Rethinking governance

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Ensuring the governing body of a school is diverse, inclusive and reflective of pupils is increasingly important for schools. Ceri Jones, Headmaster of Caterham School, outlines why his school has created a Shadow Board of ten alumni, aged under 30.

Diversity and inclusion has always been a priority for schools, as it should be for all organisations. All pupils, irrespective of background, should have the same opportunity to succeed. There is a strong educational argument for promoting diversity (in its widest sense) in schools. We all know that problem solving and decision-making is stronger and more effective when there are different perspectives brought to bear on an issue. The same is true of a classroom experience. In the history lessons that I teach, it is hugely beneficial and stimulating to have the different perspectives of gender, ethnicity, neurodiversity and sexuality challenging established understanding.

It is clear that schools place great value on diversity and inclusion – and understand the vital role it plays with regard to pupil experience and outcome. We have been doing excellent work in the area of diversity and inclusion for a long time and great progress has been made over the past decade. What the events of the past year or so have highlighted however is that for all the organisational and procedural progress that has been made, the impact, pace and range of this work requires greater urgency with tangible and visible changes to the experiences of our pupils.

Parents are also increasingly aware of the importance and strength of diversity in schools for the reasons outlined above – diversity provides greater opportunities for growth and learning and reflects a real world experience. Over the past year, this has become an area of real interest and focus for prospective parents of all backgrounds. I am regularly asked not just about the make-up of our pupil body, but also about our response as a school to some of the important debates of the past eighteen months. Parents want to understand how we are ensuring that all pupils, irrespective of background, have an equal opportunity to thrive and what steps we are taking to understand the lived experience of pupils of diverse backgrounds within the school. Parents want to see how our staff body – and indeed our governance structures – are adapting to ensure that decision-making in the school reflects our genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion seem to be an increasingly important part of the decision-making process for parents and pupils and are now a consideration alongside academic achievement, wellbeing and the overall offer of a school when parents are choosing next steps.

Ceri Jones and Richard Harman discuss the role of governors in schools in Episode 29 of Fresh Thinking.

Ceri Jones is Headmaster of Caterham School.