Friday Insights (4th October)

4 October 2019

Friday Insight is back after holidays and a couple of Fridays for the Future. This week saw us celebrating teachers around the world with #WorldTeachersDay – so we’ll hear from one of the amazing teachers who gave up a Headship opportunity to continue her learning and development at a Pupil Referral Unit as part of The Difference Leaders Program. This leads us nicely onto the topic of inclusion – not just on the frontlines and in schools, but from the top down, starting with funders. We’ll share some thoughts on the Association for Charitable Foundation’s new report on how funders can promote diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

Celebrating bold decisions on World Teachers Day

The first ever Difference Leaders program is now well underway, and some of the program’s participants are sharing what made them want to pursue a career change to learn from working in Alternative Provision (APs), including Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). The Difference Leaders program seeks works to raise the status and expertise of those working with vulnerable learners: in Alternative Provision, and in mainstream. It does this by recruiting mainstream teachers to work in Alternative Provision for two years, bringing their expertise and skills to the AP environment, while also learning from best practice in supporting the most vulnerable children. Teachers on the program can then bring this best practice in inclusion back into the mainstream environment.

This can be a gutsy choice, not least because PRUs and other AP provision have a bit of an image problem: “Children don’t come back, that’s it”, Difference Leaders participant Vicky Shires heard her colleagues say. “Your life chances, once you’re in secondary PRU, are awful”. However, Vicky suspected that there was something to be learned from PRUs that could help her school best support the 5-10% of students whose needs were not being met. So much so that Vicky, an experienced and accomplished teacher who had been invited to apply for a Headship at her school, applied for The Difference Leaders program instead. Having spent four weeks now in an AP setting, she’s learning a lot – not just from the young people she is working with, but from being in an environment where she is the least experienced member of staff for the first time in years.

We want to take a moment to celebrate all of the teachers out there who are continuing to push themselves out of their comfort zones in order to best support young people to thrive in life. The way teachers like Vicky, and all of the other teachers on The Difference Leaders Program, use their passion and their humility to keep learning and challenging themselves is truly inspiring. Our education and learning system is lucky to have them.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Stronger Foundations

While we are a small charity with a big vision, we are also a funder of some amazing early stage projects. This role comes with a certain amount of power and influence, and a responsibility to think deeply about our own practices, as well as those of the organizations we fund. To that end, we have been following the progress of The Association of Charitable Foundations’ new initiative, Stronger Foundations, which released its first report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion this week. For a handy review of its contents, check out this blog by CEO Carol Mack, who articulates why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is so important for funders to consider:

“At their best, foundations enable civil society to thrive in all of its rich plurality. They can take a long-term view, act independently, champion novel ideas or less popular causes, preserve that which is at risk, and provide funding for social needs or public goods that are not yet met by markets or government. And yet. We live in an unjust and imperfect world; unless foundations are also conscientious about the ways in which they work, we can risk perpetuating injustices and undermining the social good that we all seek to do”.

In the report, ACF lays out its 12 pillars of strong DEI practice, covering everything from governance, transparency, how we use our power to advocate for DEI, the strategies and reviews we carry out of our practices and those of the organizations we fund, how we make ourselves accountable to those we fund, and how we collaborate with others to strengthen DEI among funders as a whole. In these pillars, we (along with many others) recognize what we do well, and what we could do more of. We’re lucky to have a diverse set of project partners (past and present) that we can learn from, and are proud to have invested the time and energy into our relationships with them to get to the point where feedback between us flows relatively freely. However, there is always more we can do – we hope to learn from Vicky Shires on The Difference program, and continue to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to learn and improve in order to best support all young people to thrive.

From all of us at Big Change, happy (belated) World Teachers Day!