Tackling Educational Inequity in Schools: How can School Leaders Address This?

Recognising our unconscious bias 

As an ex-assistant headteacher working in primary schools in London, I know that unconscious bias is often an uncomfortable yet necessary topic for discussion. We are all guilty of inadvertent and unconscious bias at some point in our lives, whether it be based on race, gender, class or other preconceived ideas about a particular person. As a result, learners (and teachers alike) may be subject to microaggressions – continuously mispronouncing names, setting low expectations for learners from particular groups, confusion around a student’s gender, assigning work or projects that are not accessible to pupils with fewer resources. School leaders face the challenge of creating a culture which continuously reflects and evolves practices so that no member of their school community is disadvantaged or underserved, and challenging conversations are not shied away from. Recognising that biases are present and taking action to address this is the first step to creating a more inclusive and forward-thinking learning environment. 

Representation and role models 

Representation is key when it comes to making learning accessible and enjoyable for all. This could mean representation in terms of school staff or other people that learners are exposed to, or representation in terms of the curriculum and the school environment itself. Do children and young people have the opportunity to really ‘see themselves’ in their school environment and the materials used in class? Are there a range of books offering different perspectives and written by a variety of ethnicities? Does the curriculum incorporate a variety of significant figures and viewpoints? Do lessons actively address and challenge stereotypes?

The importance of having role models and diverse representation within the school cannot be underestimated. It also encourages learners to consider different perspectives that they may not usually encounter in their day-to-day lives, developing a curiosity for different narratives and an appreciation of other people’s experiences. We owe it to the next generation to provide them with the tools they need to not only overcome but challenge and dismantle the barriers that have prevented so many young people from reaching their full potential in the past. 

AI techology and systems plays a part

In recent years the development of AI technology has led to one way for teachers to cater more effectively for all their students, by rejecting the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of traditional teaching. AI technology and systems can be used to personalise learning experiences to the unique needs of each student and provide differentiated assistance by adapting to each learner’s pace, providing translation services, andor improving accessibility. With access to a wealth of knowledge and tools at our fingertips, there is now no excuse to not consider the differing perspectives of the young people in our care. Although there are valid ethical concerns about how AI systems can perpetuate biases based on the data they are trained on, this can also act as a useful tool in teaching learners to think critically and scrutinise a source for biases or discrimination. 

Challenging the conversations and curriculum 

Diversity and ‘woke’ culture seem to be hot topic of conversation in today’s society and some believe that the push for more diverse representation in recent years is ‘political correctness gone mad’. This negative discourse has somewhat clouded what the intention of creating more universally diverse spaces truly set out to be – removing barriers to inclusion so that everybody has the chance to succeed. In the world of education, leaders are acknowledging this within their schools and attempting to actively drive a cultural change so that everyone is celebrated in every classroom in every school. The challenge now is to ensure that schools continue to embrace change and develop more ways to enable all learners to thrive. 

SAfE is offering subject leaders and middle leaders the chance to develop a diverse curriculum by attending Diverse Educators’ Middle Leaders Conference on 27th June. This session will focus on supporting both primary and secondary educators to design and implement a diverse curriculum, so that all children and young people in their schools can develop a sense of belonging and inclusion. 

Book a place on SAfE & Diverse Educator’s Middle Leaders Conference here

Author

Emma Johnston, SAfE’s Lead for for Education Equity

E.Johnston@schoolsallexcel.com

Schools Alliance For Excellence (SAfE) supports inclusion and excellence

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