Equality in Education

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How can we ensure professional development represents a broader range of speakers?

The TeachMeet Equalities Survey at TeachMeet London 2016 emerged organically from discussions and experiences over about a year. This post is intended to give some background to why we did did it, share some of the data collected and evaluate possible next steps.

Context:

The starting point for the Equalities Survey was Teach Meet London 2015, generally regarded one of the most diverse mainstream educational events last year in terms of gender and ethnicity. The motivation for investigating what appeared to be an already winning formula at TMLondon 2015 was the possibility of extrapolating ideas to support greater inclusivity at other events in the future, including future TM London events. Starting with something which is already working and trying to work out why hopefully cuts out some of the anxiety and defensiveness so often associated with discussions about diversity.

Conundrum:

Three main questions emerged after Teach Meet London 2015:
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1. Was the impression of the inclusivity of TMLondon accurate?
2. If so, what had helped it happen?
3. Is any perceived inclusivity transferable to other contexts?
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There were a lot of conversations about diversity and inclusion at education events in the interim between March 2015 and TM London in March 2016. Some of these were collegiate and solution focussed – others less so. One online discussion about gender balance and the equal representation of women as speakers grew into the professional force of nature which is the WomenEd network , snowballing from a @Staffrm blog-post to a DfE White Paper name check (page 49; bullet point 3.24) in less than a year. It’s also WomenEd’s first birthday last week …
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The WomenEd conversation about diversity and representation is ongoing and posts by Allana Gay ‘I can’t be the only one’ and Bukky Yusuf ‘Diverse Speakers’  are both thoroughly recommended.
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Diversity:

Nevertheless, much of the discussion about diversity at events, even WomenEd events, still seemed to rely on impressions rather than concrete data. Whether or not you scan the room or don’t scan the room for a diversity check (this is the default position for the BME colleagues), it’s not a very secure methodology for evaluation. Scanning the room doesn’t begin to unpick the complexities and nuances of who is there and who is speaking, let alone the professional networks and preferences (maybe unconscious biases?) which underpin choices.

… the main motivation was the possibility of extrapolating strategic signposts to support greater inclusivity at other events in the future, including future TM London events.

shutterstock_306587402 Unit and concord in multiethnic team, all hands together

Image: Shutterstock

Equality Monitoring:

The next priority was to ask an ‘equalities monitoring’ style questionnaire about who was in the room on the day and see what emerged from that …

Thus, the Equalities Survey came into being as an ‘exploratory toe-dip’ into these sometimes, choppy waters. The survey format itself was designed by serendipity. Understandably, the categorisation of gender identity and ethnicity is sensitive and contested territory, and which model to use was a source of some anxiety. In the end, I mag-pied, borrowed and adapted the Bare Lit Festival feedback form, because I knew a high level of consultation and thought had gone into that for their very diverse audience.

This was the final format used.

Feedback:

So, what happened on the night?

Of course, the survey was optional, so there was never an expectation of 100% feedback. Nevertheless, only one person explicitly rejected the survey, saying: ‘this doesn’t affect me’.

But, as anyone who was at TMLondon 2016 knows, it was intense. The decision to give out paper forms just before break, after a prolonged first half, did not help get returns back and several people said there just wasn’t enough time to read and fill in the details. So, the audience data set is a snapshot only, representing maybe a quarter of the room from 400+ guests. The results are still interesting and something TMLondon hopes to address in the future if we repeat the exercise.

People didn’t seem unwilling, just perhaps hyped up and distracted by the event as a whole? Or maybe we were too tentative when trialing something new?

The Data:

The audience data set is therefore admittedly a snapshot, representing maybe a quarter of the room and only cautious conclusions can be drawn from the responses.  Nevertheless, the headline results are shared below and we think they make interesting reading. If anyone would like a more detailed breakdown, please get in touch.

Hosts and Presenters:

As hosts we have a way to go for gender balance as only 2 out of 8 of the hosts are women, but the ethnicity balance is better with 3 out of 8 hosts being BME. Keynotes and Presenters (who included most of the hosts) had a better balance with 50% of those speaking being women and 25% BME.

The front facing diversity of TMLondon in terms of its mix of organisers and the diversity of the PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) they could draw upon, has been given as one suggestion for the diversity of its attendees and the readiness of women and BME speakers to volunteer to speak. This is something the TMLondon 2015 hosts discussed and tried to improve for 2016.  However, the keynotes and presenters were decided on the basis of proposed content and who was available. There were no diversity targets or quotas, just on-going conversations about balance and representation.

Attendees:

The returns identified 77% women and 23 % men. This didn’t entirely match the impression of gender balance on the night so maybe more women returned the form? This is something to return to.

One attendee tweeted a picture of the gender choices, saying it was a model of what should be provided – assuming the question is to be asked at all. We can’t take any credit for that but it signals the importance of awareness and consultation when undertaking any investigation of this kind.

24 % of the audience self-identified as BME. There was a generally positive response about the options and the spaces to self define ethnicity and inclusion of Arab got a smiley face from one attendee. There was also a lot of voluntary detail provided about the range of linguistic and cultural heritage in the room as well as ethnicity. ‘European’ was amended to add French, Polish and Mediterranean for example. With hindsight and considering the global diversity of many of our schools and classrooms, it might have been interesting to know more about the range of languages spoken. The original form also did not include a faith section and that’s maybe something else to consider as a possibility in the future.

The most bracing feedback we got on the ethnicity section came from Jaz Ampaw-Farr, one of the TMLondon keynote speakers, who recorded her thoughts here – along with a broader discussion about diversity in this video. Jaz made the light-bulb suggestion that the ethnicity categories should be in alphabetical order to overturn implicit assumptions of status and hierarchy. It’s a brilliant idea!

In addition;

  • 87% of attendees identified as heterosexual with 13% as Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Pansexual

Is there a place to broker presentations about this important aspect of education and school life?

  • Attendees born in the 1950s = 2%; the 1960s=  8%;  the 1970s 16%; 1980s=  62%; 1990s= 12%

One attendee flagged up age discrimination as a concern.  The TMLondon 2016 audience was certainly predominantly in their 30s. How can we reach out across generations and widen networks?

  • 7% of the returns defined themselves as having a disability.

This is also an area to explore for the future; had we thought about access carefully enough before the event and shared details?

Conclusions:

An Equalities Survey is only purposeful if it supports better representation going forward. An obvious difficulty in drawing conclusions or making recommendations from the results quoted is the relatively low return. Nevertheless, the information captured reinforces the general impression of diversity at the event. However the hypothesis about the impact of a diverse organiser profile and headline acts is only a hypothesis at this stage. Maybe more detailed understandings will only emerge in dialogue or an interview set up. But the exercise has given food for thought and an action plan for next steps – a big thank you to those who helped.

Watch this space!

Written by @DiLeed; her blog is here.

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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