|11 Nov 2020
Since then, despite all that COVID-19 has thrown at it, LEH has made progress in its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The school believes it is essential to promote education and open discussion about racial and social injustice. It also wishes to reflect the society it serves today, to provide an environment within which all young people and staff can thrive and grow.
Vakini Ranjan, a Biology teacher at LEH, has been appointed as the Diversity and Inclusion Champion and she is leading initiatives with the students. She says: “The recent BLM debate has been very eye-opening and thought-provoking for everyone, including myself. Over the last year, I have read and learnt things that I might not have come across had I not seen the protests and listened to the voice of the Black community.
“It has highlighted the oppression faced by the Black community for a long time and made me realise why, even though all lives matter, we need to hear and understand why black lives matter. By raising awareness and addressing the issues facing the Black community, we can help address issues facing other oppressed groups.”
Vakini goes on to explain: “Over the last few years, the diversity of LEH has increased and therefore it is more important than ever to recognise, learn about and celebrate the diversity of the school and of the ever-increasing diversity of Britain. Diversity and inclusion incorporate differences in race, religion, abilities/disabilities, gender and sexual orientation.
“The school has a very inclusive climate, which has already embraced differences in gender and sexual orientation in a very open and celebratory manner with the Pride Club and other on-going events and discussions. However, LEH recognises and appreciates that more can be done to celebrate the diversity of the races and cultures we have.”
Last month staff and students celebrated Black History Month with a comprehensive programme of activities focusing on educating our community about the diversity of the society around them. There were school assemblies, as well as form time activities with thought-provoking discussions such as why pupils thought security guards might have tried to stop the current CEO of Vogue as he entered the magazine HQ.
A team of Sixth Formers has set up and is managing a dedicated Instagram account called APoC, Allies of People of Colour, to provide a forum for pupils to post interesting articles relating to this topic. Once LEH can have cross-year group activities again, this is likely to become an extra-curricular club, open to all students.
The school wishes to set up virtual discussion groups, run by an external moderator, to create a forum for parents and alumnae to relate their opinions and experiences. We will shortly be appealing for alumnae to take part, so please look out for that, although places will be limited in order to allow for a meaningful discussion.
LEH’s HR Department is reviewing its recruitment procedures to ensure that we encourage diversity in our applicants and remove the possibility of discrimination.
The school has already held some staff training sessions to support inclusion and is working towards it becoming embedded in our behaviours and practices. Further sessions are in the pipeline. We are also in the process of exploring how to amend the curriculum to ensure it is more diverse and inclusive.
Finally, Vakini explains why all this is of such importance: “As children of colour grow up in a predominantly White British population, they need to see people like themselves represented in books, TV, and different careers, as well as in every position within an organisation, from leadership to front-line service.
“They also need to learn about their culture and history to help them form a strong sense of self and belonging. While it is impossible to tell every story, we can try: we can try to represent and increase the diversity within what we read, what we see and what we learn. It will be a gradual process, but one worth doing as every country is becoming more diverse.
“It is evident from the feedback that both pupils and staff want to learn more about other ethnicities and cultures. People are very keen to talk about race and the climate of school is changing. It is becoming more open, comfortable and a safer space in which to talk about race in a judgement-free manner. People are acknowledging the different privileges different communities have and the oppression others might face. However, the journey has just started and we have a long way to go.”