Black Lives Matter

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Harris pupils, staff and parents of all backgrounds have been moved by the horrifying, brutal killing of George Floyd in the US. This has led to a global outcry, with protests around the world. 

Previously hidden and untalked of issues around racism in the UK have been brought into the mainstream.  Because of this, just as we have been saddened, we are also hopeful that the outcry will lead to change.

Harris academies are each marking the current situation in the way they think is best, partly by talking to pupils and staff so that they are aware of racism and can play a part in helping to combat it.  As a Federation, we wish to acknowledge what is happening and express our solidarity with our black families and staff who are currently feeling pain and distress.

We are organisation that exists to challenge the status quo, to ensure that the type of children who usually get a raw deal have a fair chance. This has never been more of a challenge than now, with the global pandemic hitting the poorest the hardest. The country is braced for a recession and, with many job losses inevitable, we are in no doubt that BAME communities will suffer again.

Our staff are angered by injustice and inequality, and we are using our anger, in the best way we know how, to help our pupils disrupt the odds that are stacked against them. This is, of course, through the provision of a brilliant education. Pupils of all backgrounds make better academic progress at Harris than their peers do nationally, with our black pupils doing substantially better.

In secondary school, the national statistics show that black boys make negative progress between Years 7 and 11, ending up, on average, with worse outcomes than they should have done given their starting points.   At Harris, not only do black boys make positive progress (with a Progress 8 score of +0.25), they also make better progress than all pupils nationally.  In Harris primaries too, our black pupils not only outperform other black pupils nationally on every key measure, they also comfortably outperform national averages.  This academic success is echoed across pupils of every race, gender and background in the Harris Federation. But this is not enough and we need to do so much more. Even with good qualifications so many of our pupils continue to face unnecessary difficulties in their lives because of direct and indirect discrimination and we must do more to combat this.

With the Harris Federation about to reach its 30th birthday, we are exceptionally proud of the mark our black alumni have made on the world in a wide variety of fields. In 2017 we were pleased to support Stormzy in the launch of his scholarship scheme for black undergraduates at Cambridge university, which took place at Harris Crystal Palace. Our alumni are slowly changing the face of the most elite universities in the world, with 26 BAME pupils from our current Year 13 holding offers for Oxbridge and Cambridge this year.

But, just as there is much to celebrate, we will never be complacent. We want to deliver a meaningful and lasting set of activities that will help to create the change that is needed, and which involves all of our academies.  More will follow on this in the coming weeks and months but our response will involve the following key initiatives:

  • Continuing to improve the performance of our schools and the outcomes they enable pupils to achieve. The closure of schools as a result of coronavirus has made this more important than ever. 
  • Doing more to equip pupils to identify and combat prejudice in all of its forms, which will involve a new working group to ensure our curriculum is in the right place to support this.  
  • Making sure that, just as our teachers, support staff and middle leaders reflect the diversity of London, our senior leadership teams do too. Our Diverse Leaders Programme, now in its fourth year, is the only course of its kind in London.  It nurtures talented BAME teachers from the Harris Federation and beyond to progress to leadership positions and has palpably increased the number of black role models and leaders whom pupils can aspire to.  We will continue to deliver this programme, and others like it. In common with many other schools in England, we are seeking to improve the representation of BAME staff in senior posts in our schools. We are aware of unconscious bias in the workplace and recognise there is more to do to ensure our leadership teams reflect our diverse pupils and staff bodies.

At what has been a truly challenging and testing moment in history for pupils and staff, we hope that some good may emerge. We thank our schools, pupils and families for everything they have done to share and listen, and want to continue to play our part in addressing injustice and inequality through education.  

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