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Supporting Schools in Promoting Diversity, Inclusion and Representation in Education

Updated: Oct 18, 2023



Let's Start A Conversation


Interview with Jemma Roye, Founder of Let's Start A Conversation: LSAC
Author: Vicks Ward

How can we secure sustainable EDI in the workplace?


Although work is being done to promote equity and inclusion in the workplace, is it too little, too late?


Surely for sustainable equality, diversity, and inclusion; generational bias and discrimination has to be tackled during a child’s school years, where young people learn how to communicate with one another, treat their peers with greater understanding and go into the world of work with open and collaborative minds.


One person on a mission to help educators grow in their understanding of racial diversity is Jemma Roye, diversity consultant and Founder of “Let’s start a conversation”, a programme which supports schools with diversity, inclusion and representation.


What was the catalyst for “Let’s Start a Conversation”?


As a person of colour, I watched as my children’s school opted for silence in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, rather than say the wrong thing.


I wanted to help schools develop their racial literacy - the understanding and awareness of barriers people of colour face in our society - and give them the tools to help create a positive, equitable culture. As a family of mixed heritage, we have suffered racist comments and judgment ourselves, particularly when we moved to the South Coast from London.

Encountering daily racism is a reality for so many individuals. Our schools and workplaces need to be equipped to have courageous conversations to dismantle racism and work towards a more racially equitable society.


How did you know where to start?


I spent 16 years teaching A Level Sociology in London, so I’ve known for a long time that parents, students and educators have felt that the British national curriculum is not as ethnically representative as it should be.


There’s a massive gap in the telling of the true and diverse history of Britain. I knew we could and should be doing better by our children. LSAC stems from a passion to equip the next generation to be people of understanding and respect. Aware of one another’s experiences as they go into this diverse world.


What is your overarching aim with the LSAC programme?


We want to eradicate barriers created by racism. Barriers that are embedded in our society and transfer across life experiences, opportunities and awareness, particularly in the workplace. Many of the schools I support are private, boarding schools and predominately white.


Often, the common thread between them is that a racial incident has sparked the call for our help. Students who face race-based inequalities often experience micro aggressive racism within their school environment, and little is being done to support them or educate the wider community. Our aim isn’t to make anyone feel guilty or afraid to confront issues, but to bring those experiences to light and empower both students and staff through education and action.


“To be the ONLY is difficult and challenging.” Jemma Roye


What difference does LSAC make to children in an educational environment?


I believe it makes a huge difference - to students and the wider school community - and provides a platform for students to share their truths for the first time, which is very moving. We start by partnering with the school to build a bespoke programme just for them, because every school is at a different stage in their EDI journey.


Our services include staff training, raising awareness, curriculum development, student workshops, creating anti-racism culture, mentoring, support for students of colour and EDI strategy planning.


‘You have helped us to start courageous conversations and given us the tools to move forward with confidence and awareness.” Teacher

What’s the biggest challenge?

Addressing racial consciousness is often painful, you’ve got to be prepared to go deep, question things like your unconscious biases, stereotypes, personal privilege. There’s often a resistance to change and that’s the real challenge.


“I can't thank you enough for being here and removing the cover from racial issues at this school. I feel hope for the first time.” School Governor

Is there hope given the work you’ve been doing in schools?


Some schools are doing incredible work supporting their students, but it needs prioritising at government level. We need changes in the curriculum. I’ve been shocked to discover only 30% of staff are trained in racial literacy.


‘As a parent of young children, the education you are helping to provide is inspiring. As an educator, it addresses so many issues we need support with.” Parent/Teacher


I’ve worked with one particular school who are committed to EDI and Justice, and I’ve been blown away by their dedication to racial literacy and equity. They encourage one another to speak their truths, their library celebrates intersectionality, neurodiversity, gender and ableism and there is a real sense of belonging; of being seen and heard.


“As a Black student, I found the session really moving. I find that a lot of people just ignore the depths of racism and remain comfortable at surface level. It made me feel seen.”

Yr 11 student


One of my schools held a Truth Assembly where students of colour who had experienced mental and racial trauma (EG: someone repeatedly playing whipping sounds on their phone) read one another’s statements to the wider school community. It completely changed the school atmosphere and brought the school to a place of great healing and progression.


We are seeing schools getting better at offering support for neurodiversity and LGBTQIA+ communities but with 50% of our UK’s black community still living in poverty there is still a lot of work to be done.


“Although uncomfortable at times, the session was really effective and powerful. It helped me to understand racism in a way I hadn't before.’”

Yr 9 pupil


Schools have the power to change lives and education doesn't stop in the school setting. The workplace is the next arena for these powerful conversations and actions to take place.


We know that companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in the workplace in all aspects of their business, statistically outperform their peers. The benefits extend to all.


EDI in schools and the place of work is about celebrating uniqueness and asking ourselves; 'Is everyone being heard and seen as their authentic selves; do they feel valued and if not, what are the barriers and how do we eradicate them?’ It can feel daunting to know where to start but my advice is; just start.


Start the conversation with yourselves and start it with your communities.

As Liz Fosslien, co-author of “No Hard Feelings” says; “Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice and belonging is having that voice be heard.” The inspiring words of Shirley Chisholm - who in 1968 was the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress - have helped me greatly in my work, like she says; “If they don't offer you a seat at the table, take a folding chair.”


It matters.


“The more I reflect on your visit the more I realise how courageous your work is. What you do is admirable, and I sincerely hope that you get to see the sort of culture shift that needs to happen in these establishments through your continued commitment to the issue of racism.

The conversation has started and it will continue.”

Deputy Headteacher and Pastoral Lead


To find out more contact Jemma Roye @ www.growachievesoar.com/lsac or follow @LSACtoday on Instagram – helping young people to thrive.


Author: Vicks Ward


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