Our Diverse Academy
“We have three students in tears.”
My senior leader had phoned whilst I was at a Stoke-on-Trent Principals meeting. It was 24th June 2016.
My senior leader went on to explain that we had had three separate incidents of our children, all aged under 14 being racially abused in the street on that morning. One was with his parents. Two were with their friends. The shocking thing about this was it was adults verbally abusing children in the street.
This date was seminal for the UK as well as one that will live with me forever. It was the day that we had woken up to the result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Since then I, and many others, have become more and more concerned about wider tolerance and understanding in our country and our community.
But this day will live me forever as it was different, it felt like a turning point. That’s right, adults thinking that due to the EU referendum result that they are somehow legitimised in telling some of our children that they should “go home” or that “you’ll be gone soon.” We support our students as best we can but we know that our academy is so often a safer place than outside its walls.
We are a proud and privileged community due to the diversity in our academy. At the latest count we had children who spoke 38 different languages. Some speak still English as their main language, some are genuine English as an additional language speakers. The make-up of our academy community gives a richness and depth that few other schools are privileged to have.
Our students understand that the world extends far beyond Stoke-on-Trent because their friends and classmates may have been born elsewhere. Our students are accepting of other religions because their are so many within their academy. Our students don’t see the barriers and boundaries that many of adults see. Children who are refugees or asylum seekers are not a mystery to them as they are sat next to them in maths or playing football with them at lunchtime. One of our previous students who became Head Girl did so whilst she was an asylum seeker. We are an academy which sees the potential and talent in you as an individual and doesn’t seek to label you.
The last week at the academy has been our “Diversity Week” led by our diversity pioneer Mr Moore, it has been great to see a week of assemblies celebrating the diverse nature of our academy and community along with a series of activities during the week. The academy regularly celebrates its diversity and another week looking at LGBT later in the year. Mr Moore is also organising a cookbook as a way of celebrating the diverse cuisine and culture within our academy. If you wish to contribute to this you can email the academy on firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of these small interactions and planned activities are so important if we are to combat the intolerant attitudes that unfortunately still exist within wider society. Thankfully, I know that our students and our academy are part of that solution.