Diversity and inclusion has always been a priority for schools. The events of last summer and the Black Lives Matter Movement demonstrated that for all the excellent progress that has been made in the area of diversity and inclusion over recent years, the impact, pace and range of this work in our organisations requires greater urgency with tangible and visible changes to the experiences of our pupils. The wider and welcomed activism of our pupils on a range of issues over recent years has also played a part in encouraging schools to look for additional ways of both hearing and responding to the voices of our pupils and alumni.
At Caterham we have created a Shadow Board to ensure that the views of our increasingly diverse pupil and alumni body have a role in informing and shaping the way the school thinks about current pupil experience and the future strategic direction of the school. The Shadow Board (it began life as a NextGen Board) is made up of ten alumni all aged between 18 and 30. Their remit is to challenge, scrutinise and inform the conversations that the Governing Body are having. In addition to helping shape the direction of the school, the members of the Shadow Board will also have training in and develop experience of corporate governance, change management and board meetings – in the hope and expectation that they may in future progress through to the Governing Body of this school, but also that our Shadow Board members feel empowered to look for similar opportunities in the organisations in which they work.
The genesis of this idea predated the Black Lives Matter Movement. We wanted to bring relevance and a different perspective to our conversations around issues such as sustainability, the digital transformation of the workplace, preparation for Higher Education and wellbeing. As our plans for the Shadow Board developed over the summer of 2020 a group of former pupils rightly challenged us about their recent experiences as pupils at the school. Encouraging these voices onto the Shadow Board, from where they will be able support and challenge the work we are doing has been hugely affirming and created a sense of shared endeavour.
Of course, for current pupils and parents this has also been a powerful statement of intent from the Governing Body of the school. It signals a very important message to all of our community about the willingness of the school to learn from the experience and expertise of others irrespective of status or standing and plays to a strongly held view that we all have things to learn from each other.