What gender equality and diversity means at my school
Olivia Paine Education and Youth Communications and Project Officer
13th Dec 2016
Aliyah Reid, a student at Woodside High School, emphasises the importance of celebrating individuality and explores what equality means at her school.
At Woodside High School, gender and diversity means that everyone feels welcome, everyone feels free to be themselves and everyone's differences are celebrated.
What does that actually mean? Everyone is really, really clear what our school values are. This is communicated before students and new members of staff even join the school - they're referenced daily and this results in a more open and caring community. A community where equality is championed and all forms of prejudice - sexism, racism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are challenged. A community that allows people to break free of gender norms and stereotypes in all their forms. We all know that we are free to be ourselves, and we
also know that there will be consequences for anyone who doesn't stick to our values. These consequences range from a quiet conversation, reflection time, an educational workshop, to a formal punishment for serious offenses.
As a student, it means that I'm not in a box. I'm free to do and be whatever I want. In a world that loves to label, this is a really big deal. By not being labelled, I am not limited. Instead of being put into a box with however many other people, I am an individual. I am me.
In school, we're told all the time to think about our options, our choices and our future. Without equality and diversity being championed and celebrated in a school setting, no student can make those choices for themselves - their choices have already been determined for them. It can be damaging to try and limit young people. They need to be able to look at their options and think about their own future freely.
As the work of our school's Equality Group has grown, the impact it has had on my friends and beyond has been amazing. Students who once had a narrow-minded outlook have now learned to respect and support everyone. Although very important, education is so much more than grades and exam results. Teaching young people to love not hate, to celebrate differences, and embrace diversity is an incredible lesson that everyone can benefit from.