The changing face of King Edward VI Aston School
Fortnightly Comment for 1st June 2012
Mrs Whittall’s appointment as Deputy Headteacher as well as being thoroughly deserved and very good news for the school is also historic because she is certainly the first female Deputy Headteacher at Aston and may be the first female deputy head at any of the all boys King Edward VI schools. Mrs Whittall’s appointment reflects the steady increase in the number of female teachers at Aston during the past ten years. Back in 2004 just under 30% of the teaching staff were women whereas now the figure is just under 50%. In addition the number of women holding pastoral and subject leadership positions within the school is virtually equally divided between staff of both sexes.
Another area of change is the growing number of staff from a minority ethnic background. Currently 20% of teaching staff fall into this category with most having an Asian background although the school also has staff from mainland Europe and South America. Disappointingly the teaching staff does not include anyone with an Afro-Caribbean heritage and receives relatively few applicants with this background for vacancies when they do arise. This is an issue of concern, the causes of which we need to further explore.
The changing make up of the staff is also replicated in the student body. Aston is a genuinely multi-ethnic school with in broad terms the student population being 40% white, 40% Asian, 7% Black & 13% from countries around the world. Just under a third of students do not have English as their first language however this has had little impact on the school’s examination results and indeed last year the school achieved over 80% of passes in English Language at grades A* or A. In reality the school’s student population reflects the changing demographic in Birmingham itself and with no group numerically dominant, toleration and the need to get on with each other despite cultural and religious differences is the absolute prerequisite. This diversity is a real strength of the school and was recognised in the school’s last inspection report which noted that “Students from many different backgrounds work and play harmoniously together.”
At a time when hardly a day goes by without the reporting of an atrocity by one cultural group against another I am delighted to be able to report that Aston is a school where toleration and respect of others is a fundamental part of the school’s ethos. Extremism in any sense is not tolerated and instead the students learn that the media image of different cultural groups may not be entirely accurate when compared with the friendships that they have struck up at school with boys from those same cultural groups that often figure so negatively in the media. School has always been more than what goes on in the classroom and I hope that this cultural learning stays with all Aston students for the rest of their lives.