Review by Zara Simpson

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

23 Sep 2023, 5:00


The Conversation – with Zara Simpson

Leadership learning

For pupils, staff and senior leadership teams alike, returning to school after the summer holidays offers a moment of renewal. It is a time to reconnect and reflect as we set ourselves new goals. 

This process is echoed in our wider professional networks too, and I was particularly delighted to come across this thread by Sanum J. Khan on X/Twitter. In it, she shares 15 valuable insights based on her experiences of starting a new SLT role last year.  

I assumed the role of deputy head of prep at Streatham and Clapham High School GDST in January, so I have been filled with enthusiasm embarking on my first autumn term – but also a little daunted.

We welcomed over 50 parents to our ‘meet the leadership team’ breakfast event, during which we outlined our plans for the upcoming year, encompassing both academic and pastoral priorities. Now, I will be following Khan’s advice.

I wasn’t the only one who was both excited and terrified by the first week. An interaction with a year 4 pupil who has joined our school this term really struck a chord with me. It highlighted the impact that a strong and positive transition can have on the way we move forward thereafter. I think we both benefitted from meeting each other. As Khan wisely says, “the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf”.

The Halo code

Further setting the tone of our inclusive culture from the start, we started this week with a pupil-led assembly about ‘belonging’ on Monday and ended it by marking World Afro Day on Friday. This global day of celebration and liberation for Afro hair and identity, endorsed by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, offers schools the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

At SCHS, we add a B to the EDI acronym to emphasise the significance of experiencing a sense of belonging and our commitment to ensuring every girl in our school feels like a full part of our community.

As a testament to this commitment, we have embraced the Halo Code, which calls on every school and workplace to uphold the rights of its staff and pupils to embrace all Afro hairstyles. We recognise that Afro-textured hair is an integral part of the racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious identities of our Black staff and pupils. As such, we welcome Afro-textured hair in all its diverse styles, including afros, locs, twists, braids, cornrows, fades, straightened hair, weaves, wigs, as well as headscarves or wraps in the school colours.

Your school can too. By doing so, you can join in a collective effort to eliminate discrimination against children with Afro-textured hair. 

Girls in STEM

Our next celebration will come in October to mark Ada Lovelace Day. Ahead of that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through their comprehensive resource pack for educators, which includes teaching scenarios, informative posters, and valuable web links. Of notable interest is their crib sheet, which illustrates the diverse career pathways available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

Promoting and encouraging girls to pursue these fields is pivotal to advancing gender equality. It requires us to dismantle stereotypes and barriers. Doing so holds a central place in our educational offer and we prioritise it across our school curriculum, starting in nursery, where we actively celebrate numerous female role models in these fields.

Reading and listening

In other news this week, I was pleased to hear about a new award and database to encourage diversity in children’s books, launched by charity, Inclusive Books for Children.

I also found the most recent podcast by the Education Endowment Foundation invaluable. Delving into the topic of SEND in mainstream education and adaptive learning, it features insightful discussions and practical advice for senior leaders.

Now I just need to work out how many of Khan’s top leadership tips I’ve followed just by writing this article. I certainly feel a little less daunted by the term ahead.

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