Looking back over the events of 2020, it’s easy to forget, with the fight against coronavirus still firmly in focus, just how much has happened. The end of the year is really a time to reflect on events and work out how to move forward.

Becoming BSA’s chair for 2021 has meant I’ve been giving lots of thought to what the boarding sector should address over the next 12 months. More specifically, what do I want my legacy as chair to be? How do I ensure that the work we do in the coming year becomes firmly embedded in the whole sector’s culture?

There are many things I want the sector to celebrate, such as the rapid technological developments in academic and pastoral education that have come from the coronavirus challenge. However, there are other matters we must also now turn to:

I’m sure that no one who saw the shocking images of the arrest and death of George Floyd in the United States back in May will ever forget them. The events of that day in Minneapolis have led to important wider discussions around equity, diversity and inclusion for everyone and the boarding sector has been no exception.

"We’ve made some good progress, but there is still so much to do."

I think it’s important to acknowledge that, just like the world in its entirety, our sector as a whole hasn’t always got it right when it comes to issues. We’ve made some good progress, especially in the past year, but there is still so much to do. I’m determined that, during my year as chair, we commit to find practical ways to promote and improve equity, diversity and inclusion and maintain this positive trajectory of improvement.

In the past few months, BSA has had many conversations with staff and students at its member schools; their input has been absolutely invaluable in shaping our response. We held our first inclusion conference in October and this has been followed by the launch this month (December) of INDEX (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Excellence), a programme of support for members, which includes:

*The new BSA INDEX Framework, a guidance document to promote the values of equity, diversity and inclusion, to assist schools to be more effective as both educational establishments and employers

*Appointment of Ammy Davies-Potter as BSA Group’s Director of Guardianship and Inclusion

*Appointment of DLD College Principal Irfan Latif as Inclusion Lead on BSA’s Executive Committee

*Appointment of Valerie Vaz MP as INDEX Patron

*Certified Inclusion Lead training

*Webinars across wide a range of areas, informative, supportive and relevant to boarding schools

"The appetite for change is there."

Earlier this month, we joined Andrew Lewer MP and ISC CEO Julie Robinson for a video call with Kemi Badenoch, Equalities Minister for England, to discuss inclusion in schools. Kemi supported the sector doing more to increase inclusion and we briefed her on our INDEX programme. A copy of the INDEX framework has also been passed to the DfE.

That’s where we are today; a positive start, but there is still a long way to go. It’s absolutely vital we use both the focus that events in the world have given us and the experiences member schools have shared with us to see clearly what we need to do and where we need to go.

Ultimately, it’s my ambition for our sector, which provides school and home to many young people, to lead the way with our approach. The appetite for change is there and, by working together, we can make it happen. Openness and honesty, asking difficult questions and not being afraid of professional challenge will be important throughout.