Key Voices #120 – Ditching discriminatory hair policies: A Key Voices Takeover

“It’s the best thing you can do for the relationship between staff and students. Do it with the students, don’t assume for them… try asking the students what they want and finding a compromise that works from both perspectives.” 

This week Key Voices has been taken over by students at Townley Grammar School. They share their thoughts about their school changing its hair policy and talk passionately about the difference it has made to them and their peers. They also interview Desmond Deehan, CEO of Odyssey Trust for Education, which Townley Grammar is part of, about the decision making process the trust took to change their hair policy. They also ask about why he wanted to start a dialogue with other schools, and what further plans there are to examine bias and inequality across their uniform policy. 

We talk about: 
  • What changing the hair policy at school has meant to the girls and their peers 
  • The negative impact having restrictive hair rules has, particularly on students from diverse backgrounds and on relationships between students and teachers 
  • The connection between hair, confidence and self expression 
  • The importance of engaging students in changes like this
  • What other aspects of school uniform policy might need changing 
  • What inspired Desmond to decide to change the policy 
  • Communicating policy change and why Townley decided to try and use publicity to try and get other schools to think about hair rules differently 
  • How they feel they have shattered the illusion that education and standards in schools are linked to clothing 
  • The connection between awareness raising, protest and how real change happens 

This is the book Desmond mentions  Don’t touch my hair! By Emma Dabiri

“The recognition that just challenging someone [about their hair] is a sanction. If you are picked out in your class and something public is said to you about your hair, that is a sanction. You don’t have a detention for that, and it doesn’t get recorded as such but you walk away from it as the student thinking, I feel bad now and I didn’t feel that before, and the teacher might not even feel they have told you off, but that is how it lands.”

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