The provision of a diverse and multicultural environment has become an important factor for parents in choosing the right school for their child and a unique selling point for schools to differentiate. Not only does a diverse pupil roll support the school as a community, but it also nurtures a more united school body. True diversity, however, often means breaking down traditional barriers and accepting the fact that everyone is individual and that brings a whole new dimension to the school. For the school environment to be truly diverse, pupils should not be expected to conform to a fixed criteria or fit into a specific ‘mould’ because everyone is unique both in character and learning styles and abilities.
Removing the racial, cultural and sociological ‘norm’ means that individuals are free to express themselves and become anything they want to be. In turn, this helps children to build their own independence, resilience and self-confidence. Many schools believe children work better in a diverse classroom environment because it allows them to push themselves outside of their comfort zones when they have people of varying backgrounds working alongside them. Often creativity is enhanced and education is generally more powerful due to the abundance of varying points of view, which also encourages the potential for collaborative working.
School communities that span a wealth of nationalities and religions can really offer a powerful dynamic to the classroom environment and those that are able to build on that cultural diversity will, as a result, find they are able to provide a much richer, more diverse, academic and co-curricular programme.
Yet, leading a diverse school is not just about embracing difference, actions always speak louder than words. For example, ensuring that you celebrate a range of different cultures, nationalities and religions as part of the academic and co-curricular programme in school, is vital. Celebrating cultural experiences and sharing knowledge whether it’s Chinese New Year, Harvest Festival, or German Lantern Festival means those important events are recognised across the whole school community.
Acceptance of other cultures and beliefs helps children to understand what it means to be different while also encouraging a greater sense of comfort with these differences and also, to feel more comfortable in themselves. On the same token diversity is also about learning that as human beings, we are all the same and should be treated equally, respectfully and with the same level of consideration.
Today, we find ourselves living in a world where integration and diversity should be at the very heart of a school’s ethos. As teachers, we have a genuine responsibility to identify those all-important cultural building blocks that our pupils already possess, so that we can continue to help them to build a greater understanding. Every child will respond differently to the curriculum and we must constantly flex and adapt to make sure that our teaching methods on diversity are also evolving and fit for purpose.
Today’s diverse classrooms and schools are preparing children for careers in job markets with much less concern or confusion around national or community boundaries, which can only be a positive step. More importantly, as children grow and move forward in their educational journey, they will be able to adapt to new environments and cultural differences more fluidly with greater ease and confidence as they head out into the future world.
By Rose Hardy, Headmistress at St Margaret’s School
About St Margaret’s School
St Margaret’s School is an independent day and boarding school for girls aged four to 18 years. Based in Bushey in Hertfordshire, the school is steeped in history and is among one of the oldest in the UK dating back to 1749. Offering a range of flexible boarding options for both UK and international pupils from the age of 12, the school is set over 60 acres of beautiful grounds and places its renowned pastoral care and proven track record of academic success at the heart of its culture and ethos. With a rich programme of extra-curricular activities, its girls are encouraged to discover their talents in a caring environment that fosters a genuine enthusiasm for learning in an evolving world filled with complex challenges and exciting new possibilities.