Supporting diversity in teaching and school leadership positions is a challenge for the education sector, but also an opportunity to deliver better representation for children in schools.
In our webinar, we welcomed three passionate leaders to share valuable insight into inclusive education recruitment practices:
• Nicole Reid, CEO, New Wave Federation
• Karen Burns, CEO, Victorious Academies Trust
• Kemi Arogundade, COO, Association of BAME Business Leaders in Education
The panel spoke about the importance of diversity and discussed the exciting opportunities that school leaders have to support BAME staff.
“Children should understand diversity is something to celebrate, not to tolerate”
Summary: Staff often reflect and mirror the community the school is serving. If it isn’t a diverse context and population, it can be difficult to recruit candidates from different backgrounds. That gives schools an even bigger responsibility to expose young people to different backgrounds and cultures so they’re prepared for society.
Key insight: It can be helpful to consider the needs of the school and how a diverse staff can improve social awareness and multiculturalism. Children need to understand diversity just as much as they need Maths and English - these are key skills that come together to give them the ability to adapt well to different communities and cultures when they leave school.
Opportunities: Diversity can be an acceptable basis for recruitment. It should be possible to make bold statements about who you want to recruit, in the same way you’d advertise for a great maths leader or a great science teacher. Children's learning comes first and foremost, but reflecting on why your post is or isn’t attracting candidates from different backgrounds is important to address.
“Conscious or unconscious bias can affect our judgement”
Summary: The panel described having a willingness to acknowledge bias and where our own bias stems from. It should be approached with complete honesty and transparency. People tend to develop their own bias based on their own lived experience, and these can be worked on so you approach decision-making with a scrutinised self-awareness and really acknowledge your own unconscious bias.
Key insight: It can be helpful to have practical measures in place, such as removing personal data. Therefore, you only see an educator's ethos and what they can offer pupils. Then have a face-to face-interview and give candidates an opportunity to talk about what they can offer pupils. That’s when their ability will come across the most. Be mindful that you challenge assumptions based on qualifications or characteristics, and factors such as name bias.
Opportunities: Zen introduced an Anonymise feature to encourage blind recruitment. It is an effective way to recruit more diverse staff. Removing identifying factors such as age, ethnicity and gender from an application, before shortlisting, can make it easier for candidates to feel like they are judged on merit and not their protected characteristic.
“Create opportunities for BAME teachers and make that known in a very structured way"
Summary: Platforms such as Twitter provide proactive opportunities to speak to educators from different cultures and backgrounds. Using these resources, you and your staff can develop the language and confidence to engage in matters, whether that is diversifying the staff body or student curriculum, or dealing with children’s questions or misunderstandings about diversity.
Key insight: Have a tiered system in place so educators know exactly what they need to do to progress further, or what professional development they need to strengthen their experience. Make sure BAME employees know progression routes available to them, the skills and expertise they can develop and support them to have the courage, determination and self belief to access that professional development.
Opportunities: Look internally at existing staff who may not yet have experience for the roles they aspire to. They can be supported through mentorship, coaching, increased opportunities for networking or work shadowing. Having active allies in the profession can be a great benefit.
We hope you feel inspired to deliver ethical recruitment to the school community you serve. As Nicole said:
“As educators, you need to educate yourself and think about what having a diverse body of staff means to you. Then you will know when to do the right thing.”