Diversity and Inclusion – the story so far - Hurstpierpoint College

Diversity and Inclusion – the story so far

As I sit and reflect on my journey so far as Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Hurst, I am overwhelmed with positivity, hope and joy. What has been achieved since March 2020, is something of which Hurst’s community should be extremely proud. Every initiative has been fantastic and that’s down to our pupil platform. They have been the engine throughout this journey and the work they have done is phenomenal. It’s evident that there has been a visible amount of real, meaningful and immensely valuable progress and I am so proud of what has been achieved.

Painted stones with uplifting messages on themBlack History Month
Upon returning to the college in September, the platform began arranging its first big event: Black History Month in October. As curricula all too often erase Black existence and achievements in history, we wanted to encourage students to engage with this annual celebration as a starting point for learning outside the curriculum. We put up posters throughout the school and started each week with an email full of resources such as books and films which could help students learn about Black history.

UN Disability Week
The next date on our agenda was the UN Disability Week in December, with the theme ‘Not all disabilities are visible’. Often, students receive little education about disability and how to treat people with disabilities. We started to change that, with daily emails containing videos or articles that we hoped would broaden their understanding.

Inspiring speakers
As well as celebrating such events, Hurst pupils have been inspired by several speakers. Outside speakers included polymath Sophie Cook, the first transgender woman to work in football’s Premier League; Abdi Omar, a motivational speaker and YouTuber who lives with cerebral palsy; and Siya Twani, who was imprisoned for speaking out against injustice in South Africa. In addition, members of the Diversity and Inclusion Group delivered assemblies to the Shell and Fifth Form on aspects of Diversity and Inclusion which the platform hopes to promote across the college. The group also created a PowerPoint slideshow to be presented to Years 7 and 8 by the D&I pupil ambassadors in the Prep School – who are equally as keen and motivated to enact change in the College.

Lockdown initiatives
We have not been deterred by lockdown either, with MS Teams Q&A sessions with figures such as Harry Hitchens, an ex-Hurst pupil who is now a key figure in the fight to Ban Conversion Therapy in the UK, and Devin Ibanez, a USA rugby player who is openly gay despite the stigma which remains in the sport. One advantage of online talks has been that parents can tune in too: 57 families watched Jude Guaitamacchi’s talk on their experiences as a non-binary model and campaigner. These thought-provoking talks have been incredibly valuable in giving students, parents and staff an authentic perspective on such important topics.

The Diversity and Inclusion Group’s weekly Friday lunchtime meetings also continued remotely and provided the opportunity for more talks – this time by teachers within the school. Highlights include Miss Cave and Miss McNeill’s talk on mental health, and Mr Cuerden’s frank discussion of his experiences at the time of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In addition, Mrs Watson-Saunders delivered a powerful speech during the staff inset on her experience of being a person of colour in the UK.

Department reflections
The wider teacher engagement with Diversity and Inclusion is equally exciting as HoDs have been encouraged to reflect on their department’s curriculum to make it more inclusive. The History department organised a talk by Dr Olly Ayres about his latest research project on the history of Black London; the Drama department is planning to put together an LGBTQ+ themed monologue; and the Art department have had a Black Lives Matter focus. A sign of change across all levels of the school.

Hurst Engage for Change logoEngage for Change
The D&I Group has not only been looking for ways to engage pupils but parents, too. That’s why we have teamed up with Hurst’s Climate Awareness Group to create the Engage for Change monthly newsletter, which is sent to all pupils and parents. It contains articles written on a broad range of issues, from pollution to body positivity – all written by Hurst pupils from Shell to Upper Sixth. The newsletter includes thought pieces, advice and interviews with pupils, staff and parents.


The READI Group (Rainbow Education Alliance of Diverse Identities/Individuals), a subsection of the Diversity and Inclusion Group, also began meeting during a Monday lunchtime towards the end of the Michaelmas term. The aim of this sub-group is to provide a safe space to talk about the experience of being LGBTQ+. In the first meeting, we introduced ourselves and those who felt confident talked about their experience of being LGBTQ+. This allowed people to overcome barriers, and Individuals who thought they were previously alone in their experience of being LGBTQ+ knew that this was no longer the case. There was a conversation over identity and gender which led to a discussion about the development of a gender-neutral uniform for the college. Since then, there have been numerous meetings with the SLT, plus discussion groups between staff and students, to ensure pupils are heard. This will take time to get right, but we want all voices to be heard and a plan that suits all.

Pride History Month
Finally, I want to talk about what I would say has already been our biggest success – celebrating Pride History Month throughout February. Planning started in January, with guest speakers taking the MS Teams ‘stage’ for whole school tutorials. These events saw up to 500 pupils tune in for exciting Q&As. The month began with a school-wide video made by a range of staff and students responding to what ‘pride’ means to them – the main reason why it’s important we celebrate this month. It was fantastic to see the Prep School speak alongside the Senior School for a true moment of community during online learning. Weekly emails sent out by Ms Lewis highlighting media options for staff and students have been well received. There have also been some initiatives for students such as an Art department creative challenge to produce a timeline of events in LGBTQ+ history. In addition, we offered LGBTQ+-themed books to students and staff for them to share their views in a book club session after half term – and even a PHM Bake Off! Engagement is going well and hopefully we can make this an annual initiative. Something that I personally enjoyed was connecting with OJs (some dating back to 1979) about their own LGBTQ+ memories when they were at the College. It’s safe to say, that the work we are doing presently, has brought much joy and it is evident that huge progress has been made. In the future, I hope we can form a stronger bond on all things D&I with our Hurst Foundation programme, as it’s all about creating a strong relationship of past and present to fully encapsulate the community feel.

What has easily been the highlight of the month is the fantastic tutorial talks, with a range of experiences and viewpoints – from Jude (a transgender, non-binary activist and model), to Harry (a gay, male activist) to Sarah and Leah (professional athletes, competing for GB and Wales in hockey). The feedback and engagement from pupils, staff and parents has been first class. The eloquence, respect and genuine interest of the student-body has reinforced why it’s important that we, as a school, engage in celebrating LGBTQ+ History month.

Celebrating all things diversity and inclusion
At Hurst we are really proud  to be taking such a lead in celebrating all things diversity and inclusion, and we appreciate the active support the parent body has shown this month. Something that has resonated with me from all of the online CPD sessions and Q&A discussions is how effective it is to have a positive presence of allies and role models. Typically, people are inspired to do something when they see others like them do it and I believe, as educators, we have a huge responsibility to support, guide and listen to everybody as individuals, both academically and pastorally. We also have a significant responsibility in challenging those who hold adverse opinions.

Standing up for respect and kindness is something I stand by and with our mantra #Be #Yourself @ Hurst at the forefront of this initiative, I will continue to do my absolute best to make sure every pupil and member of staff feel that they can stay true to just that.


Please follow the links below for further information about Hurst College, an independent, co-educational, day and flexi/weekly boarding school for pupils aged 4–18, located just to the north of the village of Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex.

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