Lyfta focus area: Diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging

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Explaining Lyfta
In this blog post, we’ll unpack the term DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), explore the reasons why schools should engage with DEI initiatives and look at the ways in which Lyfta can support schools in their DEI journeys.
Key definitions

Though the ideas of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are far from new, the events of the past few years, arguably beginning with the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, sparked a heightened interest in the way schools engage with and embed these concepts. But with various acronyms and terms being used, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what they mean and how they can be applied in the contexts within which we work.

Let’s start off with DEIB. This stands for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. When talking about diversity, it’s useful to consider the nine protected characteristics, as outlined by UK law. These protected characteristics provide us with an insight into the kind of diversity we may find in the communities and schools within which we work.

Image depicts the 9 protected characteristics under the UK’s 2010 Equality Act.

However, it’s also important to think about the way in which diversity cannot be simply boxed up so neatly into these nine categories and that human beings are complex: their identities are both constantly evolving and made up of a variety of different elements. It’s also important to note that the protected characteristics do not take into account socio-economic status.

Despite this, we can see the way in which socio-economic status can place pupils at a severe disadvantage both in terms of achievement and access to higher education. Therefore, schools may also want to take into account the levels of deprivation within their school community and consider how they can account for this in their DEI approach.

Illustration showing the difference between equality and equity

From here, we can see the way in which equity and inclusion logically follow on. For example, equity asks us to consider the individual and how they might be placed at a disadvantage because of discrimination they might experience. Therefore, rather than simply providing everyone with exactly the same starting point, schools must consider how provision can be adapted. These adaptations will ensure that everyone can access learning but also ensure that any discrimination individuals may suffer is not compounded further.

Lastly, whilst many schools will have considered an inclusive curriculum for those who have special educational needs, inclusion within this context asks us to consider how we can create a sense of belonging for all young people, no matter their background, ability or circumstances.

It’s also important to note that many schools are now using the acronym DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion and justice). In using this term, schools have recognised that in their pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion, they are also engaged with the notion of social justice: challenging inequality, discrimination and injustice both in their own institutions and in the world beyond.

Why does it matter to schools?

Beyond both the statutory requirements of schools to adhere to the Equality Act of 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty, many school leaders will have seen an increased desire amongst both their staff and students to challenge discrimination and inequity in both the curriculum and systems at their organisations. For example, we’ve seen students both in the UK and elsewhere in the world organising walkouts when they have felt their schools have either not engaged with their concerns or have actively discriminated against them. And teachers feel this acutely too, as evidenced by Pearson’s Diversity and Inclusion in Schools report.

Another report commissioned by Pearson and conducted by Teacher Tapp found that 89% of secondary teachers and 60% of primary teachers felt there was more diversity required in the set texts they teach.

Image depicting the student interface
How Lyfta can support

Lyfta’s immersive storyworlds cover a vast range of different countries around the world. They also engage with topics that cover many of the protected characteristics, including gender, age, disability, race, marriage, sexuality and religion.

For those students who might feel anxious about difference or even have some misconceptions about those who are different to themselves, independent research conducted by the University of Tampere, has shown that ‘the multi-sensory and participatory nature of immersive 360° experiences led to a decrease in learners’ sense of social anxiety about meeting people from different cultural backgrounds.

Engaging with new people in an immersive virtual setting gives students the opportunity to identify common interests and, as a result, develop more positive feelings towards them.’ And for those students who may have experienced discrimination or marginalisation, Lyfta’s storyworlds and documentary films also allow them an opportunity to see themselves reflected in the stories presented to them at school.

There are a wide range of storyworlds that can support teachers in exploring DEI issues with their pupils, as well as helping to make their curriculum offering more diverse and inclusive. For example, in our Pride storyworld students can meet Qwensley. Here, they will find out about his experience of coming out, in addition to finding out more about Pride in Curacao and different types of families.

Image of Qwensley from the Pride storyworld
Image from Habiba’s Home storyworld, from the interactive student interface.

Habiba’s home in our Dinnertime 360 storyworld gives students an opportunity to join Habiba’s family as they eat dinner and to find out more about how Habiba, a Somali Muslim woman living in Finland, feels about the discrimination she sometimes encounters.

Our Becoming Me series of storyworlds, a series of six which features six young people of different faiths, are a great starting point for exploring respectful discussion and exploration for a range of world religions and worldviews.

Our storyworld based in The Netherlands - The Singer Who Could Not Speak - will introduce students to Tamara who, as a result of a brain injury developed speech and mobility issues. In this storyworld, students are not only presented with Tamara’s story but they can also explore how towns, cities and other locations can be made more accessible for people with a range of disabilities.

Image of Tamara from the storyworld, The singer who could not speak.

In terms of practically using these storyworlds, the Lyfta Time series is a great way of getting started. Lyfta Time is a short, discussion based lesson, suitable for young people of all ages.

Aimed to be completed on a weekly or fortnightly basis, Lyfta Time takes students to a different country every week where they will meet someone new with a different story to tell. In simply visiting other countries and meeting others from different cultures, the Lyfta Time series helps to normalise and humanise diversity.

Image from Lyfta’s teacher interface.

Once teachers have become accustomed to regularly delivering Lyfta Time, they may want to branch out and deliver other Lyfta lessons which tackle the issues of discrimination or marginalisation. For example, the lesson plan Building a United World explores the marginalisation experienced by Habiba, a Finnish Muslim. The lesson encourages your students to empathise with Habiba and consider how they can begin to create a more united world.

Teachers may also want to explore the issues of inclusion and belonging as well as sexuality by using our lesson plan Meet Qwensley. This lesson plan asks students to identify the challenges experienced by Qwensley and to consider how they might challenge homophobia.

There are many other lesson plans that can support teachers to explore DEI with their young people and teachers may want to search for them by using the search category ‘reduced inequalities’ and the lesson plans tab, using the search function on the teacher interface.

Lastly, we know that teachers need support to become more confident in teaching these topics and ideas and so we have collaborated with experts in the field, including Diverse Educators and Angela Browne, ensuring that we offer regular CPD opportunities to our users. For further recommendations and information about diversity in the curriculum, please also see Diverse Educators’ Diversity toolkit collated by Bennie Kara.

Read about Lyfta's other focus areas:

Get started with Lyfta by signing up for a free Lyfta Starter account, or book a short demo with the team.

Diversity Equity Inclusion
Equity & Inclusion
Faith & Worldviews
Further Education
Global Learning
Human Stories
Immersive Learning