Equality, diversity and inclusion strategy
The mission of our trust is to challenge educational and social disadvantage in the North. We do this by establishing high-performing, non-faith academies which maximise attainment, value diversity, develop character, and build cultural capital.
In 2020, our anti-racism action plan was developed. A key driver for this was the growing body of research confirming the importance of effective role models in improving student outcomes (e.g., Gershenson et al.,2021). Considering this context, tackling racism and historic under-representation of staff from diverse backgrounds, especially at senior levels in our schools, has been a top priority. We also created an anti-racism cross cutting team (CCT) as part of our strategy recognising that it was important to listen to the reality and narrative of those who have experienced racism.
Over the last academic year, in addition to the work on anti-racism, there has been significant progress in creating a wider understanding across the organisation of our broader equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) agenda. Some of the key highlights include:
- The anti-racism CCT has led the way in the sector with one of its members, Funmilola Stewart, recently invited to speak at the Confederation for Schools Trusts conference on her joint thought paper with our Executive Director: Development, Jenny Thompson, around de-colonisation of the school curriculum.
- Executive, principals and central functional leads have participated in an equality, diversity and inclusion development programme delivered by external specialists. This included:
- a senior leaders’ Inclusion Diversity and Equality Awareness Workshop
- 1-1 mentoring sessions for our trust executive
- group coaching sessions for all principals and functional leads
- A ‘Truthsayers Survey’ was conducted with middle leaders designed to gather both explicit and implicit affirmations in relation to ED&I. Unlike a traditional survey, it has a mechanism around implicit reaction time to judge if what a respondent explicitly states is what they believe. The findings have been used to inform our strategy.
We recognise that there is still much for us to do and we plan to be even more ambitious. Here, we set out the three pillars of activity which inform our 2-5 year plan: Make our Centre for Growth the go-to place for our academies and the sector-lead for rigorous implementation, crafting school culture, and equality, diversity and inclusion.
Pillar 1: Culture
Our workforce is made up of individuals each with their own identity. At Dixons, we believe that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ We want to create a culture where there is a sense of belonging and togetherness and everyone can be authentic at work. Leading a team composed of difference requires skill and attention. That isn’t because people who are different are inherently more challenging. It’s simply that we all know the ease that happens around people who are immediately alike. There are shortcuts to building relationships because they went to the same school, have a similar background, or came from a similar area.
This helps to save energy, and we are in an environment where we are already stretched; as such, that energy saving feels welcome. But it means that those people who are less similar do not have the advantage of the same connection.
At Dixons, everyone has the right to the same sense of belonging and human connection, no matter their background. Inclusive leadership is not about treating everyone the same. It isn’t about being blind to someone’s ethnicity, religion, disability, sexuality, or gender. It is about how leaders adapt to get the very best of the people around them through creating an environment where everyone they lead feels empowered to do their best work as well as feeling that it is ‘safe’ to speak up without fear of embarrassment or retaliation.
Our Culture pillar sets out the following aims:
- Staff, students and families know they will be appreciated as their authentic selves
- We understand the explicit and implicit ED&I experiences of our team
- There are nine protected characteristics, in our thinking, each will be treated with equity
Develop a trust Inclusion communication plan to create momentum and build knowledge and awareness.
Develop an approach to harness the knowledge and experiences of Dixons staff from a range of diverse backgrounds, encompassing each of the nine protected characteristics, to inform our strategy to become a more inclusive employer.
Enhance coaching skills for line managers around creating an inclusive culture by developing supporting materials within the professional growth programme.
All staff to have at least one ED&I training intervention each year with an ED&I session included for all new staff as part of onboarding.
Executive and school leaders to receive ED&I training to enable them to lead and champion a big move on ED&I.
Break down barriers with local communities and build trust and understanding through intentional efforts to generate effective working relationships and achieve positive change.
Appoint a Trust AP Research and Development (Anti-Racism) to lead the Anti-Racism CCT and provide leadership capacity to the wider ED&I agenda across our trust.
Carry out a flexible working pilot in selected schools.
Outcome 1: 100% of staff will receive at least one hour of high-quality ED&I training annually by 2023.
Outcome 2: 100% of new starters will receive high-quality ED&I training as part of their induction by 2023.
Outcome 3: The board, executives and principals will receive ED&I training to lead the development and implementation of an ED&I Big Move.
Outcome 4: Use our annual employee engagement survey to track levels of ‘employee engagement’ of staff from diverse groups and report this to the board.
Pillar 2: Representation
At Dixons, we have an incredibly diverse workforce and student population. In a number of our schools, over 90% of our pupils and over 30% of our staff come from ethnic minority backgrounds. We recognise that, in line with the wider sector, significant commitment and effort are required to address the lack of diversity at senior levels within our trust. There is much to do for us to ensure fair representation, especially in relation to ethnicity, considering the make-up of the communities that we serve. Currently, for staff where data is available, 28% of our teachers at Dixons are from ethnic minority backgrounds; however, this drops significantly at middle leader (16%) and SLT (20%) level. At principal level representation reduces further and signficant effort is required to make progress.
