Representation Matters - Part II
ASSOCIATE AND FOUNDER OF BLACK TEACHERS CONNECT, RHIA GIBBS,
ON WHY SCHOOLS NEED TO BE MORE REPRESENTATIVE AND DIVERSE TO
BETTER REFLECT OUR MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY
Why is representation important
Diversity is important in education. Students need to be able to see themselves in their teachers. Of course, this isn’t to say that White teachers can’t bring value to Black and Brown students – they absolutely can. I had many White teachers who made a positive impact on my life.
But there is something empowering about having a teacher that you can see yourself in.
BAME teachers give minority ethnic students a chance to see what academic success looks like and it also gives them something to aspire to. For children, to see an adult which looks like them possess great qualities and an abundance of knowledge leaves them feeling inspired.
After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.
Having teachers of all ethnicities is important for White students too. It serves to dismantle stereotypes and helps them see the beauty of diversity for themselves. It also exposes them to different cultures and different views of the world. This is so valuable to students, especially if we are preparing them for the wider world where they will interact with people from all walks of life.
But this can’t stop with teachers in the classroom. School leaders also need to represent their students. Headteachers and senior leaders must also be diverse. For BAME students, seeing school leaders that reflect them is empowering and it also helps them to aspire to reach those positions.
Diversity vs inclusion
Despite all the positivity around diversity, it’s important not to confuse diversity with inclusion. Having a diverse teaching workforce is great but to see the full impact, your institution must strive for inclusion.
Inclusion is giving all your staff equal opportunities and to ensure all staff feel comfortable and valued in the workplace. Only then will you see the real impact of diversity in education.
All staff should be able to have an input on policy and curriculum if there is truly going to be an education system which values all.
I believe that this is something which children should be exposed to from a very early age. Primary school is a time of curiosity and asking questions. If students are engaged in diverse and inclusive environments from this stage in their lives, it means that this will become their norm.
When they move through their lives, they will be able to question if certain environments they are in are not inclusive and they can work towards creating diversity in their own institutions.
What can you do?
How you can make change to have a real diverse and inclusive setting for your staff and students - it starts with small steps:
- Training – it is important to raise awareness and tackle unconscious bias and stereotypes that both staff and students may hold.
- Celebrate diversity in schools. Ensure that all holidays are celebrated and recognised.
- Use images/resources that reflect your students. When delivering lessons think about the pictures you use and the names that are used. Can you use the name Emmanuel instead of Harry? Do you typically use images of White people – can you change this?
- Get support – we can help support schools in creating diverse and inclusive environments.
- Commit to long lasting change for the right reasons. Don’t engage in diversity for diversity’s sake.
The push towards a diverse and inclusive education system is not easy but it’s worth it and the we don't have to look too far for the consequences of not doing it.
Click here to read part one.
This blog first appeared on the Foundation Stage Forum website.
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