The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Aldaine Wynter

Beginning the conversation around race, diversity and inclusion with staff

Diversity and inclusion lead Aldaine Wynter shares how his school has embarked on an anti-racism journey.

I am the Global Dwight Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator for our sites in London, New York, Shanghai, Seoul, Dubai, and for our online school. In addition to my global role, I am the Head of Pastoral (DSL) at Dwight School London. I have been fortunate to work for a school that has been proactive in developing a solid vision of diversity and inclusion across its sites worldwide. 

25 May 2020

On 25 May 2020, the death of George Floyd sparked outrage and protests around the world. The video that captured George Floyd's death reignited debates about race, racial injustice, systemic and systematic racism in a whole host of institutions. From healthcare to education, justice to housing, there was a need to reflect on whether systems, structures, expectations or policies were perpetuating racism inadvertently.

Schools needed to ask themselves whether their schools were safe spaces for Black members in their school community. This academic year, schools all over the UK and further afield have been developing action plans, geared to their journey towards creating a culture of anti-racism within their walls.

Both staff and students entered an honest conversation regarding systemic and institutional racism and the impact on educators and students alike

Each school’s approach will differ, but in this blog series I wanted to share how, at Dwight, we’ve started on this journey. Aligning our school vision with our intent and working with our staff to promote discussions around race and racial injustice has been paramount.

A movement, not a moment

George Floyd's passing and the subsequent protests that followed turned into a sustained, worldwide effort for Black lives. The popular Broadway musical Hamilton gave us the quote: ‘This is not a moment, this is a movement.’

The quote was adapted and used in various publications from GQ to CNN. It was also the opening quote for our student and staff virtual forum on race. The forum gave students and staff a safe space to discuss recent events, ask questions, and unknowingly it became the first in a series of workshops at the school. During the forum, both staff and students entered an honest conversation regarding systemic and institutional racism and the impact on educators and students alike. 

The aim of these sessions was to allow staff to get comfortable talking about race

I encourage schools at the beginning of their journey to use a forum as a tool to begin a dialogue about race. It is worth repeating that one size does not fit all, but hosting an event where everyone can voice their opinions without fear will allow any school to begin work on a meaningful action plan.

At the end of the forum, we presented those in attendance with the following questions.

  • What can you do to support Black members in your community?
  • What is the local politicians' policy on ending police brutality?
  • When have you been taught about race and culture?
  • How do you plan on helping the fight to end racial discrimination and systematic oppression?
  • How can you use anti-racist knowledge to change and progress conversations with friends, family, colleagues and peers?
  • How can you be actively anti-racist instead of simply “not racist”?

These questions, posed to staff and students, helped us do a primitive assessment of where we were as a school. From here, we were able to build an action plan based on the participant responses in the forum and the school's cultural and community norms.

Moving from words to action

When creating my school's diversity and inclusion (DI) plan, it needed to be based on action. My DI action plan emphasised racial literacy, and I wanted to deliver it over two years, creating a separate programme for staff and students.

My school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school that believes that we are preparing our young people to be global leaders. Our students thrive in a curriculum rooted in our three education educational pillars:

  • personalised learning
  • a commitment to our community
  • global vision.

When developing the initial action plan, it was vital for me to consider my school's vision and mission. At Dwight, we have a large and diverse community. Staff and parents were encouraged to get involved and contribute throughout the school year. When considering CPD for teachers, it was essential to consider personalising my approach to ensure it had the most significant impact. Most notably, the staff's willingness from our various sites to collaborate allowed us always to have a global vision in mind.

For the first year, I wanted to provide all staff with a range of CPD sessions that raised awareness of race and racial injustice issues in our school’s context. The aim of these sessions, which would run consistently over the academic year, was to allow staff to get comfortable talking about race. As training was delivered, staff needed to be involved with national and international events celebrating diversity and inclusion, such as Black History Month.

My action plan involved bringing the primary and secondary school together; I worked closely with curriculum leads from our primary through to our secondary and sixth form programmes to work on an inclusive curriculum, emphasising racial literacy. When reviewing the curriculum, the coordinators and I looked closely at the teaching of individuals and society (an IB subject), English and drama, ensuring units explicitly had a reference to Black history or experience in every year group.

In the second year, we will be further exploring opportunities to promote racial literacy in other departments such as maths, science and languages. In addition to our work on the curriculum, we will continue to deliver staff training sessions and, with the reduction of pandemic measures, we look forward to inviting external speakers into school.

Similarly, there will be an emphasis on working with our global schools in our second year and supporting each other on our journey towards anti-racism. 

This is not a moment; this is a movement.

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