Equity in education, curriculum-focused workshops and leadership sessions
The ESW Professional Development Day held this week brought together over 300 educators from across the Trust, meeting at Coombeshead Academy, King Edward VI Community College and Teign School for a day of interactive workshops and thought-provoking discussions. Delegates described it as “highly relevant to our setting” and praised the “very useful frameworks” to reflect on current practice.
Lee Elliott-Major OBE, from Exeter University and Britain’s first Professor of Social Mobility, delivered a two-hour keynote based on his book Equity in Education. As a fundamental aspect of ESW’s philosophy, the session allowed us to take a closer look at how we embody this in our day-to-day activities. Some of the key messages included:
- Despite the perception of societal progress, the data unequivocally shows that the social divide in Britain has drastically widened over the past six decades. Unlike our grandparents, today’s generation faces significantly diminished prospects of upward mobility from working-class backgrounds to the middle classes.
- The choice of language used in the sector holds significance. Lee urged colleagues to not conform to national or traditional views around labelling pupils as disadvantaged, a binary classification that can pass unwarranted and unwanted judgements. Instead, the term ‘under-resourced’ was suggested to allow for a spectrum of cultural, emotional and material needs.
- The distinction between equity and equality was emphasised, underscoring the importance of going beyond mere equality in the pursuit of educational equity. Achieving equity necessitates more than equal opportunities.
- Whilst significant strides have been made to promote diversity and inclusion in the corporate world and the value of thought diversity understood widely, socio-economic background often remains an overlooked dimension.
- We need to celebrate a broader range of human talent, advocating for greater recognition of diverse talents and skills in young people.
- An acknowledgment of unconscious bias in all of us was a key aspect of discussions, prompting attendees to reflect on how this could materialise in our daily interactions. And the value of ‘connection before correction’ as one of our educators raised, quoting Dr Daniel Siegel, the renowned psychiatrist who specialises in child development.
- Finally, support must extend beyond the school gates – to do what we can to foster an environment where parents can actively understand and encourage their children’s educational journeys.
The session not only provided time for educators to think further on these pressing issues, but reiterated and emphasised how much work the schools in the Trust have been doing in this area – something that we can all be extremely proud of. Our thanks to Lee Elliott-Major for such a thought provoking presentation.
The rest of the day involved a series of workshops led by educational leaders and curriculum development leads. Jayne Keller ran primary-phase sessions on monitoring children’s progress and a review of English books from across the Trust. Matt Sullivan, Vicky Harris, Tom Pether, Evie Edworthy, Rosie Mears and Lisa Howells led sessions on bringing specialist primary subjects to life and how to adapt lessons to meet the needs of all learners. Suzannah Wharf and John Reid coordinated our leadership session on building partnerships and communication channels with parents. Our sincere thanks to all for the work that went into these workshops – interactive, collaborative and full of shared best practice – and much needed towards the end of a long term!