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Dixons Academies Trust

Accelerate Programme: aspiration, authenticity and empowerment

Posted 31st July 2023

Developing and rolling out our trust equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda is a strategic priority for us. At Dixons, there is a historic under-representation of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. Whilst we have been making some good progress, senior leadership appointments have risen from 20% to 33% from 2020 – 2022, we know there is a lot more work to do.

The Accelerate programme is one of the many strands of our ED&I Strategy to help everyone, no matter what their visible and invisible characteristics, to feel like they belong.

Accelerate is a powerful and ground-breaking programme for ethnic minority senior leaders. It has been strongly influenced by input from ethnic minority leaders across our trust and supported by principals and the executive team. It has been designed to contribute to individual and organisational change. The programme will allow participants to:

  • raise awareness of lived experience of self and others and its impact in a safe space
  • foster new networks to empower self and be a visible advocate for others
  • offer practical advice from those in Principal or equivalent roles
  • give participants the skills and knowledge required to progress their careers within the trust and address barriers to progression
  • celebrate the contribution of ethnic minority leaders to the education sector by highlighting existing role models

Next academic year, participants will be able to access group career coaching and then optional programme components such as professional shadowing, mock interview and feedback and a Stay conversation with a Principal or member of the Executive team. The programme is ambitious in scope to ensure there is personal and professional growth.

On 12 July, we launched our Accelerate Programme with our very first Accelerate Conference. Senior leaders of an ethnic minority background came together at the Centre for Growth to form a powerful and supportive network where they explored what it means to be an authentic leader. Participants then defined their authentic leadership brand and were further motivated by Maya Angelou’s inspirational words: “Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.”

The Accelerate Conference concluded with an inspirational panel: Asma Maqsood-Shah (Regional Director, Astrea Academy Trust); Raouf Mohammed (Principal, Dixons City Academy); Audrey Pantelis (Founder and Director – Elevation Coaching and Consulting Ltd); Sarfraz Shah (Principal of Eden Boys Manchester, Star Academies) and Aisha Raymond (Head of Primary, Eastbury Community School).

Here are some highlights from the panel discussion:

“I’m very up front about me. Deliberately. I am proud of who I am. You don’t need to fear me.”

“As a leader, being your authentic self is also about making inclusive decisions. Think carefully about what is appropriate and what is not.”

“I was always very clear about my vision, my purpose and my ‘why?’. Always think about what you can do that will create the most happiness for you; life is a series of decisions and it’s within your control.”

Here’s what our some of our participants had to say about the Accelerate Conference:

“I enjoyed hearing the lived experiences of the panel of speakers, as well as their advice and tips on how to develop as a leader both professionally and emotionally. This helped us to feel that, yes, there will be challenges but that we can work smart and prepare for them, thereby effectively removing the barriers and challenges. It also served as inspiration to keep aiming high and continuing to climb the leadership ladder to headship and beyond because it has been done and is not an insurmountable task.”

“It was such an empowering and inspiring session. I just feel truly honoured to be part of Team Dixons and on this journey with so many other incredible practitioners.”

“Just a big thank you for doing this. It is so important and empowering and made me feel proud to be a part of it.”

The Accelerate programme is only one building block of our ED&I pathway and there will be more exciting and innovative opportunities from the Centre for Growth to come. Information about Accelerate for Middle Leaders of an ethnic minority background will be shared after the summer holidays, along with training for Principals and SLT Teams and next steps for our special interest groups. We are conscious that there is more to do and will need many voices to contribute to our personal and professional learning.

If there are any questions about Accelerate or any suggestions about what the Centre for Growth could offer as part of our ED&I training, please contact Natasha Raheem (Assistant Vice Principal, Dixons Centre for Growth).