in social change”
“As a Black woman and former headteacher myself, I believe that schools should be at the forefront of this, but I also understand all too well how difficult it is to do. The biases that need to be addressed run deep and bringing them up to the surface for discussion can be incredibly uncomfortable and, for many, highly provocative. But, as we prepare to commemorate the day George Floyd’s life was taken from him one year ago on 25th May, these discussions can no longer be avoided. Now is the time for change, and that requires courageous leadership.”
At heart, the ethos of the year-long Race, Identity & School Leadership programme is positive and progressive. It comprises a series of workshops on race, identity, school culture and practice, and reflective enquiry sessions at which the issues addressed in workshops can be discussed and worked through.
The Headteacher or trust chief executive has the option of 1:1 executive coaching support to help them develop their own professional agency and capacity for leadership. More specifically, the programme helps school leaders to identify the key principles of race equality and social justice, by reflecting on practice within their own contexts, exploring what needs to be improved and making significant adjustments in light of key discoveries.
“Critically, we aim to help leaders understand that their schools are centres of racial socialisation, and that it’s only by thinking carefully about this that they can hope to support the development of positive racial identities for everyone in their communities. The programme challenges all participants to consider their own racial identity, which can be particularly hard for White leaders as it’s not something they’re asked to do in a White culture. This is deep emotional work, and so we spend a lot of time creating the psychological safety and providing the supportive tools required for engaging in difficult conversations.”
Integrity is currently working with several schools and a multi-academy trust which have commissioned the programme and is discussing agreements with several other trusts and a local authority.
Commenting, Julia Waters, Headteacher at the Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, said:
“Integrity Coaching has been seminal in supporting us in our journey to deliver racial justice. The RISL programme has enabled our team to develop the confidence and knowledge to develop our strategy in a trusting and supportive environment, whilst my one-to-one coaching with Viv has helped me explore my own racial and cultural identity and how this affects my leadership and relationships. This opportunity to reflect on what we can do to ensure our school is more equitable and just is really valuable, and highly developmental.”
Colette Morris, Headteacher at Christ Church CE Primary School in Battersea which is also participating in the programme, added:
“If you have the privilege of working within and leading a school community, it is vital that you understand the nature of your own race and identity as well as that of the diverse community you serve. It is vital for a leader to be both racially literate and culturally competent if everyone in the community is to flourish, and if parents are to have the confidence that the school provides an anti-racist environment. Working on this course with Viv is empowering and challenging and gives us a common language for the future.”
Concluding, Viv Grant said:
“Black children and Black teachers need to know that their lives really do matter in the UK education system, and that requires their daily lived reality to change. Martin Luther King said that ‘the arc of the Universe bends towards justice’, but this depends on our participation and in particular, on leadership. This programme is an invitation to all senior school leaders to stand on the right side of history and to participate in a programme that will create new possibilities for future generations.”