Public Relations standing in the midst during Black History Month

by Jennifer Valentine-Miller

The Heritage Fund has seen, in 2020, an increased focus and discussion on issues that particularly affect black people and communities across the UK. From the emotive and significant Black Lives Matter movement, to the disproportionately adverse effects of coronavirus (COVID-19). Corporate Management are discussing these issues and are trying to find solutions or seek advice, because the impact on the mental health and well-being of black leaders and their colleagues can sometimes be overlooked.

My story: During the pandemic I worked for a backroom NHS organisation commissioning services for staff and patients in England. I work from home on an administrative/front-of house basis (through-out the day I receive most the of calls, give out information, log the calls on a spreadsheet for analysing purposes).

It was in 2014 when I obtained a BA Hons degree studying various leadership and management styles within not-for-profit organisations. During that time I started badgering the communications “comms” team about opportunities to “move up” from my current position. I did not want to pay for another degree i.e. Masters degree, so I approached the communications manager again and it was then she introduced me to the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) in order for me to gain professional recognition as well hear from professionals whose specialism is within all aspects of society. However, it was a Financial Director at work who realised I was a disgruntled BAME employee and advised me to further my online platform called Healing Relations PR and consider becoming its “Director”; allowing me to move away from a ministry to a business working alongside other businesses.

Some of the projects and campaigns I have worked alongside are:
*S.A.Y. (serious about youth) the Conference – (campaigning for longer jail term sentences for groomers and for those who fatally wound a young person).

*The NHS England Stop Smoking Awareness campaign.

*Issues in sport including racism and bullying (working alongside Sports Chaplaincy UK)

*Supporting my neighbourhood against anti-social behaviour

Faith Schools – Are they providing a clear picture?

By Jennifer Valentine-Miller

Jennifer at her school’s retreat (1978)

I attended senior school (Comprehensive) during the 1970’s to early 1980’s. Many conversations at school-reunions constantly feedback the same message “our school let us down”, and Faith school students are also saying the same thing.

At school I also obtained attainment/pass certificates in for example Religious Studies and Social Ethics. In the long term those studies were not relevant when applying for jobs – unless I wanted to enter a vocation like social work. There were, to my happiness, theater studies and sports activities which I was encouraged to partake in because it was part of my school’s curriculum. I attended drama classes and obtained O/A level pass rates plus there were netball tournaments and tennis matches – my Head of School would only exclaim that outside activities were a “distraction” and affecting my other exams. Especially Mathematics and biology (so that I could get a job in a bank or as a nurse). Distractions also included my Duke of Edinburgh awards (in Gymnastics)!

That is why I aimed to salvage a BA Hons degree and other Higher Education qualifications as a mature student. However, I always felt a sense of disapproval at interviews. Should I blame my school for my disillusionment?

Campaign groups like “No More Faith School .org uk” are asking for public funding towards religious groups in order for them to evangelize to children who are disillusioned when they leave school having completed their time as Lower 6 or Upper 6 students.

It seems, according to reports, that Faith schools are having a “negative impact on social cohesion, foster segregation of children on social, ethnic and religious lines, and undermine choice and equality” (No-more-faithschools.org). In other words, the report is saying if you attended a faith school it does not look good on your CV to the “outside world”. The anti report goes on to say that, “children living in England deserve the best – the law expects schools to demonstrate that they are encouraging pupils to take a respectful and tolerant stance towards those who hold values different from their own. Ofsted acts robustly and impartially to ensure all children in England receive a good education.”

Following on from ongoing claims of sexual exploitation within schools – leaders “have not ensured that safeguarding procedures have been sufficiently robust to keep pupils safe at all times,” inspectors found.  Also, school’s leaders have not ensured that all staff employed at the school has routinely undergone the necessary vetting checks, which compromises pupils’ welfare.“  (Secularism.org.uk 2019).

The charity Child Net insists that the importance of Faith Schools lies in it being able to opt-out of teaching subjects contrary to their religious beliefs, such as information on homosexuality and contraception. The compulsory parts of sex and relationship education from Year 7 (primary school) teach children about reproduction, sexuality and sexual health – including decisions around abortion.

Campaigners insist that pupils from faith schools fail to develop their own beliefs independently. I have no qualms with that. My argument is to support their pupils with after care, especially those who like religious studies, social ethics, theatre, and… Physical- Sciences or in my era it was called P.E. (physical education).

Today, senior leaders preclude the teaching of certain protected characteristics of students leaving school could be defined in the Equality Act. According to the Equality Act 2010, protected characteristics are aspects of a person’s identity that make them who they are. It’s worth noting, while this legislation doesn’t offer protection for revealing protected characteristic e.g. religious beliefs.  Moreover, it’s  unlawful to treat an employee or apprentice differently if they reveal they attended a Faith school – alas, it still happens.

Jennifer (2nd right) at school with her successful team mates as Essex champions.