Role models in school and society are important. By seeing someone ostensibly like us, taking positive action and succeeding in life, we take inspiration, comfort and confidence.
We know it’s like that for learners in our schools. It’s also like that for practitioners, especially those who come from a minority ethnic background and who may not always have access to the support they need from colleagues, parents or peers.
The Anti-racist Wales Connect Group has therefore been created as a source of mutual help and peer to peer support, but also to inspire colleagues from ethnic backgrounds to aspire to leadership, helping to grow a diverse leadership representation in education in Wales.
The group was established with DARPL (Diversity and anti-racist Professional Learning) in collaboration with Welsh Government and the Education Workforce Council, meeting online termly since autumn 2022. It welcomes new members, so please register here.
The group take turns to Chair the sessions. Its first face-to-face meeting was hosted and led in May 2023 by the Principal of Atlantic College, the inspiring Naheed Bardai. Naheed evidenced how diversity in recruitment brings better results in industry, a diversity ‘bonus’ that should equally apply in education, and does at his college.
It was staggering to sit together to reflect on the statistics Naheed drew attention to: the percentage of BME teachers is small compared to the percentage of BME population in Wales. There are just two assistant headteachers of colour in Wales, an almost empty pipeline of leaders for the future.
This group of leaders are keen to map out interventions and solutions. Conversations and activity in the room centred on what needs to happen to make the teaching workforce more diverse, and particularly to encourage more to become leaders. But it was also an open space for sharing experiences, valuable professional learning underpinned by offering and accepting support through shared understanding. There was a tangible warmth, combined with a sense of care and ambition.
Whilst the group meets virtually, the occasional face-to-face sessions are all the more rewarding because they end with an optional hug. Fellow practitioners, aspiring practitioners, leaders and aspiring leaders are very welcome to join or begin by finding out more at DARPL@cardiffmet.ac.uk.
Interviewed, participants made some hard-hitting points:
‘I joined because I felt isolated and wondered if I would continue in my career as a leader in Wales. Now we can share lived experience, this network will change things’.
‘I joined because there needs to be a change. There’s a steel ceiling, not glass, which means I’m one of very few in a leadership role’.
‘The group saves me from feeling isolated. I can get advice and it’s good for my mental well-being’.
‘You get different ideas about how to implement change. The professional learning is better than I’ve ever seen’.
‘I’m trying to influence recruitment, and my cluster is trying to help, but we need this group to help add weight when talking to Local Authorities. They need to understand our issues, the issues for our families.’
‘I feel I can find a way forward because this is such a varied group, and I can sense change happening, if slowly. This group can help to accelerate that.‘