Action – not just words
Given the terrible events that unfolded in Minneapolis last week, resulting in the death of George Floyd, it is hard to focus on much other than the urgent need to address the level of civil injustice that still prevails across global society.
In many respects, the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified problems of inequity within our communities and the extent to which the disadvantaged, socially deprived, and black and ethnic minorities have perhaps suffered the most. Not only have these groups been the direct victims of the disease, they have also suffered indirectly through loss of earnings, the collapse of family support or reduced access to important care.
The recent Public Health England report outlining the effects of COVID-19 on the BAME community makes a sobering read. Black and ethnic minorities have suffered disproportionately during this pandemic – they have not only been inadequately protected [shielded] but often have made up a large proportion of front-line NHS workers exposed on a daily basis to critically ill and highly infectious patients.
The workforce survey conducted by ISBL last year revealed some uncomfortable statistics regarding the BAME make-up of our professional community. Only 1% of the sample we surveyed were of black or ethnic origins. Whilst I can say with some confidence that the education community has not deliberately set out to deny access to the professional opportunities that exist in the school business leadership arena, we clearly have not done enough to reach out to certain groups, and we must do better going forward. In so many cases, the profile of the workforce doesn’t reflect the children and the communities we serve.
Since we published the workforce survey results at the start of this year, I have repeatedly stated my commitment to proactively ensure deeper and more meaningful engagement with the BAME community, and I intend to follow through with this promise.
We are commencing dialogue with BAMEed, and ISBL aims to establish a new focus group to discuss and tackle issues related to equity and diversity. I have also recently spoken to other education leaders, and there is a keen appetite to initiate an equity and equality commission.
It is time to move beyond politely nodding and acknowledgement to more affirmative action – ISBL intends to lead by example.