On 3rd December I waited nervously for the BBC News feature that was filmed in my school to accompany findings from NASUWT BME Conference. I discussed the significance of having proportionate numbers of BAME groups in the educators and leaders of the UK. The conference raised the barriers and ceilings that were present in the profession that prevented this from occurring. This was to be the moment when the issue came to the forefront; the discussion builder. Then, Chelsea football club issued a statement on a reported historical issue and took over the 24 hour news channel.
This example is symptomatic. In a world where we have dedicated the full 24hrs available to capturing every moment of relevant (and irrelevant) news, a discussion on ethnic and cultural differentiation in leadership is unable to eke out time. Repeatedly, the public message is that it is not a significant issue, it is not of notable impact. Browse through any major conference’s chosen lineup, any list of experts in education, any selected Executive Trust or Governance and think about this idea. The ‘meritocratic’ leadership of UK education continues to lie within its traditionally selected group, to divert from the selection process would lower standards; bring mediocrity. Instead we keep the mould, reinforce the mould in the belief that if anyone is good enough they will fit into the shape of historical leaders. Think, deliberate and decide in the shape of our historical leaders. Great minds think alike. The appearance of our desired definition of great minds is just coincidental.
Perhaps if we spoke less in term of the ‘meritocracy’ and other assumptions of inherent greatness but more in terms of obtained opportunity. Are the opportunities to demonstrate excellence in education leadership, policy design and ideas limited to a specific group of connected persons to the exclusion of others? If we were to survey those leaders in education would we find commonalities equivalent to those of the Bullingdon Club. Have we lost the desire and capacity to provide a platform to an unknown voice that may present a perspective that does not blend with the common narrative? Would sharing the opportunities for voices to be heard be one risk too far?
I do not want to start a conversation about diversity. Those conversations take place every day and form a major part in constructing the current reality. We hold conversation on diversity when we wonder the origin of a name, when we look at education backgrounds for schools we recognise, when we meet a person and observe what they wear or how they greet. We discuss diversity when we wonder more about where an accent originates rather than what is the message that voice brings. These internal and external discussions about diversity have maintained a status in education that is static; recognition of the working of the system. No need to change.
No more discussion. No more words acknowledging empathy from which no action originate. I act to bring active participation of variety of voices. I act until it becomes natural to everyone to browse a list of educators and recognise when intersectionality is or isn’t present and address it. Moreover, I act so it becomes natural to look at a group of potential teachers, leaders, educators and see the potential for excellence not the monochrome expectation of what fits the mould. If it is not there, I act to support those who will go seek it. There is no change without effort. There is no evolution without breaking the mould. The face of society is changing, the face of the education sector must lead the way.
At school I showed students the copy of the BBC news feature that had been sent to me. The class of 11yr olds as diverse as London itself, excitedly watched themselves on the screen then sat in silent aftermath. Eventually a voice ventured out. “Miss. How come this isn’t as important as the football news?” They got the unconscious message. I had no answer.View comments (0)