Case study: St Joseph’s Academy
Interview with Andy Boyle, Depute Head Teacher and ESAS Lead
Motivation for ESAS
There were a few factors that motivated us to undertake ESAS. We could see that ESAS fitted with national targets and outcomes around equalities, so that was one motivation, however those national targets don’t mean anything if you don’t know how it impacts children and families.
As the school Child Protection Officer I was privy to a lot of information that gave me an insight into the extent of the problem of gender based violence and I could see first hand the impact of the problem on children and families. I was aware of recent sexual assault cases affecting pupils in the school as well as issues of violence in the home, so the idea of a whole school approach to help educate the whole school community was really appealing and differentiated ESAS from the many initiatives that schools are approached with.
It was something that we saw as the most valuable for the community.
School Reception of ESAS
Often school based initiatives target specific year groups and are localised to the PSE classroom. What I really liked about the ESAS approach was that it involved the whole school and was really comprehensive. We had school assemblies which gave the opportunity for any pupil in the school to be involved in leading the intervention by joining the Action Group, which is quite rare.
That unique selection process that was open to anyone really
paid off because we ended up with so much enthusiasm and commitment from the
pupils who signed up. The pupils who were involved in leading the intervention
via the Action Group were reflective of our school community in that it wasn’t
just the most academically engaged pupils, but pupils from a range of backgrounds
and from across the SIMD landscape.
As well as enthusiasm and commitment from the pupils we also had really positive engagement from the staff team. ESAS staff training reinforced our school ethos that you need to understand the young people in front of you and consider their experiences and their background.
When looking for teachers to be closely involved in ESAS we had a much higher return than usual from staff. Staff are presented with a lot of initiatives, events and training sessions that don’t feel very relevant, but ESAS resonated with a lot of staff. I believe this is because the topic of gender based violence goes beyond education and is relevant not only to our students lives, but to staff’s lives too. It affects our staff not just as educators but as individuals too, so the messaging of ESAS really held their interest.
Advice for Schools thinking about ESAS
I would emphasise to any school thinking about taking part in Equally Safe at School that this isn’t a “flash in the pan” or a quick tick box exercise. This is a whole school approach, so it’s important to take it on with the understanding that it will involve everyone in the school community and that once it’s on the school agenda it will remain there.