Learn how to ensure your school is representative of the diverse society in which your pupils live, from Azuraye Williams.

My name is Azuraye Williams and I am a year 6 teacher, Science Lead, Diversity and Inclusion Lead and the PE Lead at an inner-city school in the East Midlands. I will shortly be going into my 10th year of teaching, but this year has definitely been the most challenging, exciting and engaging in various ways.

Over this year, I have been developing my diversity and inclusion role within my school and across my trust. This is a role that I am extremely passionate about as I feel every child has a right to feel included in their education. A saying I have always stood by is, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and with diversity and inclusion, this is very true.

Diversity and inclusion

My true passion is for all schools to represent the multi-diverse society that the children are growing up in and will later enter into as adults. It is so important that we, as educators, equip our next generation with the skills, knowledge and understanding that it will take for them to thrive in our ever-changing world. We need to open up this world to them in the classroom and allow them to feel included within their own community, but also allow them to see their place within the wider world.

I personally grew up as a young black girl not seeing myself within the school curriculum. I did not see myself in the books I read, the people I was exposed to or the history I was taught. Now, as a teacher myself, I know first-hand how engaging and exciting it can be when a child sees themselves represented within their school. It gives children a sense of ownership, importance and belonging. We all want to feel as though we belong and the children within our schools need to feel this too.

 

My role

My role as Diversity Lead started when I wrote an email to my CEO asking if there was anything our trust could do to educate our children on diversity and inclusion after the George Floyd murder and BLM protests. I felt it was important to address this in school, especially as our children were in lockdown and many of them may have been more exposed to these events than they would have been previously. My CEO responded very positively to my email and this started a chain of events. Since the initial meeting, I have presented to multiple groups across our trust and it has been made a trust priority.

My main priorities within school and across the trust are to develop and engage staff to support the breadth of diversity that we have within our schools and our community. I currently run a Diversity Professional Learning Community (PLC) to support the diversity leads across our trust who can then support others within their schools. I have a true passion to ensure all children and staff feel included, supported and ‘seen’ within the curriculum, staffing structure and throughout the whole ethos of the school.

I support on many PLCs, and I have spoken to many stakeholders across our trust, including head teacher networks, trust trustee meetings, teacher training and NQT networks. This is to show that the work I do is as important to the CEO and the headteachers as it is to the trainee teachers. It is everyone’s responsibility in school and across the trust to ensure diversity is represented throughout.

I have recently teamed up with a local charity which is raising money to provide local schools with diverse books to support the curriculum and encourage reading for pleasure. I organised a ‘Run to read’ event at our school and we raised over £100 for the charity. This also enabled our parents to see the importance of diversity and start to feel included in the work we are doing. Another part of my role is to reach out to our local stakeholders (parents, governors and the local community) to broaden our diversity contacts and links within our school. Our parents have been very supportive of our journey and it is important that they see the message and ethos that we are trying to covey. We are also a C of E church school and I have held meetings with our governors and local church members to ensure our links within the community and our local church are developed.

Growth in your school

When you start to embed diversity and inclusion within your school, it is very important that you begin with the staff. Look around and see who is on the SLT and governing body. Does the school have a diverse leadership team? What do you think the staff’s core values and views are on this matter? Do the staff feel comfortable enough to have these conversations with each other and bring these discussions into the classroom?

As an Inclusion Lead, it is very important that you focus on the ethos and the culture within school so that everyone understands WHY this is so important for your school community. You also need to look at the curriculum to ensure that it is inclusive, not only for the children in the school but also the world they are part of.

Many schools feel that if their school context is White- British, they do not need to do the work within their school. This is not the case. In fact, it is usually more important that the children and staff within these schools do work around this and expose these children to different cultures and world experiences that they would not be exposed to otherwise.

Key takeaways

The key take-aways from this to develop your school’s diversity and inclusion are:

  • Support staff to see your vision and feel comfortable with these discussions.
  • Look at the curriculum to see where diversity and inclusion is embedded and where this needs to be developed.
  • Don’t just focus on key days or events – make it a constant focus.
  • Small changes that count are better than big changes that are forgotten.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility in school to drive this forward.

Remember, when you first start this journey, it may seem like there is a lot of work to do. My answer to this is that there is. It is not a short fix or an easy task, but with clear focused steps and a whole-school vision, it will make a huge difference to the children you teach – and allow all children to engage in the diverse community that they all belong to.

Author

  • Azuraye Williams

    Azuraye is a Year 6 teacher who is passionate about diversity and inclusion in our schools. She has a true passion for representation in all our schools through the ethos, teachings, staffing and curriculum.

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