Voices for the Future

By Claire Price   @claireprice1

These last few days have felt insurmountable.

Last Monday, on the 25th May 2020, the world witnessed the death of a black man at the hands of the police. Videos of the death of George Floyd circulated and we felt diminished and we felt angry.

On Tuesday, the government finally published their report into the impact of Covid-19 on health outcomes on BAME people in the UK. The report described the problem but failed to address why this may be the case. Given the huge disparity in deaths of health care professionals from a BAME background compared with their white colleagues, this seemed to be a staggering oversight.

These events have a too-common theme. Mishandling of events, be they by the President of the US, or in the publication of a report, comes down to structural racism. Killing black men on the street and killing BAME health care workers in our hospitals may seem like they are a world apart, but they are not.

Today, I was working through the relative risks of teachers and support staff in planning a wider opening of school. How do I assess the risks of a young black teacher taking public transport to school? The black teacher who has seen 12 close friends die from Covid during this epidemic? The Bangladeshi teacher who is too scared to come to work? And how do I measure this up against the directions of a government who can describe the statistics but makes no attempt to explain them?

The answer is that school leaders have to step up; in the absence of ethical leadership we need to create it.

Schools are complicit in allowing institutional racism to flourish. Failing to notice that a disproportionate number of our exclusions are for black students or failing to address disparity in the outcomes for black boys isn’t just siding with the oppressor, it is being the oppressor. We may not be killing BAME students in our corridors, but we don’t always do a great job of preventing the causes.So what must we do?

Firstly, recognise the problem and call it out. Look closely at the representation of BAME students who are not able to access online work and do something about it. Identify the BAME students moving up to your school in September and assume that they may be facing a double jeopardy and put in place enhanced transition.

Provide mentors, role models and bespoke support. Take time to hear the voices and needs of BAME students and don’t assume a cultural homogeneity or a universality of support. Address the health fears of returning to school as a BAME student right now. Identify the fears of coming into school as a BAME student every day. Identify the ethnicity of your staff at all levels and work hard to make sure that all groups are represented. Don’t mistake stepping aside to give a BAME person a voice or a platform with anti-racism, seek out, expand your networks, give BAME professionals the first opportunity. Accept that your school is racist, and work as hard as you can to confront, change and campaign against this. Be an ally. Amplify voices, celebrate experiences and care.

I am one of the network leaders for @WomenEdEnglandand we are actively seeking to amplify new voices. For us, leading differently means just that. This year one of our #WomenEd campaigns focuses on diversity and in particular representation of BAME women as school leaders. We would love you to work with us to identify people who have the words and need the platform to speak from.

This summer we are running an online event to launch @WomenEdEngland. It is called Voices for the Future and we would like all the voices to be new voices, aspirant leaders, people who just want to make the future better than the present. We will be putting out requests for speakers in the next weeks, please look out for this on @WomenEd and @WomenEdEngland and think about putting yourself forward and encourage others to contribute too. 

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