Update from the Chair of the Equality and Diversity Task Force at MES - May 2021
Last year the Black Lives Matter movement caused individuals and organisations across the world to acknowledge that our society does not always treat everyone equally. And here at ESMS, we realised we had to do more to ensure we were inclusive and actively promoting and celebrating diversity as a strength in our community. We consulted with our current pupil body, our staff body and our former pupils. Their stories were particularly poignant as we recognised that over the years, we had made mistakes. To those individuals who reached out to us, taking the time to recall experiences, we thank them and we wish to make an unreserved apology. While we cannot change the past, we can learn from it and my work leading an Equality and Diversity Task Force this session aims to be transformative.
The pupils at ESMS, from P3 to S6 have spoken bravely about the changes they wish to see and have shown themselves to be young people whose opinions and insights must be listened to. Our group of parents have been able to share their knowledge of the wider world of work and their experience growing up, as well as raising their own children. Finally, those who work at ESMS have appreciated the need to have a fresh pair of eyes, to ensure that all the work we do, be it in classrooms or outwith, enables all our children to foster positive attitudes and relationships among those from different communities. In our ESMS community everyone should see themselves in what we do so that every child has a sense of belonging.
We need to ensure that all pupils are valued equally, to make it crystal clear that stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination are not acceptable, and that we should be proud to be allies. As Schools we need to enable everyone to speak up when they see something is wrong, to support each other with mutual respect and to learn from each other. The ESMS community should be one where we recognise, respect and value difference and celebrate diversity as a strength. Diversity brings different viewpoints into the classroom, promoting creativity and a healthy dialogue that in turn enriches the quality of education.
In order to meet these aspirations and goals, the Task Force set out to consider the themes of Curriculum, Personal and Social Education (PSE), assemblies and celebrations, uniform and appearance, "calling out", sanctions and procedures, staff training, recruitment and policy updates. For each theme, we evaluated where we are at currently and invited suggestions for change and improvement. Consultation with those responsible for different parts of school life was undertaken as themes were explored by all the different groups. We therefore now have a plan of action relating to all these areas of school life, a plan which will be put in place and overseen by me and the other Heads next session. Among the many commitments we have made is action to see diversity in the resources we use, to highlight and celebrate people from different ethnic minority heritages and to decolonise the curriculum. I would be happy to meet with any former pupil who would like more specific detail. This is an area I feel very passionate about and dialogue with others is always beneficial, as my learning must continue.
At ESMS we have a number of policies which relate to all aspects of life, as it affects those who work here and those who attend school with us. A new policy, our Equality and Diversity Pupil Policy has been a result of our work this session. How we communicate the aims and objectives laid out in the policy to our pupil body will be a task for next session. Our benchmark for success is that they will see the policy in action as they move up through ESMS and we will be monitoring this with pupil and parent feedback.
It has been one of the most important pieces of work the School has undertaken and I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to it. Some changes will happen straight away, others will take longer to embed but we are determined that the measures we are introducing will make our community more knowledgeable about the past and the world in which we live now and ensure that pupils will leave school with a better appreciation of the importance of diversity and the value of being inclusive.
Chair of ESMS Equality and Diversity Task Force
Head of The Mary Erskine School
Image Credit: https://www.esms.org.uk/schools/mary-erskine-school/pastoral-care/celebrating-lgbt-mary-erskine-school-and-esms