Trailblazing schools win Accord Inclusivity Award

February 18, 2022

A SCHOOL on a mission to become a fully anti-racist educational body, and another pioneering the promotion of peace and conflict resolution, have been announced as the winners of the annual Accord Inclusivity Award.

Now in its twelfth year, the Accord Inclusivity Award rewards those schools which make special efforts to promote inclusion of and mutual understanding between people of different religions and ethnicities.

The distinguished judging panel decided to issue a first and second place to schools at both the primary and secondary phases this time. The first-placed secondary school is Cotham School in Bristol which was praised for its multifaceted commitment to tackling racism.

Ways this has been expressed include the senior leadership team writing an open letter to all students in response to Black Lives Matters protests, committing the school to becoming an anti-racist institution. This was done at a time when the school was already redesigning its curriculum to reduce White and Western bias.

Furthermore, Cotham School has undertaken numerous practical pieces of work to boost racial literacy amongst staff and students. This includes acknowledging and addressing unequal outcomes for students of different racial backgrounds, such as permanent exclusions and exam results. To further improve teachers’ understanding of inequality, a staff ‘social justice library’ and social justice WhatsApp group have been set up.

The school uses assemblies to encourage understanding of religious and ethnic diversity, while open conversations around equality and diversity issues are facilitated in tutor groups. This has included celebrating the achievements of former students from a diverse range of backgrounds and implementing education workshops for whenever racial, religious, homophobic or gender-bias incidents arise.

First languages spoken by students at Cotham school now number 52. Students of Somali heritage comprise the school’s largest ethnic minority and in response it has appointed a Somali Family Liaison Worker. The postholder has enhanced engagement and relationships with Somali heritage parents,  improving staff knowledge of the cultural and religious background of the school’s Somali families.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Simon Barrow, said: ‘Cotham School is a first-rate example of a school valuing diversity and acknowledging inequality on the grounds of race, and for advancing its public sector equality duties in this area. The judging panel celebrates the school’s work as a model for other schools wishing to transform from being passive, to an active promoter of anti-racism.’

Explaining her school’s approach, Cotham School head teacher, Ms Jo Butler, said: ‘I’m so proud of this achievement but full credit must go to our amazing school community who have worked so hard to make what we’ve achieved so far possible. From seeking to understand and address our unconscious biases, we are now actively considering how we can adapt our practice so that it is anti-racist.

‘We can now appreciate that adopting a ‘colour blind’ approach will not address inequity and we’ve developed more confidence to talk about race with students, parents and staff with less fear of “getting it wrong”. This is making such a difference to our school community and we’re now firmly set on our journey to becoming an anti-racist school.

‘The importance of me actively leading this journey has been paramount and I would encourage other white school leaders not to be afraid to take the same steps that we have; they will only see positive benefits.’

The first placed primary school is William Davis School in Tower Hamlets, East London. This school stood out for its innovative work to embed restorative principles in its activities.

Restorative practices seek proactively to build relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing. At William Davis School they underpin the school’s behaviour policy, conduct of its staff, and its curriculum where ‘Communication and Experiential Learning’ are emphasised.

The school’s embrace of restorative practices has been led by its head teacher, Annika Eadie, whose thinking was enhanced thanks to a scholarship to complete a research project with the Farmington Institute in 2019. The Institute has an ecumenical outlook and takes a particular interest in supporting work that develops good relationships between different world religions.

The research project has led to the school adopting a range of ‘Everyday Peace Indicators’ (EPIs) so that it and its stakeholders can monitor performance and identify areas for development. EPIs monitor behaviours and relationships, as well as perceptions of equality and inclusivity at the school, and have led to several initiatives and reforms.

The development of the school’s EPIs was preceded in 2019 by it conducting a survey of stakeholders on equalities issues. The equalities survey revealed parental concerns about the impact of inappropriate language and behaviour which young pupils were observing through exposure to media and older siblings.

As a result, the school organised a meeting with local schools, public officials, and religious leaders, helping children to navigate and filter what they see and hear. Another outcome was the establishment of a Philosophy group involving mothers from different backgrounds meeting to discuss life’s ‘big questions’.

William Davis pupils and staff (with the school’s trophy)

Accord’s Chair, Simon Barrow, said: ‘Schools are the state-funded institutions which can do most to strengthen integration and cohesion within society. William Davis School excels in managing its relationships to fully maximise this potential. The judging panel were delighted to recognise its innovative accountability measures and efforts to promote the resolution of differences and the growth of trust.’

William Davis School head teacher, Annika Eadie, said: ‘What a privilege it is to be the head teacher of William Davis Primary School in Tower Hamlets! Schools have a unique opportunity to teach the skills that children, staff and parents need in their day to day lives within the family, the community and beyond. The work with Farmington to develop the use of EPIs and restorative principles in a school community has consolidated my view that it is essential that leaders prioritise the development of relationships and trust.’

‘The international pioneer, Margaret Thorsborne, captures my vision for the school perfectly in her 2013 co-written book ‘Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools’. It states that “we’d like you to picture the whole school community committed to the pursuit of best practice in teaching and learning and how that whole pursuit of best practice is vitally connected to the quality of relationships in the classroom and beyond.” Thank you to Accord for the opportunity to celebrate this work.’

Recognised by Ofsted as a project for schools to support their work in advancing their legal equality and cohesion duties, the annual Inclusivity Award has been operating since 2009/10 and been organised every subsequent academic year. Joining Accord’s Chair on the 2021 judging panel were:

  • Yasmin Alibhai-Brown – journalist, author, and Chair of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy
  • Professor Tina Beattie – Professor Emerita of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton and Director of Catherine of Siena College
  • Dr Nuala Burgess – Postdoc Research Fellow, King’s College London, campaigner for a socially just education system and Chair of Comprehensive Future
  • Professor Graham Handscomb – University College London Visiting Professor, Professor of Education and Dean of The College of Teachers, and Chair of the Free Church Education Committee
    .

About the Inclusivity Award

The 2021 Accord Inclusivity Award was open to all state funded schools in England and Wales. Previous judges include former Secretary of State for Education, Lord Baker of Dorking; Shadow Secretary for Foreign Affairs; the Anglican Bishop of Buckingham, The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson; broadcaster and political commentator, Iain Dale; and the journalist and former President of Humanists UK, Polly Toynbee. Further information on the 2021 Award can be found at http://accordcoalition.org.uk/inclusivity-award-2021/.

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