We actively promote diversity in all its forms and make it clear that we are anti-racist. We have made, and continue to make progress, but we also know that there is still work to do. We commit to listening to members of our community and to give our students the knowledge, awareness and confidence to critically evaluate social issues and to confront prejudice, wherever and whenever they encounter it.
We would like to assure all those connected with Brentwood School that we are committed to tackling and eradicating racism wherever and whenever we find it in our midst and continue to work with members of our community to rise to this challenge.
Brentwood School today
Our ambitious long-term strategy for our school considers how our values - Virtue, Learning and Manners - can help us achieve our goals, including our commitment to anti-racism and diversity. These values permeate the whole school, and we use them regularly to reflect on and explore subjects that are of importance to all of us. The children of today will play an important role in shaping our world and a key part of our role at Brentwood School is to help our students understand how they can do good in the world, not just well in their exams.
There is, of course, more we can do. And we will.
Diversity and inclusivity - including Black Lives Matter - is one of our pastoral priorities. In addition:
- Students are provided opportunities to reflect on and talk about diversity and inclusivity in more detail, including through Year Group assemblies and discussions. Students have also run their own assemblies and been invited to engage in discussions and activities
- We have updated our Equal Opportunities audit to include how we look at the recruitment of staff, rebalancing the underrepresentation of BAME applicants and working on creating a consciously inclusive recruitment strategy. An area we are already focusing on is ensuring this strategy is effective in drawing in applications from people of all demographics. We are working and learning from others who have made significant strides towards achieving this
- We have analysed annual data comparing the performance of boys and girls in public examinations. We want to be sure - based on evidence - that BAME students are not underperforming, so we are undertaking an annual analysis of value-added performance of BAME students in public examinations
We recognise that the positive developments outlined above do not mean we have completed our work in the area of promoting diversity and anti-racism: our work is ongoing.
Diversity and inclusivity in the Curriculum
We have, in recent years, updated our curriculum as part of our work on diversity and inclusivity. We do not shy away from confronting difficult questions about our country’s past.
The examples given below are not exhaustive, and our annual Equal Opportunities audit, which is presented to Governors, ensures that we maintain the momentum required for us to achieve our goals.
The Key Stage 3 History curriculum was comprehensively re-written in March 2019. Our overarching theme is "History is Every Story", with an emphasis on inclusivity and relevance to our students. In Year 7, we focus on World Civilisations, including explorations of Benin, Mansa Musa in Mali, and Baghdad through the lens of Firas Alkhateeb's Lost Islamic History. We spend one term (of nine, in Key Stage 3) on the Tudors and this includes consideration of the key question, "Was Tudor Society White?", using Miranda Kaufman's Black Tudors as a key text. We have a strong emphasis on social history, using historians such as Anne Hughes and Emma Griffin, as well as explicit topics on the rights of women in the nineteenth century and the role of women in war. We look at the struggle for recognition and rights for LGBTQ+ people through the study of the "Swinging Sixties". Our unit on Empire explores the social, political and economic consequences of colonialism, and develops students' critical understanding of the period; teachers choose a particular region to study in-depth, such as India or South Africa. We have a unit on slavery including the Middle Passage, the conditions of slaves in the Caribbean, and the end of slavery (using texts such as David Olusoga’s Black and British). When our students learn about the First World War, they study the contribution of Empire and Commonwealth soldiers, making use of Stephen Bourne's Black Poppies. We also have a unit on migration, looking at the reasons for migration and its impact over several centuries.
Throughout the History curriculum, we examine a range of perspectives and develop critical reading skills; through a developing understanding of historiography, students consider interpretations, examine bias and evaluate evidence. We are proud that we teach our students how to think, rather than what to think, and we believe that our curriculum helps develop the necessary skills, key historical concepts, and knowledge necessary to understand, and indeed to flourish in, our world and society.
We are working hard to ensure that the English curriculum is inclusive and diverse. We believe that the canon is an important part of our literary heritage, but one that is expanding and evolving. There is no literary period that can be explored in a contextual or cultural vacuum. Through our choice of texts, interpretative approaches, and through discussion, we examine issues such as disability, cultural identity, gender, race, social inequality and social justice.
The Year 7 modern novel unit includes teachers’ choices of text across continents, cultures and genders. Some popular choices include: Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. In Year 8, students study autobiographies from around the world, including Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala, under the theme “Celebrating Cultural Identity”, before studying an anthology divided into regions and continents. For the Year 9 “Love and Relationships” unit, pupils explore different forms of love across the ages, from the perspective of writers of different eras, ethnicities and genders.
Our current IGCSE curriculum includes poetry by John Agard, Sujata Bhatt and Imtiaz Dharker, prose by Moniza Alvi, Maya Angelou, Kate Chopin, Rose Tremain, Susan Hill and Alice Munro, and non-fiction texts by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Benjamin Zephaniah, George Alagiah, Jamie Zeppa and Adeline Yen Mah. A-Level students study Margaret Atwood with focus on alienation and ‘new feminism’, and poems on the themes of sexuality, gender and race. Our IB students undertake a deliberate postcolonial interpretation of a number of texts, as well as studying texts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Toni Morrison and Carol Ann Duffy.
The Bean Library offers pupils a number of reading lists of recommended fiction and non-fiction texts, with a deliberate spread of continents, cultures, genders, sexualities and time periods.
In addition, developments in the Prep School in recent years have included:
- The RE curriculum centres on many issues regarding inclusion and acceptance of people regardless of race, colour or creed
- Regular guest assemblies include those from BAME background
- Comprehension material on A Letter from a Former Slave and analysing song lyrics, using I Know Where I've Been from Hairspray, whose central focus is racial inclusion
- Pupils study topics that include slavery and racism in football
- Pupils in Year 6 learning from Benjamin Zephania
- Pupils are setting up a pan-Africa club, using the knowledge of a current member of staff with links to that part of the world
- The music curriculum includes African drumming, stamping tubes from the Solomon Islands, a history of the blues, and songs from around the world (eg. Kusimama - Young Voices, Amani Utupe
There is a sign in the Old Bean Library that reads:
‘Here in the past may the present find arms to fight the battle of the future.’
We cannot change the past, but we can evaluate it critically to better understand both what has helped our school endure as a place of learning that has enriched the lives of so many, and how we need to do things differently now and in the future.
We have made significant progress in ensuring our school is the inclusive and diverse community we want and need it to be, and we acknowledge that there is still more to do. We welcome support from our Old Brentwood community, alongside our current students, staff and parents, in helping us to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world.’