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“Southwark Stands Together has always been relevant. Look at the diversity within Southwark. Why would it not be?”

EVERY year since 1997 the Southwark Civic Association recognises residents, groups, organisations and businesses who have made a real difference to the local community through the Civic Awards. This year, Anne Hamilton (Headteacher, Evelina Hospital School) and Reema Reid (Headteacher, Hollydale Primary School) were presented with The Southwark Together Award for their contributions to Southwark Stands Together (SST). The new civic award was introduced to celebrate those who work over and above the call of duty to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

Receiving their awards

Anne and Reema share how pleased they are to receive their awards.

“It was a surprise to be nominated, but a true honour to receive it,” says Anne. “I am proud of my achievements and want to make a difference to the community I serve.”

“I am happy. This a very prestigious award,” adds Reema. “I do believe it is well deserved as I have always been on a journey of trying to address inequality. It is also great to see that SST is now a platform that people are recognising and that people understand and appreciate the hard work that we're doing.”

Reema Reid and civic award
Reema Reid with her civic award
Anne Hamilton
Anne Hamilton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why they became involved

The launch of the Southwark Stands Together initiative in 2019 was a positive pledge to prioritise anti-racist action, eradicate institutional racism and improve the lives of the wonderfully diverse people that live in the borough.

Eager to see change, Anne and Reema, alongside Makeda Williams-Pinnock (Headteacher, Victory Primary School), Maureen Gabbidon (Chair of Governors, Charlotte Sharman Primary School) and council officers from the Education directorate of the Council, formed the Professional Development and Curriculum work stream to address the inequality that was clearly still happening in schools and society.

For Anne, joining the group was an easy decision. She has worked on strategic projects with Southwark’s Education team since she became a headteacher in 2013. After the response to the shocking murder of George Floyd by a police officer and the worldwide protests against such injustices, she wanted to tackle the systemic inequalities that lead to the justification for such racist action.

SST’s aims to address educational inequalities and diversify curriculums was a real interest for Reema.

“I realised that there was a lot of inequality going on and I wanted to be part of trying to address that,” Reema explains. “I trained as a teacher and I have sons. I could see that black boys were being stereotyped and were not achieving as well as they could in schools. They were not seen in the curriculum and it did not support them. So, of course, I grabbed the opportunity to be part of the SST. It is a really good initiative and shows that Southwark is part of that wake up call to address structural racism in Britain.”

What the group has been working on

For the last 18 months the work stream has been working tirelessly to respond to the recommendations made by listening groups in the summer of 2020, set up by the Council to hear residents’ concerns. They, and their colleagues on the work stream, have used their expertise to drive the agenda and develop a number of opportunities to develop racial literacy in schools.

“We have responded to the anti- racist audit through the SST pledges,” says Anne. “We’ve looked at the experience of individuals who have faced racism, racial inequality and injustice in school and educational settings. I have used my experience and knowledge to provide strategic ways to address racial discrimination, unconscious bias, and reflect cultural understanding in schools.”

“The work has also involved working with governors to ensure that governing bodies are reflective of the communities and schools that they work with,” explains Reema. “We are doing some work around mentoring and how we can support schools. Currently we are working on the proposal of a race charter that supports schools to really ensure that they are addressing diversity.”

Why Southwark Stands Together is relevant today

With people still facing racial discrimination it’s not hard to see why SST is a much needed initiative.

“The truth is SST has always been relevant,” says Reema. “If you look at the diversity within Southwark, why would it not be? There's been fantastic work going on for many years in the borough tackling racism but now what we need is an acceleration of this work. That is what the work stream has been trying to help with.

‘People who experience discrimination are often marginalised, do not reach their true potential and are not able to give back to society using their true talents and abilities in a meaningful way,” says Anne.

Reema agrees: “This is why SST is important. It is absolutely relevant to change the lives of the pupils that we are teaching and to make them feel that there's equal opportunity for all. If you cannot see yourself in a curriculum then how can you be the best that you can be?”

Hopes for SST long term

While the overarching goal is for people to strengthen and consolidate their voices against racism and mobilise against all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination and injustice, Reema and Anne hope that SST will have a lasting impact. If the proposal of the race charter mark goes ahead, they’d like to see lots of schools in Southwark embrace it and understand that that is core to what they do in schools.

‘We also want a curriculum in every school that shows that culture is appreciated and embraced and that everybody has a voice. We want school environments that are inclusive and fair, not only for pupils but also for black and minority ethnic staff, so they don't feel that there is a glass ceiling and that they can only reach so far in their careers,” says Reema.

“I hope that the impact on education will mean that teachers’ racial literacy will improve over time so they will be able to respond highly effectively to the challenge and teach their classes through an anti-racist lens,” adds Anne. “I hope barriers to black teachers joining leadership teams are recognised and schools are made accountable for their succession planning. I want to see real, sustained action, so that future education pupil attainment figures, such as GCSE results, will show that when monitored, children from the black community are thriving and successful.”

How to meet SST’s aims

To achieve all these goals, both Anne and Reema and recognise that it requires a commitment from everyone.

“There is still work to be done and everyone needs to be galvanised to play their part in making a difference today for the future of our society tomorrow,” affirms Anne.

What can your school do to engage more with SST?