Much has been written about the inequalities that have been exposed during the pandemic. Some might say that the inequalities have always been there and (as much as I aim to be apolitical most of the time) I would have to agree. The issue, however, isn't that they've always been there, it's that they are now fully exposed for all to see and that makes them morally wrong to ignore.
Most people think of inequality in terms of gender, race, disability and they are right to do so. Can you believe that, in 2021, we still have to champion these? I could write pages about these issues with a view to trying to change the world but when Marcus Rashford is racially abused by an anonymous Twitter account and that person simply disappears, we appear to be fighting a losing battle. This is a young man who champions free school meals for our children during the holidays and has positively impacted thousands of lives but someone out there only saw a man of colour and chose to abuse him for it. I wonder if 'Anon' from Twitter has children? I wonder what they would think if they knew what their parent had said?
Inequality comes in all guises. Apart from those above, we will often think of financial inequality and this has also been highlighted during the pandemic. The Arts, something we've always celebrated at LECA, have been hit hard. The nature of the Arts is it is full of freelancers and that work has dried up with little or no financial support available. Theatres have closed; production has stalled. I'm certain the Arts will rise again but it's a fragile moment in time for thousands of people who contribute billions of pounds to our national coffers every year. Looking at the art produced by our young people during both lockdowns we should all be confident that the Arts are in good hands. There is so much creative talent at our school and that creativity will take them a long way in life.
With Arts in mind, we should focus on cultural inequalities too. Two years ago, Ofsted coined the phrase 'cultural capital' putting school leaders into a simultaneous blind panic. What does this mean? How do we embed it if we don't know what it is? Many people have defined it in different ways. I choose to define it as giving all students access to a broad body of knowledge from around the world and exposing them to art, literature, history, diverse cultures, religions, sports and travel. The problem is that during a pandemic, access to culture is extremely limited and the deficit between those who had access before and those who didn't is growing. It is, however, our job to ensure that it doesn't and that can start now. The other day I took a free virtual tour around Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds. It was fantastic. You could click on exhibitions and read about them or watch a video or just wander around and enjoy looking at them. I'm sure with an easy search on the internet there are many more virtual exhibitions like this accessible on any device. Cultural capital is important and has rightly been championed by Ofsted. It broadens minds, creates curiosity, makes you interesting at parties (when we're finally allowed to have one!). My advice to students and families with half term approaching - now is the time to read a classic book you've always wanted to read; look at a piece of artwork and talk about it to friend or family member; watch a play online; take a virtual tour of somewhere amazing in the world. It's all out there.
Something I read recently really hit home with regards inequality - that is the inequality of work design. For those who already routinely worked from home, for example, the pandemic hasn't affected them as much as others. For many, though, they can't work from home and are therefore furloughed or forced to claim financial help. This in turn has negative effects on mental health - for many people this is the first time in their lives they have needed financial support from the state. It's demoralising, even if it's not forever. Work design also covers shift workers. Some will be critical workers too. They can't work from home and some of them are on the front line every single day. Work design has therefore created a range of inequalities and perhaps it's another one of our jobs to show students the diverse range of work designs before they choose a job or career path. Work-life balance is important and work design is a vital contributing factor to achieving this.
Far from ending on a negative, I'd like to turn to the now and the future. We can all work to make the world more equal in large or small ways. We don't need to be a celebrity with a huge public profile to make change happen, we just need to make some choices and tell our children that they can do anything. We need to give them access to the things that some people take for granted; we need to challenge the way they think and offer them new ideas and philosophies. They have a right to all this stuff and it is our (the royal 'our') job to do everything we can to ensure inequality is constantly challenged.