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Celebrating diversity at a secondary school – Part 2, one year on


In 2022, we shared the beginning of our diversity journey on Tools for Schools. This Celebration of Inclusion is part two of that story and highlights our progress, adaptations and achievements as we aspire to be a truly inclusive secondary school.

St. Andrew’s CE High School (STA) is a smaller than average secondary school situated in the east of Worthing. The school now has a co-educational key stage 3, having changed from an all-boys school in 2021. The school, recently rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted (April 2023) and described as ‘…a shining example of equity, inclusivity and fairness, where all thrive’ by SIAMS (October 2023) has considerably greater than national average numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and slightly below national average Pupil Premium (PP) numbers.

What example of good inclusive practice would you like to share?

Staff, pupils and governors work hard to promote acceptance and understanding of diversity and difference. This is underpinned by the ethos of the school whose vision is, ‘We enable our community to live wisely, with dignity and faith, experiencing life in all its fullness.’

We have considered how diversity could be better reflected in our curriculum and have made positive changes to the teaching and learning of our students.

We have considered the demographic of our school community in curriculum planning in Religious Studies, and this now places a greater emphasis on Islam, as well as Christianity and Judaism. The prayer room is open and accessible for all of our students and staff and daily prayer and non-faith reflection times are facilitated. Mosque passes are available to all of our Muslim students to attend our local Mosque for Friday services. We have noticed that our Muslim students now change at school to go to the Mosque, whereas previously they left and returned to school in uniform, changing into robes on route.

‘The school’s vision forms the foundation for the curriculum. It has been carefully constructed to meet the needs of all pupils in the context of its community.’ SIAMS, 2023.

There have also been changes in curriculum of STEM, DT and Science where the significant and historical contribution of women is explicitly taught in these subject areas.

We have joined Food Tech and PE in a faculty to ensure all students understand a healthy lifestyle and diverse needs. This also challenges gender stereotypes around food preparation and cooking. Our fitness suite is open daily before school with some sessions for girls only, in response to pupil views. We have appointed a Gym Supervisor, who is also part of the Pastoral Team, and this dual role is working well.

What were you trying to achieve? Why? What was the intended outcome?

We strive to grow a culture in which each member of our community is valued, loved and able to be themselves without fear or judgement. Our aim was and continues to be to actively encourage our young people to advocate for their peers and understand that they have a voice and can speak out for themselves and others. We wanted to ensure that the views and voice of each individual were heard and that they knew that they mattered. As such, our head teacher personally sought the views of every student, offering them each a 15-minute appointment with her to discuss any questions and issues. The take-up by students was excellent and the leadership team continue to ensure that pupil views are regularly considered and always valued.

What did you do, who was involved, when and where did it take place?

Following our launch day in the 2021-22 academic year we have sought to embed inclusive practice and celebrate diversity as part of the daily life of our school. We have completed all six strands in The Rainbow Flag Award– and were awarded the kite mark in the autumn term 2023.

This is a two-year course, and we have worked on this in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. One of our deputy head teachers has taken the lead with this and we have the support of our Governing Board with one governor named as the link for this area. Assemblies are held on how, as a CofE school, we can support students who identify within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ+) community. In addition, staff and students took part in the Worthing Pride Parade for the first time in 2023.

Our Diversity Week in June 2023 built on our initial Diversity Day last year and included daily stories and scenarios in tutor time on themes such as neurodiversity, cultural diversity and invisible disability for us to discuss and unpick together; staff debates on subjects such as ageism and sexism in society; assemblies by Allsorts Youth Project and visits to Oak Grove College to read diversity stories in the garden. (Our Diversity Week Schedule and curriculum ideas can be found in the appendices towards the end of this article).

‘The stories told in form time during ‘Diversity Week’ were helpful to make us think about issues about racism, homophobia and LGBTQ+ inequality etc. We answered questions about why these things are wrong and how to support people.’ Year 8 STA pupil.

In addition, our drop-down diversity days pepper the school year and diversity themes thread through our collective worship. ‘Walking in Another’s Shoes’ was the theme of a curriculum day, and this included Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity (ADHD) input for all, to encourage empathy and understanding. All staff and students also participated in training around hearing and vision impairment to give an insight into sensory differences, how they feel, and which adaptations are helpful.

‘The SEND area at STA is very supportive. The adults there are lovely. The support I have had for my additional needs has been very helpful and I feel listened to.’ Year 10 STA pupil

We have been involved in a piece of work with Birmingham University on Youth Engagement with Race and Faith at School – completing their survey on racism which included an external audit around institutionalised racism and students’ views. This added to our collection and collation of pupil views.

What difference has the practice made to staff, children and young people? How do you know?

Feedback from pupils and parents has been incredibly positive. Staff are increasingly more confident to address instances of discriminatory language and so are our young people. We have introduced the ‘Tootoot’ app as a safe and trusted way for pupils to let staff know about concerns, so we can resolve them quickly.

Our inclusive practice is embedded, and the community have taken this on board. The tangible shift in culture means that our students own their environment and will tackle unkind comments from other students themselves and/or report it to staff when they feel they need to. Our recent Ofsted inspection report reflects the significant impact of the work that we have been doing and will continue to do:

‘Pupils are proud to attend this nurturing and highly inclusive school where kindness flourishes. The school’s core values of respect, responsibility and integrity run through all aspects of daily life. Pupils feel cared for. Their voices are heard and valued by staff who know them well. Pupils understand the importance of respecting differences between people and celebrate diversity regularly. Should any bullying or harassment occur, pupils rightly trust that staff will listen and deal with it effectively.’ Ofsted 2023.

