Student EqualITY & DIVERSITY Group
The Woodside High School Student Equality Group is made up of a group of like-minded young people who are passionate about challenging prejudice and discrimination, fighting for equality and celebrating diversity.
The group is entirely student-led and has already had a significant impact across the school and within our local community. The Equality Group have ensured that there is a real focus on celebrating diversity and have been passionate about organising activities to celebrate how diverse our school is. Throughout the school year we celebrate events such as Black History Month, Disability History Month, LGBT History Month, Holocaust Memorial Day, International Women’s Day, Mental Health Awareness Week and Refugee Week. In November we organise a whole range of activities to raise awareness during National Anti-Bullying Week to ensure that everyone understands the importance of treating people equally.
During LGBT History Month in February, the Equality Group worked with Stonewall and Diversity Role Models to educate the rest of the school about the importance of standing up to homophobia and transphobia. Stonewall even chose Woodside High School to make a film to share with other schools across the UK. The film featured the Equality Group alongside LGBT role models such as Sir Ian McKellen and was launched at the Stonewall Equalities Dinner.
Our Equality Group met with the Government Minister for Equalities, Caroline Dinenage MP to talk about the importance of their work to challenge homophobia and transphobia. Ms Dinenage was extremely impressed by everything that they have achieved so far.
Our Equality Group have even designed and led whole staff training on the Woodside Shared Values and the importance of challenging prejudice and discrimination. The hour long training session was entirely student led and asked staff to consider the importance of speaking out against discrimination. The feedback from staff following the session was amazing:
“Well prepared and thought-provoking session. It was inspirational.”
“The students delivering the training were excellent. They were very professional. It was impressive to see all the initiatives that have been delivered. It made me very proud to work at Woodside.”
“It was the best training session I have ever attended. It was the first time we really heard our young people, rather than talked about them and their feelings without them even being in the room.”
“Very well run, really informative and gave me lots of food for thought for my own future actions.”
It is no surprise that our Equality Group have already been recognised for their fantastic work. They came runners-up in the Speaker’s School Council Award for their work to create the Woodside Shared Values. They currently hold the Bronze, Silver and Gold Stonewall School Champions Awards. We are the only school in London to have achieved all three prestigious awards.
In addition to being Stonewall Gold School Champion winners, Woodside’s Equality Group have successfully won the Diana Award. The Diana Award is the most prestigious accolade a young person can receive for their social action or humanitarian work. We are exceptionally proud of all our students’ extraordinary work and congratulate them on their very well-deserved award!
Interested in finding out more about our Equality and Diversity Group?
We are delighted you are interested in finding out more about our students’ work on equality and diversity. We get a lot of requests from people from far and wide about our amazing students’ work which is wonderful. We want to encourage as many people as possible to work to champion equality and diversity in whatever way they can, wherever they are. Due to the high number of requests to visit, it can be tricky to accommodate everyone, particularly at certain times of the year (during examination periods and towards the end of terms for example). Our students have developed an FAQ section that you are warmly encouraged to read, and should you still wish to visit us, we will endeavour to schedule one visit morning per term where visitors can come and meet our Equality and Diversity Group.
If you are interested in visiting our Equality and Diversity Group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and title your email “Equality and Diversity Group visit”. Thank you!
How do I champion Equality and Diversity?
Anyone can champion equality and diversity, whoever they are, whether they are an adult or a young person. The key is to show kindness and compassion to everyone, understand that everyone is coming from a different perspective/life-experience and see where you can find common ground. Everyone has experienced inequality or injustice at some point in their lives – this is your common ground to build greater understanding and compassion from. Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen straight away – sometimes it takes a lot of work but it’s definitely worth it.
How do I start an Equality and Diversity Group?
If you are in a school setting, we would strongly advise you to empower students to lead on this. Give them ownership and the responsibility to recruit and organise themselves, and have a member of staff who can be their person to support with the practicalities such as booking a room to meet in. All it takes is a few passionate young people who are committed and eventually the group will become established and grow. Our Equality Group started off in 2016 with only 6 members so don’t be disappointed if it is only a few students to start off with!
How often do you meet?
We meet once a week after school. Yes, this is frequent, and actually when we are working intensively on a particular campaign we will often do additional work during our break and lunchtimes but we really enjoy it so it’s not hard at all.
So, you’re an Equality and Diversity Group, not an LGBT Society?
Yes! We are passionate about championing ALL forms of equality and diversity – this is very important to us. We have helped the whole school community to celebrate a number of key events such as Black History month, Disability History month, Mental Health awareness week, International Women’s day, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month, LGBT History month and Refugee Week. We use these as a platform to educate, celebrate and raise awareness of key issues around equality and diversity across the school all year round.
How do I make equality and diversity a whole-school priority?
Your school leadership is absolutely key in this. We are so lucky to have a Head and Leadership Team who support us all the way but we know that if that support it doesn’t come from the top, it can be a real struggle. We would advise anyone interested in making equality and diversity a whole-school/whole-organisation priority to meet with the overall person in charge and show them how passionate you are about the issues and get them on board.
We also have our Shared Values which helps us enormously. Our values include a commitment to embracing diversity and celebrating difference. They are in our home/school agreement and it’s something that every student and parent/carer sign up to upholding when they become part of the Woodside family. It is a really helpful document when it comes to explaining why we think everyone in our community should make equality and diversity a priority.
Have you encountered any issues along the way?
Yes, absolutely. As a school, students and staff are broadly hugely supportive of our work and very encouraging, but we would be lying if we said that our school is totally devoid of prejudice. Sadly, it exists in all places. Sometimes people are unsupportive or unhelpful, and that includes the wider community or even members of the public. When we put up our Pride flag for LGBT History Month, for example, we had members of the public unconnected with the school contact us to complain. However, we understand that there are complex issues in society today and when we encounter these challenges, it only reminds us why what we do is so important.
How do you get other students and staff to support your campaigns?
We like to think imaginatively and creatively for each campaign to see how we can make it effective. For Black History Month, for example, we hold a whole-school display competition where the winning tutor group gets to go on a trip to Nandos as the prize! The display has to incorporate learning about Black History Month and be educational to anyone who sees it, and it is a highly competitive annual competition in our school. We also love a badge at Woodside and get students to design and create different badges for different themes which helps people show their support and have helpful conversations.
Do you have any other advice?
Biscuits! A bit of sustenance is always welcome so we would strongly advise getting a good supply of biscuits in for your Equality group meetings.