Page 29


Bravery in action Three head teachers who had the courage of their convictions Standing firm

Shaun Dellenty Alfred Salter School, London LF readers may remember reading Shaun’s story in last May’s issue of the magazine. He’s the deputy head who wanted to do something about the amount of homophobic language being used at his south London primary school, were he estimated that three quarters of the children were either hearing or using “gay” as a derogatory word. Shaun led a discussion about it at an assembly, led staff training and showed a Stonewall film. Since then, other schools have seen his success and come to him for advice. “They want to know how to get people on board,” he says. “Their biggest concern tends to be the reaction they may get. They ask ‘what happens if parents react badly? “There is often doubt, prejudice and misconception, but when people see that you’re doing it for the children, that attitude shifts.” Shaun has subsequently set up a charity, Inclusion for All, to help other schools tackle homophobia. His website (www.shaundellenty. com) offers a variety of resources, including video interviews of staff at his school talking about their experiences. “There’s nothing more powerful than teachers listening to other teachers,” he says. As well as giving talks and delivering teacher training in schools and universities, parts of Shaun’s story have been included in a play about a gay teacher; Hero was performed at the Royal Court theatre in London last year. The play was already in the works when the writers heard about what Shaun was doing and realised it was similar to their plot. When they contacted him, he invited them to the school, where the cast and crew led workshops with Shaun and the children. He told the

Ian Fenn Burnage Media Arts College, Manchester Ian Fenn hit the headlines late last year when he adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards mobile phones at his school for 11- to 16-year-old boys in inner Manchester. Phones, he says, are a major issue in schools, bringing with them a host of problems, including a lack of concentration in class and cyber bullying. “They were increasingly brought out in lessons with pupils sending texts, messaging and basically doing anything other than listening,” he says. After attempting a partial, unsuccessful ban on phones in class, Ian realised that a ‘complete and utter ban’ was the only way to go. “If you leave a grey area the boys will exploit it. They prefer rules to be black and white,” he says. If pupils are found with a phone on school premises, it is confiscated. If they refuse to hand it over, they are sent to Ian – and if they refuse to hand it to him, they are excluded and their parents are called in. There is a high degree of compliance, says Ian, with just a few phones a week handed in. The policy has had a hugely positive effect in class as well as cutting cyber bullying. Even so, Ian is bemused by the attention his zero-tolerance policy has brought, dismissing the idea that it was a brave move. “I don’t know why other schools don’t do it,” he says. “If I announce a policy, that’s what’s going to happen, and nothing’s going to change that. It was fairly obvious that mobile phones had to go, it’s logical. To me, bravery is where you’re doing something you’re not quite sure you can pull off.”


Tackling homophobia

writers that he was worried that he would always be labelled ‘the gay teacher’ – a line that made it into the finished play. “It was such an unexpected but wonderful experience,” he says. Subsequently, instances of homophobic bullying at his school have dropped to ‘almost nothing’. Other forms of bullying have also lessened and the school now devotes one training day a term to the issue to keep it fresh in people’s minds. “Staff needed to connect – and I was able to share my own experiences, and it personalised it and made it real for them,” says Shaun. He urged other gay school leaders to be more open about their sexuality, with the proviso that they had support from their head and others at the school. “I absolutely believe we need more open and diverse school leaders so they can provide role models,” he says.“I felt like I was letting the children down by not being a bit more obvious about the fact I’m gay. “It would have meant the world to me to have had a role model when I was at school. I’m shouting about it because I know other people are frightened of doing what I’m doing.”


26-30 bravery.indd 29


21/02/2013 10:19

Profile for Redactive Media Group

Leadership Focus March/April 2013  

Leadership Focus March/April 2013

Leadership Focus March/April 2013  

Leadership Focus March/April 2013

Profile for redactive