Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.

Step into your power and be the change: Supporting educators to reimagine inclusion and create belonging – Harroop Sandhu

As an EDI consultant, coach, and school leader, Harroop Sandhu plays a crucial role in supporting educators as they navigate the challenges of balancing their professional and personal lives. With a deep commitment to fostering environments where teachers and staff can thrive both inside and outside the classroom, Harroop ensures that schools are not just places of learning, but also nurturing and supportive communities. By prioritising the well-being of educators, Harroop is helping to build sustainable, thriving school cultures that benefit students, teachers, and the broader community alike. She has diligently developed her knowledge and skills around EDI to ensure she is best qualified to support change and promote a human-first approach, which then allows for strategic transformation. 

Harroop’s work focuses on: 

  • Supporting leaders in skilfully navigating both internal and external cultures. 
  • Fostering safe spaces for difficult conversations and introspection. 
  • Promoting collective responsibility and co-creation among stakeholders. 
  • Developing confidence and competence in addressing manifestations of protected characteristics within schools. 
  • Equipping students to thrive in society and contribute actively to their communities. 
  • Deepening leaders’ personal and organisational cultural quotient (CQ). 
  • Ensuring all stakeholders possess the language necessary for approaching EDI discussions. 
  • Employing strategic approaches to EDI, leveraging existing systems. 

What strategies have you found most effective in driving successful outcomes in educational areas over your 18 years of experience?

I have led many whole school strategies and teams within schools, and what has worked well is ensuring that the team is working in alignment towards a shared goal. As educators, our moral purpose is to ensure the best outcomes for our students and communities. It’s something that is deeply personal and connects us all. By centering the work around this ambition, we don’t lose sight of our moral purpose and the reason we got into this career.  

It’s also about understanding how we get the best out of each other, along with role clarity. Some of my successes include working with toxic teams to create alignment and psychological safety and gaining external recognition from OFSTED for EDI work and the SENDI award for our school, supporting excellent outcomes for all students.  

How do you approach the challenges of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) within institutions, and what support do you offer to colleagues facing these challenges?

My approach centres around integrating EDI work into existing systems to ensure collective responsibility and strategic thought while honouring the humanity of all individuals. It’s important that one person doesn’t carry the weight of EDI alone. We focus our energy on centring those most affected and fostering introspection so that we can unlearn and relearn to be more conscious and skilful in EDI work. 

I support leaders in skilfully navigating both internal and external cultures, fostering safe spaces for difficult conversations and introspection, and promoting co-creation among stakeholders. Additionally, I develop confidence and competence in addressing manifestations of protected characteristics within schools, equip students to thrive in society and contribute actively to their communities. I aim to deepen leaders’ personal and organizational cultural intelligence, and ensure all stakeholders possess the language necessary for approaching EDI discussions. 

Can you share an example of a particularly challenging situation involving EDI that you helped resolve and the impact it had?

When I started my work in my current school, staff and students felt that discrimination wasn’t always challenged effectively. To address this, I supported a culture change through leadership development, training for staff and students, and implementing systems that support EDI. As a result, we were recently commended by Ofsted: “Pupils learn, for example, not only that they should not discriminate but that, if they identify it, they need to challenge discrimination.” This recognition is something I’m particularly proud of, as it demonstrates a significant culture shift. It shows that students are feeling more confident in our systems and in themselves to act as allies. 

As a mother of three, how do you balance your professional and personal life, and how does this experience influence your coaching and consulting approach?

Individuals often grapple with internal dialogues and decisions regarding flexible working, pursuing promotions, feeling guilty for deviating from pre-family work patterns, attending their child’s school activities, and not feeling they are enacting their ideal versions of a parent or educator. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but leaders can implement supportive school-wide systems and policies. Creating an environment where staff feel valued and supported through life’s challenges is essential. This is where the transformative power of PURE coaching for staff comes into play. Coaching on the terms and agenda of the person being coached, providing tailored guidance and support, can significantly impact retaining talented educators. 

