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Stoke Damerel launches ‘Diversitas’

Stoke Damerel Community College is extremely proud to celebrate the wide diversity of our College community. At the time of writing, we have students who speak 33 different languages and are from over 40 different countries.

To support this wonderfully diverse community, we have introduced a new initiative for students and staff - Diversitas.

Diversitas was launched at the start of the 2020-21 school year, initially with a relatively small group of students from across the school years. We are pleased to say that the group is increasing all the time as more students want to join, and we will see its role and input grow in the months and years ahead.

Who/what is Diversitas?

Diversitas aims to inform and raise awareness around the issues of racism, prejudice and bullying. At the heart of the initiative is our Diversitas group of students - some have themselves been affected by these issues; others want to help those who have. The group receives ongoing Inclusion and Diversity training. Moving forward, the students will be delivering talks in the school and offering guidance to other students. The work will also form part of Curriculum Collapse days.

College staff are being trained too, so they can support students on a day-to-day basis and can feel confident to challenge behaviours in an appropriate and educational way.

College Principal, Miss Frier said: “We value all students from all backgrounds and ethnicity.  It is important that we celebrate where our young people are from and that we shout about our amazing diversity.

“With Diversitas, we are building towards embedding a culture of tolerance and understanding within our College, with a supportive approach,” she added.

“As a College, we challenge all forms of discrimination. We are an inclusive school, where students thrive on the positive relationships they develop. This does not just benefit our school and our students; it also benefits our wider community.”

Meet some of our Diversitas students

The one-hour Diversitas meetings are held in the Library each fortnight, led by the Director of Specialist Services, Mr Kelly, and EAL Manager, Miss Halambiec. The group has students who have their own personal stories to tell of racism, prejudice and bullying.

We are grateful to them for sharing these stories, and for being the trailblazers for Diversitas. Already, their work is having a positive impact within the College - and in their own lives.

Here are some of their stories, experiences, and viewpoints.

“This initiative is really important. As someone who comes from an ethnic minority, and as a person who has been through, should I say racism or ignorance, it’s important for me to be here and educate other people. When something happens, it’s really upsetting and depressing, especially when they take your religion and who you are as a person and use it against you. I think you should always tell others, so that something is done about it. I don’t respond to people directly; I go and tell someone.” - Naz.

“I do feel that things are getting better and that these meetings are making a difference. Not too long ago, I had an incident happen to me, and it was the use of the N word within school. Normally, I would not have known how to deal with it. I wouldn’t have been comfortable going to anybody in the school. But the meetings had started a couple of weeks previously and I felt comfortable and went straight to Mr Kelly and spoke to him about it and he dealt with the situation.” - TJ.

“When something happened to me, I told my mum and dad about it because I don’t really speak to other people about it. They said that this group was a safe place for me to go to if I need them and that I should go to them more often. My mum and dad are really proud about what I’m doing in the group. So yes, on a personal level and on a school level, I do think it is already making a difference. As we educate more people in knowing how certain behaviour is right or not right, it will help people, instead of making them feel worse about themselves.” - Naomi.

“Diversitas is bringing people together to understand each other about the issues that they have all gone through so they can help teach other to deal with everything.” - Chriska.

“Nobody should have to encounter racism in their lives. Nobody on our entire planet should be mistreated as a result of who they are and who they want to be. And nobody should be racist or prejudiced towards others. Everyone should be treated equally.” - Kuba.

“You have to stand up to bullying. You have to go and tell a teacher because they will understand what you mean, and they will try and stop it. It does help, knowing there is support there, that there is someone you can talk to and trust. We have quite a few people from different ethnic backgrounds in our meetings and we need to learn about each other.” - Simeon.

“This group is very important to me personally, because I don’t actually know how to deal with it. I don’t get bullied any more, but I used to, and I wouldn’t tell anyone. It was always between me and the person who was bullying me. I didn’t bother telling anyone because I never felt that anyone would understand me, or that they would be able to help me or solve the problem, so I would keep it to myself.  I tend to ignore it even if someone does show ignorance, in order to prevent further complications.  This group is a place where I can express my own feelings, my own opinions, and what I’ve been through in my context, so I can get advice on how to deal with it, how to respond, with either an immediate response or a long-term response. So these meetings are very important to me. And things are getting better.”- Atta.

“I have friends who are from different countries and have different beliefs and some of them have had problems, so now I know how to deal with it and how I can help them. My mum is very supportive of what I’m doing, too.” - Poppy.

“For me, it’s important to hear about what other people have been through, to know and to understand better. It’s about learning about them and what is offensive to them.” - Ruby.

Diversitas - the next stage

Mr Kelly said: “The group is working on projects to educate staff and students about the impact of hate incidents and how to deal with them in an empathic and educational way.

“As a College we understand that at times within our College there can be incidents of ignorance, prejudice and sometimes hate.  However, we feel strongly that this should be challenged and we all should have the opportunity to live our lives free from discrimination.

“Our approach acknowledges that this requires an anti-racist approach in education. That means a culture of open discussions about race and racism, where staff and young people are acknowledged as key to developing solutions.”

Keep an eye out in school for posters about the group, and for information on future Diversitas events and talks.