Coaching & Leadership Development
Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

  This blog comes from Vice Principal and Co Founder of Mindful Equity, Aretha Banton (@Reah_banton) I don’t want to be positioned as the angry Black girl in the corner, who when she tells her truth is isolated, unheard and ignored. But, when we have discussions about race and equality with our colleagues, this is too often the reality. So, what do we do? We stop speaking, we conform and we accept the unacceptable in the hope that one day, we will make it to a level where we can influence change. Our compromise… our pact… is silence. I recently came across this tweet: ‘Calling white educators! Check out the links below… Learn something new about BAME and education. #BlackLivesMatter’. This got me thinking. Why did my fellow educators need a tweet to call them to action? Why didn’t they speak to me when they passed me in the hallway? Why didn’t they speak to me when we had lunch in the canteen or a drink in the pub? Why didn’t they speak to me when we were planning the curriculum? Why did the tweeter assume that Black educators somehow have an innate knowledge of Black history and therefore do not need to learn more? Why are we so scared of speaking to each other about race? Bold Conversations about Race Silence is a major issue. The ability to speak openly and freely is heavily tainted with fear and judgement. In order to really move forwards we need to ensure that our schools are safe places — safe for students, safe for staff, safe for governors, safe for parents. It takes a lot...
Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

This blog comes from NLE and Headteacher of Brookside Academy, Brian Walton (@Oldprimaryhead1) I sit at my school desk reading an email from a former student… I am writing to you today, following the recent death of George Floyd, an African American man who was murdered at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota on the 25th of May 2020. For the first time in my existence, I have found a confidence within me to address the distressing issues that I have felt, and am still feeling as a person of colour, due to the triggering exposure that George Floyd’s death has created within the media.   I pause… wondering where this letter will take me, immediately feeling out of my depth. Though I have had a blessed career working in diverse communities such as Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets and Easton in Central Bristol and I have been a trustee for charities such as Think Global and Young Citizens which schooled me through first hand experience in fighting for justice and advocacy… I realise I am not comfortable discussing race with people of colour. It is not something I do… ever. What I do not realise, as I begin reading these emails, is what a profound impact having this conversation would have on me. When it came to my race, I was unsure as to who I could turn to when I was upset at school. All my friends were white, all my teachers were white, all my dinner ladies were white, so as a child, I felt my racial experiences couldn’t be discussed on a...
Why Every Teacher should do Race Identity Work

Why Every Teacher should do Race Identity Work

This blog comes from Understood Mentor Fellow and reading specialist, Shaquala Butler.   As an educator, my main job is to advocate for my students — and to help them advocate for themselves. To do this, I have to get to know my students and see them as individuals with unique life experiences.   But first, I need to know myself. I have to understand my racial identity and confront any personal biases I may have. These biases can affect our work and hinder our students.   This year more than ever, this self-work is important as we head back to school. The current events around racial injustice and the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affect communities of colour, especially Black communities. We have to understand the challenges our students are facing. Taking a close look at ourselves is hard, but it can ultimately help our students thrive.   Examining my privilege     We must begin with self-work around our own racial identity and how it relates to our country, its systems as a whole, and privilege.   “Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” Peggy McIntosh   I begin my identity work by naming where I have privilege in the classroom. Once I name it, I think...
How to Build a Culture of Kindness in Your School

How to Build a Culture of Kindness in Your School

  This blog comes from international teacher and author of “Becoming a Successful International Teacher”, Jess Gosling (@JessGosling2).   When kindness and wellbeing are central to a school’s ethos, staff and teachers thrive. The school becomes a positive place to work, retention rates go up and a true sense of community is fostered.    In a workplace where staff feel valued and appreciated, this feeling can be experienced by all those who come to the school. In my early days as a supply teacher in the UK, I could walk around a school and tell pretty quickly the ones in which staff were happy.   There would be laughter in the staffroom, a friendly reception from the headteacher and an appreciation for my work. In a school where wellbeing was not of importance, staff tended to avoid the staffroom and were clearly stressed, which made the environment feel unwelcoming.   So, how can you go about fostering a culture of kindness and a feeling of wellbeing at your school? 1. Get to know your staff   Staff are at their best when they feel comfortable and welcome, so make sure you take the time to learn about their lives. Ask about their family, their weekend, what they’re interested in. Even just a simple “how are you?” can help teachers to feel valued.   Senior leaders can sometimes feel uncomfortable about joining in with staff social events but they are a great opportunity to talk to everyone, from the learning assistants through to the curriculum leaders. If, as a leader, you organise social events yourself, make sure they’re inclusive. Teachers with families, for...
3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

I recently wrote an article for the TES to mark the 12 month anniversary of the death of George Floyd. If you’d read my original article on the TES website, please click here   After George Floyd was murdered on 25 May 2020, a colleague said to me that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. I felt the same. Throughout my teaching career, I have witnessed myriad manifestations of racism and a plethora of race equality and social justice initiatives.   Yet, despite the good intentions behind these, the single narrative of colonialism and empire still dominated our classrooms, along with deficit models for addressing the underachievement of pupils from racially marginalised groups. But over the past 12 months, I have felt a growing sense of hope.   I’ve seen that when attempts were made to silence those talking about the institutionalised racism here in the UK, people refused to acquiesce. Collective voices for social justice, equality and equity have continued to speak truth to power.   And I am hopeful because, after 30-plus years in education, things feel different. Schools that I have engaged with as part of our Race, Identity and School Leadership Programme are now recognising that new race equality narratives cannot be written overnight.   They are recognising that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong commitment, one that has as much to do with decolonising their own minds as it has to do with decolonising the curriculum.   The legacy of George Floyd: the need to tackle racism in schools   This gives me hope for the future. At long last, teachers and school leaders are beginning to see that, within...
How does Coaching support School Improvement?

How does Coaching support School Improvement?

This blog comes from our associate coach, organisational expert and former school governor, Ben Gibbs. ‘The fallacy of rationalism is the assumption that the social world can be altered by logical argument. The problem, as George Bernard Shaw observed, is that “reformers have the idea that change can be achieved by brute sanity”.’ Michael Fullan (1991)   One of coaching’s greatest achievements over the last 30 years is to have moved the focus of leadership development from an over-emphasis on decision-making and rational authority, towards a model which prioritises understanding and empathy; from IQ to EQ (emotional intelligence), if you like.   Arguably, one of coaching’s greatest strengths is its focus on the individual and the development of their personal and professional capacity; it’s ability to provide a space in which the soul can emerge as a guide to practice.   It is possible as a coach, however, to go further than this, and to have an impact beyond the individual. Coaching can be used as a form of organisational consultancy; of school improvement.   Present challenges   The challenges faced by all organisations – including schools – which operate in contexts defined by the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the 21st century, cannot be addressed by heroic individual leaders.   In fact, the speed of technological, environmental, economic and organisational change makes a mockery of the very idea of the heroic leader; that lone ranger, setting an example through individual endeavour and inspiring followership through sheer force of personality (backed by the threat of the pistol in his holster!).   Leadership is now a collective act which requires...