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Understanding representation matters

On Monday 8 January 2024 staff from all of our schools came together at Cirencester Deer Park School for our fifth face to face in-service training day.


Following consultation on our values and equality objectives twelve months ago, this session focused on one of the Trust’s strategic priorities: ‘To further strengthen the Trust’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion’, specifically, to engage with specialist partners, listen and learn from lived experience, act on feedback and recommendations and strengthen plans.


After an introduction by Chiquita Henson, Trust Lead (CEO) in which she provided some context, Aisha Thomas from Representation Matters delivered a very impactful keynote presentation to all staff.


‘An eye-opener of a day - it has really made me critically reflect my practice in terms of race and equality.’ Briony Smith, Year 1/2 teacher.


During the first session colleagues from our primary schools and our secondary school sat alongside each other to talk about their own lived experience and that of others. They reflected on their own practice in school and engaged in lively discussion.


Before sharing the lived experience of children, young people and their families, Aisha Thomas challenged our perceptions of ourselves and each other. This demonstrated how easy it is to make assumptions and default to stereotypes. While taking race as her starting point, through her well-chosen activities, Aisha Thomas took care to cover all of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. She challenged our core beliefs and introduced us to triple consciousness.


‘Aisha was an inspirational speaker who managed to challenge my thinking while still making me feel valued as an educator. I left the day feeling empowered and excited about making a difference.’ Katie Jarvis, Year 5/6 teacher.


Given the importance of the topic, we were also very pleased support staff and several of our trustees and representatives from our local governing bodies took part in our training day alongside our teaching staff and joined in the conversation too.


‘A really insightful morning and great guest speaker. It really made me question how I think and has given me a greater understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion from all perspectives and how we can do so much more.’ Louise Mason, School Administrator.


Aisha Thomas observed, ‘It was wonderful to start our year working with staff from the Corinium Education Trust. Staff were engaged and enthusiastic about the opportunity to test their own bias and understanding, whilst developing their understanding of anti-racist practice. An absolute pleasure. We are excited for your journey.’


Following a short break, staff split into two groups to continue learning more about equality, diversity and inclusion and how best to address issues of concern and adapt their practice to ensure everyone in our schools can thrive.


Aisha Thomas worked directly with staff from the Trust’s primary schools. In her workshop she focused on how to talk to children about race. She showed how to create a safe space and provided an alternative perspective on some very familiar books.


Staff at Cirencester Deer Park School also participated in a workshop facilitated by Aisha’s colleague, Ruth Butler. Reflecting the age of the school’s pupils, this focused on very contemporary issues related to equality, diversity and inclusion. These also touched on safeguarding. Ruth helped the team understand and reflect on the pervading influences on children and young people including misogyny, misogynoir, adultification and intersectionality.


‘Aisha's presentation was compelling and thought provoking. Even though the content had the potential to make people feel very uncomfortable, Aisha's engaging manner meant that we were able to navigate through some very challenging concepts knowing that things had to change and feeling equipped to do so. Aisha's work is truly groundbreaking, and I can heartily recommend Representation Matter's approach to inclusivity in education.’ Richard Clutterbuck, Headteacher, Cirencester Deer Park School.


After lunch, staff worked in their school and/or subject teams. This gave everyone the opportunity to continue the conversation. They reflected on what they had heard and learnt during the morning sessions, reviewed their curricula, explored new and developed existing resources. This ongoing work will ensure our schemes of learning are fully inclusive.


‘Such an inspiring day! Aisha really inspired me, (and I think all of us), to realise that as educators, we have such a powerful job and we can create a world where all children and young adults feel equal and empowered to be or do anything they want to become.’

Pippa Jessop, Year 3/4 teacher.


Aisha Thomas and Ruth Butler subsequently shared some powerful think pieces and resources for all staff to complement the training session. These include recommended reading and books for children, as well as clear steps to take when responding to questions or incidents.


We will continue to monitor the impact of this training and plan to review our progress in June 2024.