In March 2017 Hannah Wilson, Natalie Scott, Jaz Am-Paw Farr, Jennifer Hart and I all were lucky enough to present a TEDx Talk. All of us spoke about various different issues. Hannah’s talk was about having a dream, having a dream about diversity.
Since that talk, I have not stopped thinking about what our schools consciously and subconsciously do to promote diversity.
I remember sitting in the car driving up with Hannah while we both rehearsed our talks to one another. We challenged one another on the language we will use and gave each other a supportive ear.
Since the talk, I have continued to reflect on how aware institutions are about what messages they permeate to others. I am lucky enough to visit lots of different schools. I am welcomed in the reception, where I sign in and I careful survey the surrounding area. I notice. I look at the staff boards. The governors boards. I look around. I take it in, I wonder if anybody from the school has had as close a look as I do…
Just under a week ago I tweeted this…the response has been fascinating. Lots of discussion around, whether it is ever done on “purpose.”
Go round your school on Monday, check out ALL the displays. Who is being “shown” mostly?
If so, why? Are your walls talking diversity? Are you framing diversity? Are you promoting real life?
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) June 1, 2019
Here are some questions to reflect on…
- What do your walls, the displays and the environment say about your view on diversity? And Inclusion?
- What gender is shown mainly?
- What race is depicted mostly ?
- What ‘religion’ if this can be visually obvious? EG Turbans? Hijabs? Kara’s?
- What sexuality?
- What physical characteristics are shown? Able bodied? Hidden disability?
- What family structures/units are displayed? Single Parents? Same Sex parents?
- What scientists, mathematicians, famous authors, historical figures, athletes etc are promoted?
- What food is represented on your menus?
- Do you have houses/charities? Who are they named after? Why?
- What does your prospectus, website and school posters/flyers show? Who do they show? Why?
When I spoke about this to a teacher recently, the response was…
I don’t now any diverse __________’
Which is fascinating in itself, if we as the adults, the providers of knowledge and skills can’t stretch ourselves to find others who represent X, Y or Z then how will the children?
Should the images only reflect the population of the school? Even if it is 99% White, or 99% BAME...? Should the visual representations of the school serve the community only? What if there are so few BAME students there, they would always be ‘ticking’ the diversity box? Then what…
I am not proposing you simply show diversity for the ‘sake’ of it, I am only suggesting that we are aware of what we are displaying and why. I am also arguing that we need to broaden our searches, our thinking and our views of who represents what and how.
If your population is significantly monoculture, the key question would be, will they only ever interact with that group? Will they need to see others to be able to understand others more?
As sometimes, we, the teachers, might be the only diversity our students receive.
Some schools do do this brilliantly. For example they represent the languages spoken at their schools. In their communities.
In a previous school I worked in, my GCSE Citizenship students designed all directions and door signs in the 5 most common languages spoken in our school and Afrikaans due to us being linked to a school there.
In my current school we are hosting a flag for every nationality/language represented.
Some schools do international / culture days. But don’t be restricted to just food and dress.
What do the static messages show?
Ethnic groups white 87.2%, black/African/Caribbean/black British 3%, Asian/Asian British: Indian 2.3%, Asian/Asian British: Pakistani 1.9%, mixed 2%, other 3.7% (2011 est.) Religions Christian (includes Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 59.5%, Muslim 4.4%, Hindu 1.3%, other 2%, unspecified 7.2%, none 25.7% (2011 est.)
Looks like the DfE and Ofsted are getting it ‘right?’
On a side note…
Can you consider when and where you do actively use images- what do they promote and why? When and if you use GiFS to represent anger? Happiness and so on? Where are they from… More to follow on this.