Today, the Headteachers of the eleven schools of the King Edward VI Foundation in Birmingham met with representatives of their Student Councils to discuss ways in which the school communities could work together to strengthen our shared and deeply-held commitment to eradicating racism and to developing a strong culture in which all our students can flourish in diversity from the moment they enter our schools.
Together, we have identified three areas of focus:
• Reporting and pastoral systems
The King Edward VI schools take allegations of racism very seriously, but we acknowledge that the experience of our students is that they sometimes find it difficult to report incidents and are unsure whether their allegations will be thoroughly investigated. We will examine ways in which this can be improved, including the use of better reporting mechanisms and restorative approaches where appropriate. The creation of school societies and education about diversity could also help to address issues relating to casual racism and “banter”. We will look to encourage staff and students to be confident in talking about their heritage and background and support positive peer-to-peer interactions.
We recognise that the diversity of our staff does not match the diversity of our student body across our schools as a whole. We will consider ways in which this can be addressed, building on the best practice in our schools and recognising that this is a broader issue for the teaching profession. Our own King Edward’s Consortium has worked very hard in recent years to increase the number of BAME applicants. We will set up a separate Governors Equalities Committee to draw together linked areas such as equal pay, narrowing the gender pay gap and equality of opportunity in terms of training and career progression. We will make available training in unconscious bias for all staff.
We will seek to build on the work that has already been undertaken in many of our schools to ensure that our curriculum reflects the rich heritage of our city and our student body. The history of Birmingham provides many touchpoints on which an exciting curriculum could be built that incorporates the impact of colonialism and the contribution that diverse communities have made to the development of the city. Our Foundation Archive also contains much valuable information about Birmingham’s history in relation to racism.
However, it is not just history where a review would be beneficial. We will establish working groups to consider other areas of the curriculum (such as the Arts, Humanities and Science) where the work and influence of BAME artists, thinkers and scholars should be taught explicitly, drawing on the work, where appropriate, of BAME academics.
We believe that a commitment to action has far more value that a mere statement of intent. We will therefore, working with our Student Councils, establish a special committee to be formed from September to support this work. This committee would liaise with the various action groups that have already been set up in individual schools. It would provide a single, consistent voice for the student body across all eleven schools on these important issues.
We envisage that the committee would designate some of its members to liaise with a series of working parties of staff from across the Foundation’s schools, each of which will be
charged with developing recommendations for action to be presented to the eleven Headteachers and the Foundation on the three areas set out above.
Together, these recommendations will form the basis of a Foundation-wide action plan that will be approved by the Foundation Board and the individual School Governing Bodies. The Headteacher group will take ownership of the implementation of that plan and will report regularly on progress.
We recognise that the scale of change envisaged will take time to implement and that the areas we have covered will not, in themselves, be enough to eradicate racism in our schools and communities. However, they represent important steps towards our shared goal of an equal and fair society.