It is safe to say that most organisations, schools and trusts claim to embrace diversity and have no tolerance for racism. STEP Academy Trust was no different. As a Trust, we prided ourselves on being open and inclusive, improving the life chances of all our pupils.
STEP is fortunate to work across several local authorities in two geographical areas. We pride ourselves on working closely with and supporting the communities we serve. However, the tragic events in the United States following the killing of George Floyd in 2020 prompted us to reflect more deeply on our stance as a Trust. Was it enough for our Trust to simply not be part of the problem, if we weren’t actively contributing to the solution?
This is the core difference between a non-racist and an anti-racist organisation.
As a non-racist Trust, our goal was not to perpetuate racism. We wanted to hold ourselves to a higher standard, actively eliminating racism and demonstrating to future and current colleagues and our communities what we stood for.
The reason is simple: taking a position of anti-racism was the best way to improve the life chances of the children, staff, and diverse communities which we serve. Pupils both need and deserve role models who genuinely reflect the diverse world we live in. Our job as leaders is to ask why this is not always the case within the sector, take action and challenge our systems, recruitment and development across the education sector.
Implementing this kind of culture change across a Multi-Academy Trust requires a strategic approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can be printed out and pinned up in the corridors. Every school is shaped by its community, so its anti-racism strategy must respond to that community’s unique culture, beliefs and needs.
As part of a Trust-wide anti-racism roadmap, STEP felt it important to have external challenge and opinion. As a result, we engaged a training provider, Fig Tree International, to review, challenge and thereby improve each academy’s policies and practices within their individual settings. These are assessed against an extensive framework that enables schools to identify areas for improvement and develop a unique action plan, independently accredited by Fig Tree International, setting out clear steps towards anti-racism.
The individual anti-racism action plans developed by academies within STEP Academy Trust are tailored to their unique needs. However, Trust-wide policies were also adopted to foster understanding and appreciation for diversity among staff and pupils alike. These include policy and recruitment changes aimed at building a leadership that reflects the diversity of our communities.
These policies lay the groundwork for change. Planned activities include specific targeted training and development for our future leaders, reviewing how well our websites and communications reflect our stance and developing a Trust-wide bank of reading materials and training resources that all pupils can have access to throughout their education.