Home Menu



Equality should never be ‘too uncomfortable’ for schools to discuss, says leading campaigner

Today (Thu 16 Sept) school leaders’ union NAHT holds its first equalities conference, hosted by award-winning equalities campaigner and former deputy head teacher Shaun Dellenty.

Opening the conference, Mr Dellenty will say: “Full equality in schools has to be the goal, but too often school leaders lack the time, resources, training or confidence to eliminate discrimination and reduce inequalities.”

Under the title “Leading Through Allyship”, the NAHT’s virtual event is an opportunity for everyone in education, no matter what their background, to explore how they can play their part in leading and promoting the equalities, diversity and inclusion agenda in schools.

The event will explore a range of areas including the importance of considering inter-sectionality, ways leaders can support staff with disabilities, advice on being an anti-racist ally and how to support increased diversity in leadership, with expert speakers and school leaders heading discussions and workshops.

Mr Dellenty continued: “Discussions around issues such as sexuality, race, gender identity and extremism can often be perceived as too uncomfortable. Sadly, some education professionals fail to identify and reduce the impact of their own biases and those of others in the school community. Equality in schools could take years without government investment in training for Early Career Teachers and all school-based professionals, in addition to the provision of appropriate time and resources.

“School leaders can make this happen much sooner, but they can’t do it alone. The fact things aren’t changing more quickly demonstrates that fact. A ‘whole school approach’ is the right way to go, creating an inclusive environment for everyone working and learning at every school. This should be done strategically, and should be a shared responsibility of everyone in the school community from pupils, to parents, to staff and governors.”

“It is a privilege to be chairing NAHT’s first equalities conference. Campaigns around gender, racism and the environment inspire many young people to become changemakers, however we still have a long way to go to before all schools are truly safe, representative, equitable and inclusive. Every school should be a place that allows staff and young people to be their authentic selves, free from bias, prejudice and discrimination in order to nurture successful learning, healthy lives and respectful relationships.

“Schools must prepare young people for living and working in a diverse world. There is some fantastic existing practice and NAHT supports this by offering a range of resources and relevant training. Union support is also available when challenges arise, as sometimes can be the case. With the impact of Covid-19, a rise in online hate speech and extremism, and the new Relationships, Sex and Health curriculum, equalities and diversity must be a high priority for all schools.

“For the safety, well-being and education of our young people, all educators must be courageous in forging a strategic commitment to equality and inclusion.”

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, who will also be speaking at the conference, will say: “This is a big moment for NAHT and an important one in the mission to empower school leaders and their staff to promote an inclusive culture where they work. We know that discrimination and inequality continues to exist and that we still have a great deal to do to champion LGBT+ rights, race and gender equality and disability rights. It matters for the health and well-being of our members, the staff in their schools and for the pupils and communities that they serve.

“We don’t want school leaders and teachers to be afraid to discuss their sexuality. Shaun Dellenty has been an inspiration to so many people striving to be their authentic selves in the workplace. We’re delighted to have him as our host today.

“We know that our profession is not yet representative of the communities we serve, and that this is a particular issue at senior leadership level. We’ve also been able to lend NAHT’s support to amplify our Black, Asian and minority ethnic members’ voices. It shouldn’t take bravery to be yourself or to stand up for your rights, but unfortunately, that is still the case sometimes. This can have a serious impact on the mental health and happiness of school staff as well as pupils. Today’s conference is an opportunity for school leaders to discover more about how they can uplift colleagues and learners alike, no matter what their own background.”

Among the workshop facilitators is Ruhaina Alford, Executive Head teacher of The Carey Federation in Devon and a member of the NAHT Leaders for Race Equality group. Ruhaina is among the NAHT school leaders who shared their experiences in the recently published book “You Are Not Alone.” She delivers training on equality and unconscious bias to head teachers in the South West.


  • In 2009, Shaun Dellenty became one of the first UK primary school leaders to come out in the national and international media as gay. He founded the award-winning ‘Inclusion for All’ anti LGBT+ bullying strategy and is the author of “Celebrating Difference - A Whole School Approach to LGBT+ Inclusion” (Bloomsbury). In 2016 he was honoured by Prime Minister Cameron for services to education and LGBT+ communities. In 2021 Shaun was named in The Guardian’s Top 20 global Diversity Figures in Public Life and bestowed with the Freedom of London. Shaun is currently Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Leighton Park School in Reading.

Keynote speakers:

  • In a keynote speech Sophie Williams, author of “Who am I?”. Sophie will be exploring the question “What is allyship?”.
  • The second keynote speaker Hannah Wilson of Diverse Educators will be talking on the subject of supporting female leadership in education and addressing the gender pay gap.

Other workshops:

  • “Intersectionality: what is it and why is it important?” with Shani Dhanda, multi-award-winning disability specialist and entrepreneur.
  • “School workforce disability issues, neurodiversity and reasonable adjustments” with Ruth Golding, a senior leader in the South West, founder of @DisabilityEdUK, and a national leader of @WomenEdEngland.
  • “Trans awareness: Top tips” with Simon Croft, Director of Professional and Educational Services, Gendered Intelligence, a registered charity that works to increase understandings of gender diversity and improve the lives of trans people.


  • Serdar Ferit, Co-CEO of Lyfta will give presentation on weaving diversity and inclusion into the curriculum through powerful human stories.

NAHT members and non-members can book tickets via https://naht.org.uk/equalities.

First published 16 September 2021