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Celebrating diversity at a secondary school – Part 1


St. Andrew’s CE High School is a smaller than average secondary school situated in the east of Worthing. The school has recently (2021) transformed from an all-boys setting to a co-educational provision under the guidance of new head teacher, Mia Lowney. The school has considerably greater than national average numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and slightly below national average Pupil Premium numbers.

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

The school has launched an initiative to encourage pupils to think more deeply about the diversity in the school community and beyond and to encourage young people to advocate for their peers. The purpose of this is to promote acceptance and understanding of diversity and difference that 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.’

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

Our aim is to grow a culture in which each member of our community is valued, loved and able to be themselves without fear or judgement. We want 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. This is very much a work in progress will be ongoing.

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

Our launch day in the 2021-22 academic year involved staff and students in ‘A Celebration of Diversity and Inclusion’. We came to school in shoes of any colour or style and donated to a range of charities supporting diversity. We spent time in tutor groups learning about aspects of diversity and inclusion including ‘Who am I?’- personal reflection, history of racism, LGBTQ+ history, being an advocate, staying safe and the Equality Act 2010.

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

Feedback from pupils and parents has been positive. Staff are more confident to address instances of discriminatory language and so are our young people.

‘The discussions around different aspects of diversity and inclusion have equipped young people and staff to identify and challenge unhelpful language at school.’ Harriet Goss- Senior Assistant Headteacher.

‘Diversity day showed us that it doesn’t matter if you are different.’ Year 7 Pupil.

‘Every assembly we talk about we show respect to each other, in tutor time we have mini assemblies on how to treat each other.’ Year 7 Pupil.

‘My son is able to voice his views and advocate for friends who have protected characteristics. I’m glad that the school build on what we, as parents, are trying to teach him at home about being inclusive and accepting of difference.’ Parent.

Our aim is to embed respect, responsibility and integrity across our school community, which is underpinned by our Christian faith.

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

The school website has 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 pledge to always challenge discrimination, educate on equality and relentlessly advocate all individuals from all backgrounds, cultures and communities, of all genders and of all ages.

There is now a stepped approach for students who use discriminatory language or display unkind behaviours towards peers with protected characteristics, with 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.

‘I think people with different characteristics feel safe here.’ Year 7 Pupil.

In tutor times, young people work through scenarios in order to understand and forward plan what they might do in a particular situation, and how to advocate for others. Assemblies focus on respect for others, and this is reflected in the school’s two rules: ‘Be kind’ and ‘Do your best’.

‘The focus on diversity laid out by Ms. Lowney has helped to enhance my knowledge and my greater understanding of all the wonderful and new things that are happening in the world. I feel that in school, I can be myself and if anyone says I can’t be, they are given the opportunity to learn about why what they said or did was uninclusive.’ Year 9 pupil

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

The practice is beginning to embed, particularly in key stage 3. The stepped approach for the small number of young people who use discriminatory language and behaviour is being written into policy and staff have time to work with these young people to help them to understand the impact of their words and actions.

We are finding that, the more open we are in talking about issues around discrimination and prejudice, the better able we are to address issues as they arise and the children/young people are becoming adept at ‘calling out’ language and behaviour that might offend.

What are the next steps for further development?

Senior leaders have planned for a range of outside providers to lead staff training and work with young people to further nurture the school’s vision of an inclusive and diversity-celebrating environment for all. New artwork promoting our inclusive ethos has been commissioned and completed over the summer

The school is undertaking The Rainbow Flag Award in 2022/23 with support from Allsorts Youth Project. The Governing Board are supporting with this, and a designated Governor is supporting the Deputy Head who is leading on this project, with the aim of achieving the award by the end of the academic year.

The Ethnic Minorities and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) have led staff INSET training on Diversity. School Governors were invited to attend, and it was helpful that they were able to hear the same message as staff to help them to support with the strategic direction of the school. Ongoing work with EMTAS is planned to help strengthen links within the community.

parent forum on supporting children and their families to understand diversity and inclusion has recently been held and data collected will be analysed and used to inform some of our next steps. During this meeting we showcased our LGBTQ+ Knowledge Organiser that has been put together by staff to support parents and young people, this includes a glossary of relevant terms, a brief LGBTQ+ history and links to signpost children and parents to helpful websites.

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
  • Opportunities for pupil and parent voice should underpin the work- knowing our children and their families well has been a real strength in launching this valuable piece of work
  • Involve outside agencies who hold expertise
  • Encourage active involvement and support from within your Governing Board- there may be a range of expertise there that you don’t know about until you ask!

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.