Deborah, TLG's new Education Policy Lead, has started her new role with a wealth of experience and a real drive to affect lasting change for the children TLG works with. In this blog she introduces herself, the work she will do and what inspires her.
After a turbulent season of Lockdown, what an exciting time to be starting a new role as TLG Education Policy Lead.
While I am excited about the opportunities that await as I embark on this role, it is with a little sadness that I say goodbye to the many students and stakeholders I have worked with over the years. My time as Headteacher at TLG West London Education Centre has been marked by both challenges and triumphs and I will cherish the fond memories of ‘Education Centre life’ at TLG.
With all that is going on for young people in the UK, especially in light of COVID-19, it is a pivotal time to be working with others to improve the life chances of those who are disadvantaged and experiencing crisis in their education. The policy team will be working to ensure TLG's experience and expertise within the children's sector is being heard and utilised by key influencers. I hope to bring with me the wealth of experience gained over two decades of working in diverse educational settings in London, on the ‘frontline’ with young people for whom everyday life is tough.
I am compelled by the burden of social injustice and what it is to stand up for those who are disadvantaged within the education system. It is a real privilege and honour to share my knowledge, insights and reflections about issues that are very close to my heart. In my foundational years as an educator, I did not understand the multifaceted impact of disadvantage on young people but my experiences taught me very swiftly, through the illogical displays of biases and exclusion in the classroom and beyond. These experiences made me search for resolutions very early on in my career. Years on, I know taking up this new challenge is my call to action to build on playing my role in tackling the social injustices in our education system..
It is not okay that children in care are twice as likely to be excluded, that children on Free School Meals (FSM) are four times more likely to be excluded, or that children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have the highest permanent exclusion rate and are nearly six times more likely to be excluded. More recently, while many are rightfully talking about the economic consequences of COVID-19, there is a an emotional health crisis gripping people across the UK which will result in many young people being at risk of exclusion.
The church has modelled what it is to champion the cause of the poor, the excluded, the ignored, the disfranchised and the exploited. It is my hope that the work I will contribute to will go a long way in our organisation modelling this. My ultimate hope and prayer is that our work will influence key decision makers locally and nationally to leverage power, privilege, abilities and resources to mobilise transformation. Transformation not only for a young person’s immediate circumstances but, more importantly, the economic, social and cultural systems that perpetuate inequality, poverty, exclusion and exploitation.
Our work has recently included contributing to the Centre for Social Justice’s Alternative Provision (AP) Cold Spots report, member contribution to the Fair Education Alliance work on tackling educational inequality and interviews with the Church of England Education Office.
The daily work of our programmes in breaking cycles of poverty, abuse and exclusion, showing love, restoring hope and transforming lives for good is work done by the church and needs people to unite behind it. Whether it be speaking into the big issues in the very corridors where the decisions made, lobbying in parliament, contributing to radio & TV interviews, writing an article for publication, or many other opportunities. There is confidence in knowing that we are all in this together, working unrelentingly to ensure policies are being made that prioritise education, support and wellbeing of children.
Always the ‘teacher’, I love this quote by John Wesley where he tells his teachers to always remember that on ounce of love was worth a pound of knowledge. His challenge to those that work with or on behalf of young people is:
Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
At all the times you can
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Deborah Barnett is School Development Manager and Education Policy Lead, she is London based and has worked in mainstream education, special schools and alternative provision for over twenty years. Deborah has a broad and in depth knowledge of national education policy and passionate about social and racial justice in education. She is committed to structural change to ensure all children can achieve more in schools. Her values in education are firmly linked to an inclusive, comprehensive system where all learners are valued equally.