Whilst equity is about ensuring that everyone has an equal chance of success, diversity is about recognising and valuing difference. We know that having a range of perspectives in decision making, and the workforce being representative of the communities that it serves, makes us stronger and more successful.
Our Representation pillar sets out the following aims:
- Staff, students and families recognise themselves in the trust: they belong
- The reality and narrative of lived racism informs our strategy
- ED&I is central to our new approach to professional growth
Increase the employer value proposition to external and internal talent from diverse groups by creating a new careers site and advertisement content, highlighting existing role models and our commitment to becoming more representative.
Engage with our communities to understand barriers and develop innovative recruitment approaches to attract more diverse fields of staff.
Continue to run our ‘Women in education’ development programme to support further widening of representation of women within senior roles.
Identify possible ethnic minority successors to more senior roles within the next 3 years to ensure a systematic trust-wide approach can be taken to progressing talent (including guaranteeing interviews to candidates that meet the essential post requirements).
Create a ‘positive action’ SLT development programme to provide additional support to address the barriers to progression for ethnic minority staff.
Hold a positive action development conference for ethnic minority middle leaders.
Address gaps in diversity data by enhancing data collection processes and gathering missing information (followed by the creation of a set of dashboards to track progress).
Review recruitment and selection processes and provide mandatory recruitment and selection training to all hiring managers to ensure that bias is dealt with. Ensure that there is at least one ethnic minority representative on all selection panels for senior positions.
Outcome 1: By 2025, the % of ethnic minority staff at middle leader and senior level will be equal to the % at teacher level.
Outcome 2: By 2025, the % of ethnic minority staff at middle management level will be equal to the % of those at administrative / assistant grades for associate staff.
Outcome 3: By 2025, significant progress will have been made to increase the number of principals from a ethnic minority.
Outcome 4: Ethnic minority associate and teaching staff will progress at the same rate as white associate and teaching staff.
Outcome 5: There will be no recruitment or retention gap between ethnic minority and White teachers.
Pillar 3: Curriculum
The largest cohort of Team Dixons is our children. If we are truly committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, they must be able to see it, understand it and feel it. This means that stronger and more robust than any policy, is our curriculum. The time we spend with our children is primarily in our classrooms delivering instruction; as such, our curricula must give life to our ED&I thinking. For our curricula to achieve this, ED&I must be pervasive, informing every decision taken in our classrooms. This means that, we are beholden to ensure it is central to our professional growth offer.
If our teaching staff know and live our ED&I values, they will be able to iterate this in their teaching, the accountability to do so will be clear and the benefits tangible to all.
This begins with an appreciation that our trust will have to think more completely and more appreciatively than is expected in society We must accept that this will be complicated and have consequence.
If we truly start from the most vulnerable in our development of curricula and academy-culture, we cannot select the vulnerabilities society (or we) find palatable. There are nine protected characteristics, in our thinking, each must be treated with equity.
The nine protected characteristics are legally protected both by, and from, society. Again, this means that, for many of our staff and students, the likelihood of experiencing behaviours or treatment from which they require protection is ever-present.
Where society is tacitly acceptant, or indeed, endorsing of, behaviours, Dixons will not be. This is a high bar to hold - justly, and necessarily, high.
Our staff and students will not face discrimination, will not discriminate against others and our curricula will actively protect these characteristics. This demands a huge effort, investment and commitment that society would be fundamentally comfortable for us to ignore.
Our CCTs are central to the acceleration and promotion of this work. The CCTs are the key curricular and cultural vehicle for our ED&I work educationally: the Trust APs must be the domain experts.
As this is a pathfinding and sector-leading initiative, our Lead Schools must be at the vanguard. Our Lead Schools must own this work and embrace it wholly.
Dixons' educational reputation is built on our expertise at creating school culture: we have a national voice and we need to use it to place ED&I at the centre of this work.
Dixons' SEND thinking is visionary: again, we have a national voice - this work is pivotal to an appreciation of a curricula centred on ED&I.
Our Curriculum pillar sets out the following aims:
- Our commitment to ED&I permeates our curricula
- Our curricula will actively promote the protected characteristics
- The CCTs are central to this work
Appoint Trust AP R&D anti-racism to lead the CCT to embed the de-colonisation of the curriculum.
Train the Trust APs R&D to be domain experts in ED&I in order to centre this thinking in all curricular decisions.
Ensure mechanisms are in place to capture the intentional ED&I of our curricula and feedback.
Capture staff and student feedback on the representation of our ED&I curricula.
Share our ED&I curricular work across our sector.
Outcome 1: By 2025, Dixons’ national voice will be sector-leading on ED&I.
Outcome 2: By 2023, all CCT leads will be trained to expertise on ED&I.
Outcome 3: BAME students will report feeling represented in the curriculum equitably to white students.