Review by Zara Simpson

Deputy head of prep (Academic), Streatham and Clapham High School

23 Mar 2024, 5:00


The Conversation – with Zara Simpson

Ramadan Mubarak

For me as a school leader, effective equality, diversity and inclusion practices are an essential feature of good education for all children. Coming to school should always be a positive experience for pupils of all backgrounds, cultures and religions; their environment should feel welcoming and supportive. As we embark upon the month of Ramadan it is essential that pupils taking part feel able to do so with ease.  

BBC Teach offers valuable resources and podcasts that educators can incorporate into their lessons. I particularly enjoyed listening to Bishop Challoner Training School Alliance’s teacher tips, which provide practical strategies and suggestions for creating a positive and accommodating classroom environment.

While there will be varying degrees of support needed for individual pupils, these should be carefully discussed and planned to make learning at school during this time enriching. RE lessons serve as an ideal time to teach pupils about Ramadan. Assemblies, displays, parent talks and opportunities for pupils to share their personal experiences with the wider school community are also constructive ways in which to celebrate this month.

The role of role models

When we recently asked our pupils what they would like to be when they are adults, most of the girls had their answers already. These covered a wide range of aspirations including, medical, creative and sporting professions. However, some were not so sure.

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month serve as wonderful opportunities to inspire those who already know with the highest ambitions and give who haven’t yet made up their minds a window on the breadth of possibilities available to them.

But we never stop looking to trailblazers and role models as we grow up, so for my part I have  found listening to Teachers Talk Radio particularly inspiring this week. Its podcast episodes dedicated to celebrating women leaders who have made significant contributions to the field of education are truly motivational. 

They’re also a reminder that, as well as offering a truly inclusive and aspirational curriculum, we also have to model the kind of working environment they should expect to enter once they leave us: one that is fair, equitable and clearly recognises their positive contributions.

Who are the female role models that girls can refer to when looking for motivation towards their career goals? Why is their contribution relevant today? What lessons can be learned from their journeys? Women’s History Month is a great time to ask ourselves these questions – but, as this blog from Oasis academies rightly says,  we mustn’t stop doing so once April rolls round.

An unSTEMmable tide

And on that theme, no sector gets more column inches dedicated each year to its lack of female representation than STEM. So it was perhaps fortuitous that this year’s British Science Week kicked off on International Women’s Day. Perfect timing.

In fact the ten-day celebration’s theme for 2024 was time, and while there are plenty of ways to make connections between science and time, the clearest for me is that it is definitely time to end the inequalities that characterise the sector.

So it was heartening to read that British Science Week saw the launch of the #SmashingStereotypes campaign by the British Science Association. In an inspirational blog about the campaign, Orna Herr refers to Teach First research from earlier this year showing a confidence gap between girls and boys in respect of science learning – in spite of girls out-performing boys at GCSE and A Level. She goes on to showcase a diverse group of female scientists with careers in commerce and academia who endorse the campaign and show what’s possible for women in these fields.

For us, the crucial focus is on fostering a love of the sciences. This week, we’ve done that through workshops and educational visits to bring ‘awe and wonder’. But while such experiences are can and do foster a thirst for further knowledge, it’s on us to bring the curriculum and all its possible career opportunities to life in every lesson and turn girls’ potential into an unSTEMmable tide of job applications.

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