Winners of the 2019 Accord Inclusivity Award announced

August 16, 2019

A school that has sought to bring its racially divided town back together has been made the recipient of the annual Accord Inclusivity Award. In first place is the Waterhead Academy in Oldham which has been recognised for its ambitious contribution towards improving community cohesion in its town, which suffered from race riots in the summer of 2001.

Established in 2010, the Waterhead Academy was formed following the closure of two secondary schools, one which admitted pupils who were largely white British and the other largely of South Asian heritage. First operating across the sites of the two former schools, the school moved on to one campus in 2012. It is located in an area where the large majority of residents are white, while many of its pupils are drawn from monocultural primary schools. It admits an intake of 33% White British pupils and 46% known to be of South Asian heritage.

Prior to the merger onto one site, the school established a Faith Forum to advise on religious and cultural issues, to smooth the process of ethnic mixing. Representatives were drawn from faith groups and those of a non faith background, which accorded with the religious and non-religious background of pupils. The school has sought to ensure that the diversity of its intake is fully reflected across its activities, including assemblies, celebration of anniversaries and festivals, school trips and Religious Education.

Chair of the judging panel and of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said “Promoting religious and ethnic mixing and understanding within schools is the easiest way to promote the acceptance of difference and diversity in society. The Waterhead Academy is to be congratulated for its ambitious efforts at helping heal divisions in its local community. It should serve as a powerful example about the capacity for schools to transform and to leave a legacy of integration not division.”

Fr Terry with Waterhead Academy staff and pupils.

The Accord Coalition approached national cohesion and intercultural relations expert, Professor Ted Cantle CBE, to comment on the school’s work. Professor Cantle said “The Waterhead Academy has shown that it is possible to create a mixed school in a very segregated environment – and that parents also support change when they are fully involved. It shows that the ‘prophets of doom’ are wrong and people do actually want integrate. Sadly, Waterhead is one of just two state schools out of over 21,000 in England. The others now need to be reminded of their statutory duty ‘to promote community cohesion’ and to devise integration plans.”

Commenting on his school’s success, Principal of the Waterhead Academy, James Haseldine, said “We are delighted that we have been chosen as the 2019 Inclusivity Award winners. We believe in community and the characteristics we share at Waterhead are learning and friendship. We thank the panel for their decision and thank those professional colleagues and the many local people involved in tirelessly championing the set up and development of Waterhead Academy from the start. In particular this includes the parents, families and children who have been so supportive and continue to believe in what the Academy is here for. It is at times like these that we see what has been achieved together.”

In second place is Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery School in Harrow. The school won praise from the judging panel for its efforts at bringing together pupils and families from a wide variety of backgrounds. 93% of the school’s pupils speak English as an additional language, including 43% who speak Romanian as their first language. Ways these challenges have been overcome include through the provision of English language and other classes at the school tailored for families.

Along with four other schools, Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery School has received funding to provide a counselling service to pupils, their families and staff. This has been complemented by the school’s adeptness at serving those of differing linguistic backgrounds and, for example, has meant it has been better able to understand and meet the needs of some families who have escaped challenging situations, including war zones.

The school was also commended for having been made an Inclusion Quality Mark Centre of Excellence school and embedding the values of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in its ethos. This has led to it becoming the first infant school in London to achieve UNICEF’s Level 2 Rights Respecting Award.

The Revd Stephen Terry, said ‘Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery is skilfully handling significant challenges and making a profound contribution to social integration. The judging panel is delighted to recognise it as a beacon of excellent practice that should inspire others.’

Head teacher at Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery, Mrs. Rutinderjit Mahil-Pooni, said ‘‘The Governors, staff and I are extremely proud to be receiving this nationally recognised award. The award is a celebration and testimony to the strong rights respecting ethos of the school and focus we have on celebrating the diversity of our school community. We aspire to all that is within our powers to develop learners with the dispositions to become effective, life-long independent learners, who will rise to a challenge and never fear of making a mistake.  We value our school community and I am fortunate to have a strong, loyal and committed team of staff who go over and above to meet the varied and occasionally complex needs of the learner whilst also offering support and guidance to their families too.’

Fr Terry with head teacher, Rutinderjit Mahil-Pooni, and Mayor of Harrow, Cllr Nitin Parekh.

The school’s Chair of Governors, Nilesh Parekh, added ‘The Governors and I are honoured that Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery school has been recognised nationally for all the hard work undertaken to ensure our diverse Harrow community is applauded within the ethos of the school. The Governors acknowledge how hard those involved with the school work to maintain a safe and welcoming atmosphere which promotes the rights of every child and family whilst nurturing them tirelessly as they progress through the infant school on their learning journey.’’

In third place has come the Harris Academy South Norwood. Aspects of the school that stood out include:

  • responding to issues with homophobia by pursing a zero tolerance approach towards homophobic bullying and boosting understanding and normalisation of LGBT people via the curriculum
  • its acceptance of pupils deemed at risk of exclusion and its success in settling these pupils into school life
  • prioritising holocaust education and using it as a tool to examine and challenge intolerance, stereotyping and prejudice, becoming only the eleventh school in the country to achieve Holocaust Beacon Status accredited by University College London
  • making tackling knife crime a major priority in response to the prevalence of violent street crime in the local area

Fr Terry with Harris Academy South Norwood pupils and staff.

The Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘The Harris Academy South Norwood has not glossed over challenges, as some schools might be tempted, but recognised and prioritised tackling them. It should serve as inspiration for others. The judging panel are delighted to acknowledge its commitment and varied contributions towards fostering a more cohesiveness, confident and inclusive society.’

Recognised by Ofsted as a project for schools to support their work in advancing their legal equality and cohesion duties, the annual Award has been running since the 2009/10 academic year. Nominated schools are accessed on how they have made extra steps within their particular setting to advance equality of opportunity, tackle discrimination and foster good relations between people of different characteristics, and especially on the grounds of religion and ethnicity. Nominations for the 2020 Inclusivity Award will open this autumn. The judges on the prestigious panel of the 2019 Award were:

  • Iain Dale, broadcaster and political commentator
  • Baroness Kishwer Falkner, a working peer with interests in foreign affairs and religious/ non-religious equality
  • Julie Grove MBE, Chair of the Free Church Education Committee and former Chair of the Association of Religious Education Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants
  • Professor Miles Hewstone, national social psychology expert based at the University of Oxford
  • Revd Stephen Terry, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education and retired Church of England Parish Priest

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