Bargaining for Equality
Yes, it was a Saturday. Yes, it was the first day of the summer holidays in Leicester. Yes, I attended the excellent Bargaining for Equality conference organised by Leicester's own George White.
Regional Secretary Una O'Brien started the morning by highlighting the regional aim to have equality front and centre in the agenda moving forwards. She acknowledged that inequality starts early in education with childhood poverty and that as community activists we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with organisations who fight inequality on a daily basis. We need to look at our bargaining strategy and how to hold the employer accountable. The legal framework is a starting point. The NEU have model policies: anti-racism charter, model menopause charter and domestic abuse policy.
So what can we do?
George White and Louise Regan gave excellent presentations with their ideas, which I've combined below:
• It's really important to make sure your membership record is up to date, including equalities data.
• Does your setting have an inclusion and diversity group? If so, can you discuss these questions - there's more common ground than you think.
• How can we show each other support, even if our experiences might be different?
• Can we find common ground?
• How would this affect how to we could organise for change at work?
• At secondary schools, do you have student ambassadors? You might be able to use recent graduates as an 'each one, teach one' strategy.
• Encourage training. No one person is an inclusion expert - they can only speak for their experience but champion all. Needs everyone to come together.
• Allyship - find allies in the workplace. Look at intersectionality but also find powerful allies who may be beyond your work setting. Many people don't want to be pigeon-holed by their religion, race, etc. They just want to be a good teacher or a good colleague. An example given was of wearing rainbow facemasks/laces/lanyards/badges, which has encouraged other people to do the same. In classrooms you could display Black Lives Matter posters to show solidarity.
• We need to push for quality training for new educators: very few ITT courses offer training on inclusion. Unless people enter the profession with the skills to tackle issues they're facing, it's harder for them.
• Look at the reading materials in your school - are they inclusive? Are the texts you use in your teaching inclusive?
• Consider the curriculum. It's fine to celebrate Black History Month or Pride, but we need to embed all equalities strands into our curriculum, so no child feels excluded. You can't be what you can't see. Every young person needs to see themselves.
We can find common ground because we've all suffered detriment in some way. We can listen to each other's experiences even if it's not our own lived experience. Treat each other with respect. We can then collectivise. No need to champion one equality strand above the other, there's a need for all.
The keynote speaker was Dr Heather Mclure, who also shared some excellent ideas:
• Be Bold! Put pen to paper, put yourself forward. Grasp that mettle and move yourself into positions of responsibility because otherwise you're not going to change the game. Alliances are really important. Look at where you are and fight from that position. We can all do something exactly where we stand.
• Watch Rita Pearson's TED talk, where she talks about all of us being champions for our children.
• Think about the texts you use, remove some and replace with more diverse examples.
• It can be lonely being the voice for your equality, but if not me, then who?
• It's great to get black people into university and into schools as teachers, but we need to think about retention. How do we take care of these staff when they get there? https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10117331/ - new publication about the recruitment and retention of BAME staff
• The more we read, the more we know, and the more we're able to challenge and be a greater support to our colleagues.
• CPD opportunities - embrace the possibilities from the NEU. The sections within the NEU provide amazing conferences and networking opportunities. Also ask for CPD in schools, and if the first answer is no then ask again! https://neu.org.uk/national-cpd
In groups we also discussed our ideas, and added a few more:
• Can you find a mentor? Or could you mentor someone?
• Challenge inequalities.
• Stop profiling/assumptions of who you are.
• Ask people how to pronounce names correctly if you don't know.
• Put gender pronouns in your email signature.
This was an open, honest and practical day, where we were able to discuss issues we had each faced, and discuss ways forward together. I look forward to future events like this, as it was excellent.