‘As a parent, I think it is good that my child is learning about different aspects of diversity at STA. It is important that my child understands and has respect for people from all walks of life. We do our best to instil this at home and it’s great that the school give the same messages.’ STA Parent

Respect, responsibility and integrity underpin our community, which is rooted in the foundations of the Christian faith of our school, and rests on the key Bible verse, ‘Let all you do be done in love.’ 1 Corinthians 16 verse 14.

‘As they live out the clear vision, pupils at the school are very aware of the need to balance rights and responsibilities. They often speak of the need to ‘treat our neighbours as ourselves.’ They are willing to challenge injustice within the context of their school, for example standing up for their friends.’ SIAMS, 2023.

What impact has the practice had on ‘every-day’ operational practice within the wider school?

‘Leaders have worked tirelessly to ensure that all pupils, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), receive a good quality of education. Their work to improve behaviour and attitudes is particularly notable. Leaders ensure that staff have high expectations for pupils’ behaviour across all aspects of school life.’ Ofsted 2023.

The school website has maintained a Diversity and Inclusion page where stakeholders can read about our community promise and the supporting actions that we are undertaking to improve the representation of those with protected characteristics. We have created Knowledge Organisers’ for LGBTQ+, Neurodiversity and Cultural Diversity which have been shared with staff and students. The latter is reflective of the ethnicities, cultures, languages and religious festivals that are represented in the school community. Staff from different diverse groups have shared their experiences and journeys with students. One of our termly Parent Forum groups had a focus on diversity with particular reference to the LGBTQ+ agenda.

The stepped approach for the very small number of students who use discriminatory language or display unkind behaviours towards peers with protected characteristics, is now fully embedded and continues to ensure that education at its heart. With each step students complete a piece of work with a staff member to promote understanding, with the aim of broadening their own experience and encouraging empathy and greater thoughtfulness. It is unusual for a pupil to need to receive this re-education more than once.

‘We were heartened to see data that supported the strength of the approach to discriminatory language/unkind behaviour bearing fruit. It has been hugely successful in reducing repeated incidents from pupils.’ STA Governor.

What impact has the practice had on the school’s strategic development?

We have made strategic changes to our curriculum and policy in order to embed inclusive practice. This has included:

  • Changes to the curriculum detailed in the section above entitled ‘What example of good inclusive practice would you like to share?
  • The adaptation of behaviour policy to ensure that there is flexibility to meet diverse needs of individuals.
  • The inclusion of assemblies on how, as a Church of England school, we can support LGBTQ+ students.
  • Diversity presentations to Governors.
  • Adding Dance to the PE curriculum and appointing a dance specialist to broaden and enrich the curriculum.
  • Changes to collective worship themes- diversity threads through assemblies weekly.
  • 100% increase in staffing of the STA Inclusion Team.
  • Business Studies focus on BAME entrepreneurship during Diversity Week.

What are the next steps for further development?

  • To continue to embed the work of The Rainbow Flag Award. The school is proud to have achieved this award earlier than expected and we intend to keep the momentum of this inclusive practice going.
  • We would like to continue to work with and explore the possibility of outreach to feeder primary schools to look at education on discriminatory language and behaviour as part of transition, so that incoming students have a shared understanding of our expectations before they start with us in year 7.

What are your ‘top tips’ for another school/setting that wants to follow a similar approach?

  • A solution focussed approach with education at the centre helps young people to understand why discrimination is not appropriate. Pupil views are vital to underpin this effectively.
  • Look at the demographic of your school when you make positive changes to your curriculum.
  • Regular, positive communication with parent/carers is key and should be a two-way process. Parent/carer views are important and should be considered as such.
  • Giving staff and young people practical opportunities to see things from another person’s perspective has been invaluable and is highly recommended.
  • Involve outside agencies who hold expertise- there are lots of helpful teams in the Local Authority and beyond.
  • Encourage active involvement and support from within your Governing Board and Parent Forum- there may be a range of expertise there that you do not know about until you ask!

Appendices – Our Diversity Week Schedule and Diversity Week Curriculum

Links to West Sussex Inclusion Framework

Within aspect 1: The Environment, Culture and Ethos

  1. Inclusive vision, aims and values
  • Inclusion is understood as an on-going process of increasing participation, achievement and nurture for all.
  • Aims and values reflect that leaders are ambitions for providing high-quality education to all CYP.
  • Effective training opportunities ensure that inclusive aims and values are planned throughout the year. Stakeholders can describe how this training has helped to shape and implement school ethos, vision and aims.

Within Aspect 3: Personal Development, Well-being and Welfare  

 3.1 Social and emotional well-being and self-awareness

  • There is an open and supportive atmosphere that promotes self-awareness and allows children and young people (CYP) and staff to reflect on their own emotional needs and triggers.
  • CYP are given opportunities to share their feelings and emotions, and these are acted upon by the adults within school.

 3.2 Respecting each other

  • Positive relationships support all members of the school community and shared values are understood by all.
  • All children and young people (CYP) feel individually valued and known.
  • Systems and procedures for celebrating success are highlighted within the positive behaviour policy or equivalent, which is informed by a therapeutic approach and consistently used across the school.
  • Success, both in and out of school, is acknowledged and celebrated in a way that is supportive to CYP.