Ratcliffe College Top 09/02/22

The diversity and balance of BGS remains a cherished characteristic

Published Tuesday 18th of January 2022 12:00:00 PM

It’s been a whirlwind time at BGS as we head towards Christmas. Opportunities to pause, think or put down thoughts on paper have been few. Nevertheless, experiences have aligned to motivate a reflection or two, in part fuelled by excessive caffeine and sugar intake, and I’ll try to make sense of them here if I can.
The backcloth involves a mix of feelings. On the one hand, I can talk confidently and feel good (putting it plainly) about the encouraging start we have made to our fundraising initiative for the 1662 Campaign for Assisted Places to widen access and promote inclusivity. More than £1m has been raised initially, building on the great work that has gone before to ensure that our School is balanced and reflective of all families in our large and vibrant catchment. We are proud to have been named recently as the 2021 Independent School of the Year for Contribution to Social Mobility in recognition of our strong foundation and progress in this area. I’ll risk an oxymoron and claim that embracing diversity of various kinds whilst also fostering cohesion has been the stuff of BGS life for generations.

As we entered into Black History Month earlier this term, assemblies covered aspects of diversity, unity and equality, and there was dialogue with the Independent School’s Inspectorate (ISI) during their recent visit on matters of inclusion and School ethos, among other things. BGS is in a good position to engage positively and transparently with such matters, does not get complacent and understands that School character and culture is always a work in progress, as alluded to in a previous HM blog, ‘Learning from the past, looking to the future’.

On that latter point, while various thoughts were coming together, I read an Independent Schools Council (ISC) blog entitled, ‘It is important to ensuree that students see themselves in all aspects of school life‘ and also Jaideep Barot’s (Headmaster at Bristol Grammar School) 2019 essay on ‘The Diversity Challenge’ published in the book ‘The State of Independence’. I quoted from the latter in an assembly mentioning that while a third of pupils in UK independent schools are from minority ethnic backgrounds, the corresponding figures for teachers, senior leadership teams and Heads are ten, six and three per cent respectively. The scope of the assembly was wide and embraced other protected characteristics alongside more general observations about representation and equity. As ever in our School assemblies, more questions than answers were offered in the hope that conversations might be sparked.

To that end, this blog also lacks a neat conclusion. My own thoughts are still forming. I will however share one last comment: a recent survey of groups of BGS parents, and the ISI questionnaire to all parents, pupils and staff, indicated strongly that the diversity and balance of BGS remains a cherished characteristic. Jaideep argued that we should celebrate such things where they can be found in order to achieve improved equity and equality more widely. I’m holding that thought. But I think we all accept that there is more we should and could do, at BGS and in our sector generally, for everyone to feel the full transformative effect of learning or working in a modern independent school. I’m holding that in mind too.
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