Meet CLF’s new Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator, Saima Akhtar

My name’s Saima and I’m the newly appointed Inclusion & Diversity Coordinator at the Cabot Learning Federation. Since 2003 I’ve had many roles in education including working as a teacher, an ALP manager and pastoral support – so I feel like I have never left education!

As this role is brand new to the Federation and so needed in our current climate, I really do feel the weight of responsibility!

Embracing who I am

I’m a forty-something year old, dual heritage, mum of one flipping fabulous trans son. I also have two fur babies, who I may or may not talk to more than my teen child talks to me.

It’s only truly been in the past five years that I’ve really looked at myself in the mirror and embraced the woman looking back at me. I’m so proud of my diverse heritage mixed with my Britishness and am so passionate about how I can use my own self-love to empower other black and brown people, students and staff alike, to be their authentic selves.

It’s been in these past five years that I’ve finally admitted the world isn’t necessarily the same for me as it is for my white counterparts. This has both frustrated me and inspired me. Now I live by an amazing quote from Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones: “We’re going to leave the world better than we found it”. This is my approach every day.

As I mentioned, I started my professional journey 19 years ago. My first job in education was an E2E Tutor, while doing my Cert. Ed – and this is really where my EDI path started. It was there that I was first told that Eid wasn’t a day I should assume I could have off just because I was Muslim, especially as I “…have just had 10 days off for Christmas…”. This stunned me in to not asking for Eid off for 18 years. Ironically, it was there that I was also asked to deliver EDI training to new staff.

Since then, much has changed, but there is still so much more work to do.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at CLF

Cabot Learning Federation’s EDI strategy includes forward-thinking areas of development and key areas of improvement.  These will directly impact on us as staff, our students and their families. I hope this work goes some way towards making our communities a happier, safer and more inclusive places to live and work, as it will certainly do for our academies.

I am working from a strategic and operational perspective. This involves contributing to the vision and strategy for the Federation, from the planning stage to implementation. Our Trust’s HEART values will be at the forefront of this and I have already started to meet with existing staff groups and networks.

Work is already under way with colleagues to create more groups and networks, where and if they are needed. For example, Broadoak Academy have now put in place an EDI staff working group, in addition to accessing Integrate UK to get their students involved in some racial and gender equality work. Another example is that I am hoping we can get the LGBTQ+ Steering Group up and running again, as well as carry on the amazing work of Abbi Bainton, Assistant Principal at BBA, with the Racial Equality Steering Group (big shoes to fill).

I am also hoping to join the work of our data specialists to analyse outcomes by key groups, in addition to exploring exclusions data. There will also be some great Professional Development opportunities and I am just beginning to think about mentoring programmes across the Federation.

Getting started

My first term in role has been both inspiring and frustrating. Inspiring because of the amazing staff that I get to work with. So many colleagues have reached out, responded and welcomed me into their academies. We’ve had honest conversations about inclusion and diversity, the challenges they face and the barriers. Some frustrations we have shared, but our glasses are half full. It has been frustrating at times simply because there is still so much to do and so many colleagues to get on board. It’s 2022 and I can still walk into a room full of CLF staff and be the only person of colour in that room.

But I’m an optimist. I know we won’t eradicate racism, homophobia or prejudices, however I go back to that amazing Game of Thrones quote from Dany: “We’re going to leave the world better than we found it”. We are going to do this together.

Check in

One last thing I would ask, no matter where you work, in education or beyond; please check in on your colleagues. The black men and women you share a kettle with, the bi primary teacher you walk past in the corridor, the hijab-wearing teacher on playground duty between back-to-back lessons and countless others. Check in on them because their lived experience is not the same as yours and mental health is so important.

I love my job because I’m lucky enough to have a network of people around me who check in and support me. If you see something in the news or hear something in your community or whispers in the halls, chances are that even though you’re not directly impacted, someone else, someone you share a kettle with, is.

To my CLF colleagues, if we haven’t met or talked yet and you have EDI questions or want me to support in any way, please get in touch.



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