Owen Rees’ guest blog

It has been a period where equalities has been in sharp focus both in the news and within Camden Learning. To give two examples: the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found that the Home Office had breached its Public Sector Equality Duty when implementing hostile environment policies, and Ofsted reported on the disproportionate impact of Covid19 and school closures on particular groups of pupils; particularly those with SEND. Following the Black Lives Matters protests in the summer, Camden has begun to consider how it can improve its own record on equality.

This was the subject of Monday’s fantastic Camden Conversation, with Shalina Patel and Natalie Russell of the Black Curriculum. Their fascinating presentations outlined the work they were doing to help schools become anti-racist institutions and to diversify and decolonise their curriculums. This has major potential benefits for young people and their outcomes: I was personally struck by the evidence Natalie presented about how young people did not feel that the curriculum represented them and how this could lead to disengagement. The work of the Anti-Racism Hub has the opportunity to make a lasting impact.

One of the other areas Camden Learning has begun to look at is the makeup of our governing bodies. The October edition of the Governance Handbook rightly stressed the importance of governing bodies representing the communities they serve; diversity within the boardroom has long been recognised as necessary to avoiding group think and to good quality decision making. With this in mind, we’ve sent schools the information they need to measure their make up and asked that this is returned to Camden by the end of term. This will get governing bodies thinking and allow us to report on the Camden picture in the New Year. We hope Heads will encourage their GBs to complete this and return it, and have rerun the item with this bulletin to help.

We are already discussing next steps, including training on recruiting diversely, ensuring a diverse pipeline for governors to recruit from and thinking about the dynamics of our governing bodies, helping them to be welcoming and open and giving this the importance it deserves with a special session in the New Year. We know this is an area that our governors are passionate about – 30 governors attended a governor training session on equalities held last Monday, the highest attendance of any governor training session in Camden history! We will be running it again in the Spring but governing bodies can also book all Governing Body sessions. We will also be hosting an additional session on the Tuesday 26th January 2021, led by Sharon Warmington, the Chief Executive of the National Black Governors Network on how to recruit diversely to governing bodies.

In a week when the news about vaccines meant that we might just begin to think about “post Covid”, this feels like an opportunity to make a larger and more positive change.

Owen Rees

Head of Governor Services and Company Secretary

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