On a personal level, I’ve learned to be more at peace with myself, create boundaries, and understand that at different points in my life, I have to say yes or no to different things, and that’s completely okay. We can be our own worst critics and have extremely high expectations. There’s nothing wrong with high aspirations, but it’s about showing the same kindness to ourselves as we’d show to others. 

What are your views on flexible working, and how do you see it benefiting both staff retention and individual well-being?

Incorporating flexible working into organisations allows people to fulfil both their personal and professional ambitions. Typically, it’s parents or those with caring responsibilities who request flexible working, and by offering them that option, we enable them to fulfil something important without neglecting another aspect of their lives. This grants autonomy and reduces guilt, ultimately increasing motivation, productivity, and retention. 

How do you create psychological safety in your training sessions and ensure collective responsibility among participants?

At the beginning of sessions, I establish a contract and ask individuals to reflect on how they will feel safe, appreciated, challenged, and engaged. Participants then share their thoughts with the team. Hearing this from each other helps us create supportive environments and fosters a better understanding of how we can work effectively together. Additionally, I facilitate sessions to ensure that the loudest voice doesn’t dominate, allowing everyone space to contribute and be heard. This approach ensures that the best ideas are put forward and encourages collective responsibility. 

Can you explain the concepts of “calling in and calling out” in the context of EDI work and why they are important?

Recognising when people with marginalised identities experience harm, such as bias and discrimination, is crucial. Calling in and calling out are ways to interrupt and bring attention to this harm, educating ourselves and others. This ensures we learn, unlearn, and relearn to stop perpetual discrimination. It’s about creating compassionate spaces and having difficult conversations. 

For example, if someone makes an offensive comment during a meeting, “calling out” might involve directly addressing the comment on the spot, explaining why it was harmful, and suggesting more respectful language. In contrast, “calling in” could involve having a private conversation with the person afterward, explaining the impact of their words, and offering resources or suggestions for improvement. Both approaches help to interrupt harmful behavior and contribute to a more inclusive environment. 

What steps do you take to help individuals and organisations become comfortable with uncomfortable conversations about unconscious bias and other sensitive topics?

I help people understand power, privilege, and allyship concerning different aspects of identity. It’s important for people to recognize that these experiences can vary based on identity and can be compounded by the layering of multiple identities, a concept known as intersectionality. 

To create a supportive environment, I ensure the team establishes a contract to guarantee psychological safety. I close knowledge gaps with pre-reading materials and case studies to raise awareness of different perspectives. Additionally, I make space to acknowledge and process emotions before diving into strategic work, recognizing that this work has more complexities than other strategic efforts. I also utilize coaching techniques to hold safe spaces where we can truly listen to one another. 

How have you integrated your EDI vision into the overall vision of the institutions you work with, and what results have you seen?

By training leaders, I help them examine their priorities and remits through the lens of EDI. I guide them to introspect first, fill knowledge gaps, explore their responses and emotions, and then prepare for strategic work. This approach leads to significant improvements in inclusivity and support within the institution. Reflecting on our own experiences and relationships with various identities with humanity is crucial, as it’s often the first time we are exploring systemic discrimination. By working with leadership first, the impact cascades through their individual remits, which is far more powerful than one person taking ownership of the work. This method has resulted in more inclusive and supportive environments, with leaders actively promoting EDI principles throughout their areas of influence. 

What has been the impact of your coaching and consulting on the schools and leaders you have worked with, particularly in terms of creating inclusive and supportive environments?

I support schools in creating cultural shifts, fostering openness and curiosity about differences. My ambition is to help organisations reimagine inclusion to create a sense of belonging. I have helped leaders navigate difficult conversations more skilfully, utilising coaching tools to foster more inclusive and supportive environments. As a result, students feel more confident in the reporting systems and more included and celebrated. This journey is ongoing and never truly complete, but it’s about encouraging individuals to think more deeply about their connections with others and how we can improve our lives and those of others. 

Did you enjoy this article and find it helpful? Why not share it with your social media network below?

Global Woman magazine is a media platform to highlight success stories of women around the world and give them the space to express themselves. We have a team of professional journalists who conduct interviews and coordinate different articles with global experts in different areas and backgrounds. If you are interested to collaborate please click here to fill the form or email at [email protected].