It is two years since the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis brought worldwide attention to racial inequality and the need for action to drive fundamental change.
An internal challenge was issued to Herts for Learning (HfL) senior leaders about the role we should play in helping to eradicate systemic racism within education, and within our own organisation. We swiftly met this challenge with a positive response, establishing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) commitment to become an anti-racist organisation through the release of our first Black Lives Matter statement. We re-iterated this position 12 months later on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.
Over the past 12 months, HfL has continued to strive towards this ambition. We have built upon on our 2021 commitments both internally and in our continuing work with schools, settings and trusts. Two appointments – a dedicated EDI Officer and a Race Equality Adviser – have helped to support our increased focus in moving ahead with both our internal and schools-facing agendas respectively.
Our work within Herts for Learning
Our work within HfL is driven by both organisational and individual action. Each year, all our colleagues develop an individual commitment to demonstrate their support for our anti-racism agenda, and we have encouraged open discussion of progress and challenges at all team meetings.
Our continuing focus on recruiting without bias using anonymised applications has led to an increase in appointments from colleagues who identify as non-white. We have embedded our work, started during 2021, of reporting information on our ethnicity and disability pay gaps at the same time as publishing our gender pay gap report. Whilst this is over and above current legal requirements, we feel strongly this is a vital component to overcome inequality.
We supported Race Equality Week and Black History Month with focused activities and communications to raise awareness and engagement, and we were joined at our November conference by the noted speaker John Amaechi, who delivered a powerful and poignant session on the topic of care and belonging.
As part of Race Equality Week, our BAME forum joined with both the Herts County Council and Schools’ BAME forums, where they shared experiences and successes, developing connections and providing the opportunity for greater shared understanding.
In April, in honour of Stephen Lawrence Day, we recorded and published an EdTalks UK podcast with Rt Hon Stuart Lawrence discussing being Black and British in Education, the importance of an anti-racist approach in schools, and the impact that great teachers can make.
Our theme for the 2022/23 year is belonging, which will feature throughout company updates and our summer conference to reinforce contribution and connectivity within HfL through inclusivity, equality and respect. We have defined a roadmap of activities for 2022 to systemically review and, where necessary, to redesign our processes and ways of working to meet our commitments.
Our wider our work with schools
Since the start of the academic year 2021-22, our Race Equality Adviser and colleagues in the HfL Wellbeing team have delivered:
- 18 staff training sessions to primary and secondary schools
- 30 consultation sessions with schools
- 15 pupil, staff and/or parent voice sessions
- 9 Race Equity/Anti-Racism visits to schools
- Masterclasses on Race Equality and Anti-Racism in 6 schools
- 12 training sessions on race equality and anti-racism for HfL and associated bodies
- 3 briefings for governors on Race Equality and Anti-Racism
- 2 schools have specialised in Diversity and Inclusion through the Wellbeing Quality Mark.
Additionally, we have produced a range of digital resources to support our network of schools, including a Race EquityToolkit, an Anti-Racism Self-Evaluation Tool and a Teaching About Hate Crime Toolkit. Through these resources, our intention is to widen our impact as much as possible beyond the interventions we make in individual schools.
24 schools across phases have participated in our Great Representation Programme, designed to highlight and share great anti-racism initiatives that have had demonstrable impact in Hertfordshire Schools. Two leaders from each school have attended six seminars over the year with contributions from a range of leading thinkers/academics. We will publish a book of these case studies, a copy of which will be provided to every school in Hertfordshire in summer 2022 and will make these more widely available in digital format through our website.
In February, our English Primary Advisory Team delivered a successful conference ‘This is Me!’ which focused on diversity and belonging through literature.
Funded by over £100,000 of our own common good investment monies, we sent £220 worth of book tokens to every HfL shareholder school in March 2022, to coincide with World Book Day, along with a booklist of recommended texts that feature or were written by people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds and addressing issues of race for children of all ages and adults.
We have successfully run a Parent and Carer Forum, “Black History Month – Have Your Say!”, as part of our preparations for Black History Month 2022, and plans are underway for our first National HfL Race Equity Conference in 2023. Later this year we will be launching Herts Voices, an inspirational speakers programme where people from ethnically and racially diverse communities will deliver talks in schools.
Finally, we are delighted to be recruiting a second Race Equality Adviser, to start in September 2022, funded from our own common good investment monies, to help deepen and widen our impact across Hertfordshire schools, settings and trusts.
On the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, we reiterate our commitment to become an anti-racist organisation and to do all we can to eradicate systemic racism within education. Whilst we are proud of what we have achieved, we recognise that we have much left to do, and will continue to invest time and resources behind this critical work, underpinned by our purpose and belief that every young person, through access to a great education, should be able to realise their potential, regardless of where they live, their background or circumstances.
Andrew de Csilléry,
Managing Director HfL