Reflecting on change of society through tragedy
I hope you enjoy the different articles in Highlife this week; you may notice two articles around diversity, equity and inclusion in this edition. This is not surprising, as we approach the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder on 25 May and memories of the seismic explosion of anger in 2020 resurface. In South East London too, 22 April carries great significance as Stephen Lawrence Day. Quite rightly, we are reflecting on what has changed in society since both of those tragedies, but more specifically what is really changing in our school communities.
Since May last year, a great deal has been happening in school and the GDST. You can read about our own students representing Blackheath at the GDST Student Diversity Council in this edition of Highlife. Both senior and junior girls heard about projects and initiatives in each other’s schools around the theme of diversity, with a view to bringing new ideas back into our own schools. Mimo and Ellie from Year 6 spoke about our Art Project, inspired by the work of a local artist, Yinka Shonibare. Tamsin and Emma in Year 12 presented on the work that Equality Society have been doing in school to educate and raise awareness and will be meeting with me to share the ideas they found most inspiring in the other GDST schools, that we might learn from. This is a great example of the powerful GDST network doing its thing! It is incredibly important to us in school, that our pupils are helping us to drive forward areas for change, so this dialogue will be influential in deciding our next focus.
Behind the scenes, we have been gathering and marshalling data and information, so that we can really focus our energies meaningfully and with impact, where needed. One important piece of work completed this year, was the GDST pupil survey (Years 5-13) on inclusion. I was really pleased that our school had one of the highest completion rates on the survey, meaning we had access to some really important insights. I will be sharing much of this information with senior girls in assembly next week and I think it gives great impetus to ideas already in the pipeline.
The visibility of different positive role models has been reinforced as something that is incredibly important. This might mean: hearing from Wollstonecraft speakers of a range of ethnicities; being taught by teachers who reflect the composition of the pupil body; seeing all different shapes of family life reflected in school resources; seeing diversity in curriculum topics or hearing about the uniquely positive qualities that neuro-diverse adults might bring to a workplace in a careers talk. These important opportunities in school are incredibly powerful in how our pupils feel about themselves. We are been moving forward in several areas to do even better in our role modelling and resources in school.
We were delighted to receive a generous donation from the BHSA to boost our library provision in the Junior School and Mrs Cannell has done a fantastic job at seeking out great resources to inspire and educate our girls. We have thought very consciously about raising the visibility of the all the different religious festival celebrated by members of our school community throughout the year and also been thinking broadly about the profile of speakers we invite for girls to hear from. Our recent ‘Women in Leadership’ event was a great example of this, particularly memorable speakers have included Carina White (Anti-Racism month) and Griselda Togobo (Women in Leadership). In Years 10 and 11, we are working with Dr Victoria Showunmi of UCL on a ‘Young Black Women’s Project’ discussion group which is very exciting indeed and we hope to roll out to involve other GDST schools as well.
Our next phase of work is likely to focus on the curriculum more sharply and supporting our curriculum leaders in exploring opportunities to refresh and revisit topics and content with an eye on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We also would like to see even more of a student voice on the issues that really matter to the pupils. It’s all incredibly valuable work and very much in the spirit and tradition at Blackheath of valuing every single individual for their unique talents and being creative and open-minded in our approaches.
Finally for those who are interested, on Thursday 13 May at 12pm I will be chairing a webinar on the Future of Education with some really interesting guests. We will have a strong focus on the role of Ed Tech and our pastoral challenges and you are very welcome to join.