Public education welcomes and celebrates diversity

The NSW Department of Education has launched its Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy 2023-2026. Linda Doherty reports.

People in two rows. Some are standing and some are sitting. People in two rows. Some are standing and some are sitting.
Image: Secretary Murat Dizdar with members of the Diversity and Inclusion team and Diversity Staff Networks.

A representative and diverse teacher workforce is linked to improved student academic outcomes, higher school retention rates and aspirations for further study, and reduced suspensions.

These are the findings of research for the NSW Department of Education which have informed its Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy 2023-2026.

The strategy was launched last week by Secretary Murat Dizdar on Darug Country in Parramatta.

“Public education welcomes everyone and as a department we proudly embrace equity and inclusion,” Mr Dizdar said.

“Every action matters. Connect, collaborate and be an ally who amplifies the voices of our diverse communities.” 

Mr Dizdar said inclusion and belonging in the workforce would be enhanced under the strategy by the pillars of community, capability and commitment.

“Community is about who we are at Education. We’re building an accountable, collaborative culture where staff know where they can play a role and have the resources to act and lead,” he said.

“Capability is about making sure we have an environment that supports inclusion to empower our people to promote inclusion in everything they do. 

“Commitment is about accountability. This is where we take all our aspirations and ambitions and turn them into concrete goals. These will drive practical actions from the classroom to the boardroom and make sure we represent the communities that we serve.”  

The Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Strategy 2023-2026 was developed following extensive research and consultation with Staff Diversity Networks, the Reconciliation Action Plan team and stakeholders including the NSW Teachers Federation and the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

A Department-led literature review of staff diversity programs and practices in Australia and internationally outlined the benefits to students of having representative teachers, but showed there were significant barriers to participation for diverse teachers. The barriers included discrimination, tension in being fully identified in the workplace, and the additional workload of staff “representing” their diversity.

“The new strategy will work to dismantle those barriers and create a working environment where staff better represent the community and can perform to their full potential,” Mr Dizdar said.

The strategy will underpin future workforce strategies for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff and staff with disability.

Staff Diversity Networks and the observance of days of significance will be a focus. New resources are available, including Inclusion Diversity Equity Actions. 

The ‘NSW Education Diversity and inclusion in teacher workforces: Literature review’ by PeopleBench found that teaching workforces in Australia and overseas were largely homogenous and monocultural while student populations were increasingly diverse.

“Students from diverse backgrounds who have teachers from the same backgrounds can have better academic outcomes, lower rates of suspension and expulsion, and higher aspirations for post-school education than students with teachers who do not share their cultural context,” the literature review said.

Key actions to increase teacher diversity and retention included inclusive school leadership practices, organisational culture and peer support; and acknowledging and celebrating the value of diverse staff in school communities.

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