As Hannah Wilson (Co-Founder, Diverse Educators) recently wrote in an article for SecEd, there is an ever-growing need to create a more diverse teaching workforce. Still, to find solutions, you first need to identify the problems.
Back in early 2021, Edurio sought out to help trusts by asking over 16,500 staff members from 380 schools questions relating to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). We were then able to create a report that set a national benchmark from our data. After this, we then hosted a subsequent EDI summit day to raise awareness, discuss and tackle future steps for the education sector as a whole.
In December 2021, trusts involved in our survey were invited to our Edurio EDI Roundtable hosted by Sufian Sadiq, Director of Teaching School at the Chiltern Learning Trusts. We encouraged trust leaders and experts to discuss how and if this survey had impacted their trust during this event.
This blog will cover the main points raised within our discussion to provide your trust with insight into using an EDI survey, and steps your organisation may take after.
What Drove You as an Organisation to Want to Do This Survey?
One of the first topics we focused on during our discussion was what drove our attendees' trust to undertake one of our surveys.
After listening to everyone's responses, it became apparent that a clear pattern of similar motives emerged from all trusts. The most common reasons for starting a survey included:
- Wanting to understand the opinions of their workforce
- Feeling like a change was needed in light of socio-political backdrops such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement
- Needing a baseline of staff opinion to help understand and grow a consistent voice across their trust
Some trusts struggled with this lack of trust consistency more than others because of either:
- A large number of schools in their trust
- A separation in opinion or lack of communication between leadership and the general workforce
However, they all agreed that using a survey would help create a consistent baseline about issues that really matter to them as a community and would open up serious discussions.
One member of the group said:
"We wanted a change. To bring people together. To understand what barriers people are facing, what are the priorities and where do we need to focus on people's training and understanding of EDI."
With another attendee saying:
"The survey helped us open the discussion, using real data, to encourage the leadership to open up discussions."
Our EDI report's findings also discovered a perception gap between staff and their leadership staff, as those in leadership often felt their organisation was more committed to EDI than staff. Though some in the sector may suggest leadership teams seem unclear about what they are talking about at first, our data showed there is more to the situation than this. For instance, if you're in a leadership position, you can see pockets of commitment and policies being developed. But, if your staff aren't recognising this, perhaps there is a lack of communication.
A group member summarised this initial discussion by commenting, "If it doesn't touch the people you work with, they won't get the perception that you value diversity. If you want to move beyond tokenistic, you need to hear from people and get to know their lived experiences."
Having Done the EDI Survey, What Do You Do Now?
Of course, using a survey alone does not create a more diverse trust, as one of our attendees rightly summarised, "A survey is like seeing the doctor, necessary but it's not the prescription. What you do after having done a survey, your plan to move on is the prescription you need." On the whole, our EDI attendees also agreed with this sentiment; using a survey had allowed them to figure out what change needed to be made, but the next hurdle came from figuring out what to change first.
For some, after taking the survey, it was clearer where their trust needed to focus their efforts, and what they needed to do to make an impact. In contrast, others felt this change would never come unless it came top-down.
Of course, the attendees highlighted that driving change comes with challenges; one theme that resonated with a few trusts was how to start these difficult conversations in a valuable and productive way.
For example, one attendee raised a concern that in many instances, they'd witnessed non-marginalised people were often afraid to make someone uncomfortable by asking questions about someone's protected characteristics in case they get it wrong. However, in our discussion, the group suggested that we make people comfortable accepting they may get it wrong the first time, but then they should move on and take it as an opportunity to learn and be ready for next time.
At this point, the discussion started to question whether using a provocation session as an alternative to unconscious bias training could be useful for trusts.
Provocation sessions are used to train people to deal with issues and handle situations they are not familiar with or experienced with.
Reflecting on this, one trust representative summarised this notion by saying that these challenges are likely to occur, but how we handle them makes the difference. Another questioned how to have such conversations when, "People want to come up with easy, quick solutions, which won't unpick what offends people, as this takes a little more time." For example, in one attendee's experience, people often ask him why Eid isn't celebrated on one singular day. Our attendee went on to say, they feel such a question is asked instead of learning why Eid celebrations are spread out over a couple of days. On the other hand, he also felt that maybe certain people might not want to open these conversations for fear of offending.
As one attendee contemplated, many heads of schools often shy away from opening these challenging conversations as they feel like it raises issues they don't often want to be raised, and it might point out problems they don't want to be exposed. That being said, many of our roundtable attendees felt that having done a survey, they could use the data to accept people's lived realities within their trusts and change the current culture.
What Progress Has Been Made Since the Survey?
After using one of our surveys, we thought it was great to see how trusts were thinking of the bigger picture. However, we were also keen to see the immediate action they had taken. As expected, many attendees reported that they are still a long way from fixing the issues raised in their surveys, but they are slowly beginning to see some progress in the right direction. Many have identified what needs to be done, created quality task groups, and generally made real commitments. For example, one trust opted to make Black History a key part of their curriculum, not just an awareness day or month. Though progress may be slow for now, we appreciated the honesty of trusts sharing the beginnings of their EDI journey.
Sufian wrapped up our event with this abstract question, "What would you do after this survey if you had a magic wand with no restrictions? What actions would you take?", allowing us all to consider what trusts really feel needs changing if they weren't working with limited resources. From this stimulus, our attendees considered how to continue the conversation in their wider communities, identifying that no matter what work was done within their schools, the change would never come without including parents and carers. One attendee even raised the idea of using an EDI survey amongst parents, carers, and family to understand their point of view.
What Can Your Trust Take Action on Going Forward?
We understand building a trust that is a great place to work for everyone is a long journey, but we are pleased to see our trusts finding steps to take. One of our trust experts summed up her personal views on this journey with the following:
"For me, we need to hear personal stories and open up those spaces. It's also about finding the time in the school day to have these conversations, starting with teachers, because if they feel confident, this will flow to the students and the parents. There is a lack of confidence right now and awareness of what needs to be done. Perhaps, because we don't know what we don't know.
For example, suddenly, everyone woke up during BLM. I thought I was quite an open-minded person, and suddenly there was so much more information that I hadn't been aware of. I believe inclusion is one of those areas that the more you find out, the more you don't know.
I think all of us come to these issues with our own different journeys of discovery, having lived different experiences. But we need to start finding some time to start these conversations, learn about people's experiences, and have an open dialogue that will open new potential ways to move forward."