Leading for Equality: Making Schools Fairer


Jacky Lumby & Marianne Coleman

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    About the Authors

    Jacky Lumby is a Professor of Education at the University of Southampton. She joined higher education after a varied career in schools, with posts in London, rural Cumbria and Cardiff, and later in adult, community and further education. She also worked in a Training and Enterprise Council with a regional responsibility for the development of leaders in both business and education. She has researched and published widely on the leadership of schools and colleges in the UK, Ireland, China and South Africa, in particular exploring how educational leadership relates to equity and the inclusion of learners and staff. This has led her to engage with issues like socio-economic class, ethnicity, gender and power. She is concerned with learning how those in education can lead people and systems that offer success to pupils and staff in the context of living a life they value.

    Marianne Coleman is Reader Emerita in Educational Leadership at University College London, Institute of Education. Before a career in higher education at the University of Leicester and the Institute of Education she was a secondary school teacher and an advisory teacher in an LEA. Now retired, she continues to research and write focusing on her interest in gender and leadership and wider issues of diversity and social justice. She has recently co-authored a book on ageing and is a trustee of the Nurture Group Network, an educational charity which supports children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.


    Education can be a force for greater equality in our communities, enabling everyone to achieve more of their potential to the benefit of both individuals and society. However, it is easy to lose sight of this over-arching purpose in the day-to-day routine of classrooms, assessments and results. Leaders in schools would say that they aspire to enable the highest possible levels of achievement for all and that they aim to treat individuals fairly, but more than two decades of researching equality in schools has shown us that, for many learners, this is far from reality. In particular, those who differ from an assumed norm are the most likely to be overlooked and marginalized, to the detriment of their education.

    The two of us have written previously on leadership and diversity in education when we engaged with theories and concepts to support practice (Lumby with Coleman, 2007). In this book we wanted a different focus: to look not just at what the concepts mean in the context of education, but also at how to put them into action. We have engaged with real schools, illustrating our discussions with instances of how they are working to make life fairer for students and staff. In each chapter, therefore, are examples of ways in which you might tackle some of the practical issues to make your school fairer.

    The book is entitled Leading for Equality: Making Schools Fairer and is aimed at all who are in leadership roles. Our definition of leadership is broad, going beyond the head teacher/principal and the senior leadership team to encompass the department and subject head, the leadership of the teacher in the classroom, those leading in support roles, and touching on the potential leadership of learners. We chose to use the word ‘equality’ as shorthand for many related ideas: equity, inclusion, diversity and social justice. We feel that these moral concepts are of vital relevance today, as our societies become more diverse and communities struggle to unite in the face of many destabilizing challenges.

    Over time, people are becoming more aware and respectful of the differences between individuals and groups, often with the benefit of legislation to protect individual rights. Despite such advances, lingering prejudices remain and there is still a tendency to regard the norm as White, middle-class, male, heterosexual and probably Christian, with all individuals and groups judged against this baseline. There is also a tendency to stereotype individuals on the basis of the group or groups to which they belong. In this book, we ask you to examine your individual stance and that taken by your school to probe the part you play in dismantling or strengthening inequality.

    The fundamental point is to bring about change in schools, to make them fairer. This can only be achieved through you, the reader – your values, your aims, your actions. We hope that this book supports you and wish you well in your endeavours.


    A book such as this is only possible with the help of many people. The varied illustrations of policy and practice that we have been able to include are the result of support from staff in schools in England, Scotland and Wales and other educators who generously shared their experience with us. Of necessity, they must remain anonymous, nevertheless we should like to express our gratitude at their openness and willingness to share. They were driven in all cases by a wish to contribute to the mission of increasing equality in our schools. We thank them all.

    We would also like to thank Marianne Lagrange, Robert Patterson and Rachael Plant at Sage, for their support of this publication and ongoing ideas for its development. Alison Williamson undertook initial copyediting and proofing, and provided useful feedback.

    Finally, we would like to thank the very many children and young people to whom we have spoken throughout twenty years of researching schools. Their stories and opinions have provided a constant reminder of the human experience at the heart of schooling, and have motivated us to continue researching and writing about equality.

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