REPRESENTATION, ROLE MODELS AND REALITY
Posted on 18th January 2024 at 13:47
This blog is inspired by a thread initiated by @msybibi (Yamina Bibi) that I engaged with on X, formerly known as Twitter, stemming from her participation in the @ChilternTSH #REND event on July 15th. The acronym REND stands for Racial Equity Network Dinner. This remarkable event, among other crucial messages, highlighted leadership narratives from individuals who, at first glance, may not have been perceived as leaders. The subsequent expressions of appreciation, love, and respect in tweets from school leaders and supporters who attended underscored the inspiration drawn from the journeys of those who had overcome challenges.
What defines a leader's appearance? Precisely. There is no set formula, no prerequisite, no 'ideal.' However, the representation of Global Majority leaders in schools remains unacceptably low. As noted by Yamina, stories of challenges, unconscious bias, and racism have become integral to the leadership journey for Global Majority school leaders. While all leaders face challenges and unconscious bias, race adds an additional layer, hindering talented Global Majority teachers and middle leaders. A Guardian article from January 2022 on systemic racism articulates this reality and interestingly, this was challenged again in another newspaper article during June 2023 (Lack of diversity in teaching in England means minority ethnic pupils miss out).
The question arises: why is this the exception rather than the norm? Examining the classroom reveals that experiences for Global Majority children often do not foster a lifelong love of education. Statistics indicate that policies rooted in white culture disproportionately penalize Global Majority children for their cultural values. Children of Black African or Black Caribbean descent are more likely to face suspension compared to their White counterparts.
Statistics from the Department for Education's publication Permanent Exclusion and Suspensions in England 2019-2020 highlight these disparities. Understanding the complex reasons behind suspensions and exclusions requires careful consideration of socio-economic factors.
To change these statistics, we must ensure a different narrative. How do we engage, nurture, and develop future school leaders from diverse backgrounds if we fail to sustain their interest in learning? The disconnect needs exploration.
As an avid gardener seeks optimal conditions for plant growth, we must similarly ensure educational environments promote growth. Are we committed to providing high-quality education for all, with a curriculum reflecting and enabling diversity within our school communities? Until schools adopt a holistic and strategic approach, addressing concerns beyond initiatives and carrot-and-stick strategies, change remains elusive.
It seems that those from the Global Majority entering education as teachers and leaders may adopt various approaches. Some may choose not to acknowledge their race/ethnicity, while others fully embrace and leverage their unique diversity traits. A desire for a genuine meritocracy can also coexist. These approaches don't negate one another; we all belong to the Global Majority, bringing diverse identities and perspectives.
I am dedicated to supporting school leaders in nurturing ALL children, particularly Global Majority children and young people. The diversity of our workforce won't improve unless we cultivate our seeds – the future diverse school leaders – with genuine care. In conclusion, what does a leader look like? There's no fixed formula. We have the power to shape the leadership landscape. Let's strive for the best.
© Audrey Pantelis
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