Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Challenge Partners

We recognise that there are deep structural inequalities in our education system. We aim to reduce these to improve the life chances of all children

Through collaboration, challenge and professional development, we are working to ensure every school community can benefit from the combined wisdom of the education system. A vision of a more equitable society is integral to our mission, and we work proactively to contribute to this goal. Challenge Partners is a values-driven organisation and welcomes schools that share our vision of Excellence, Equity, Collaboration, Challenge, Innovation and Courageous Leadership

What diversity means to Challenge Partners

We value, encourage, and celebrate diversity in all its forms. We champion different talents and viewpoints to achieve the best outcome, which helps to foster our value of innovation. We recognise that representation matters, including (but not limited to) - LGBTQ+, (dis)ability, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, religion, age, and neurodiversity. We treat each other fairly, with care and respect, and seek to understand the systemic challenges faced by individuals and groups. We are empathetic and considerate in our intentions and actions, making space for others’ thoughts and feelings without judgement, allowing for development, growth and contribution

What equity means to Challenge Partners

We know that there are some children and young people who are not well-served by the education system and this impacts their outcomes. Deprived areas also struggle to recruit qualified teachers. This results in a persistent gap in outcomes between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers. We know that socioeconomic disadvantage intersects with other factors, particularly race and sometimes special educational needs and disability (SEND). We cannot solve these problems alone, but helping to share excellent practice between schools ensures more children benefit from the best expertise within the system. This is why we centre all of our work on reducing educational disadvantage.

What inclusion means to Challenge Partners

Inclusion is about ensuring everyone feels they belong within Challenge Partners and we look to foster a work culture where everyone is safe to share different ideas, which are heard, appreciated, and not judged based on a person’s identity. We listen to our staff and practitioners across our partnership through formal and informal channels so that everyone feels a sense of belonging. Ideas are listened to and acted on. We know that when everyone feels they belong, innovation can thrive, which helps us to create a more inclusive education system externally as well.

Actions we are taking

We believe that helping to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive education system, where all children thrive, will require us to harness all the expertise and wisdom in the system. We actively work to ensure lived experience of inequality and understanding educational disadvantage is at the forefront of our organisational development, including our governance, management, staffing, operations, programmes, and promoted throughout our network of schools.


We are working to secure greater diversity at every level of the organisation including among trustees, our Education Advisory Group, Lead Reviewers, leadership team, and the wider team. Actions taken so far to address this includes:

  • Enhancing the diversity of our board of trustees. In recruitment for new trustees, we will ensure at least half of the trustee roles are filled from candidates who are from minority ethnic groups and/or socially deprived backgrounds
  • Subscribing to the Be Applied platform, a competency based blind recruitment automated process. This is being used for all recruitment for trustees and staff
  • Trustees undergo diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training with support from Social Business Trust and will continue to be provided on a regular basis with opportunities to implement action plans as required


Equity is fundamental to our approach and decisions around HR, development, progression and pay. Our line managers’ handbook helps staff to understand the fair, consistent and equitable approach we take. We are also committed to equitable career progression and fair pay. Actions taken to address this includes:

  • Targeted development opportunities for all staff across the organisation, from coordinator through to the leadership team
  • Our DEI group (made up of staff from all levels) led on a DEI survey, gathering feedback from the whole team to identify priorities to address
  • Our pay structure is designed to mitigate against the inequities that arise when pay awards depend on negotiation or subjective judgement

Networks and Programmes

Changes to the Quality Assurance Review framework in 2019 included a sharper focus on the provision and outcomes of disadvantaged and more vulnerable pupils. The focus on disadvantage is also central to our knowledge exchange work where school leaders share tried and tested practice. Moreover, as part of our Getting Ahead London programme, we actively focused on supporting women and those from Black, Asian and minority backgrounds who wanted to take the step into leadership roles. In 2021/22, 33% of participants were from non-white backgrounds and 65% of participants were women. In addition, 9 out of 20 external speakers identify as from a minority-ethnic background and 14 out of the 20 are women. We also work to ensure a diversity of speakers at our events, to improve representation on a national level. Speakers have included: 

  • Sonita Alleyne OBE, the Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and the first black master of any Oxbridge college. Her session was titled: How to talk to Children about Race 
  • George the Poet, a London-born spoken word performer of Ugandan heritage. The Peabody award-winner's innovative brand of musical poetry has won him critical acclaim and seen his work broadcast to millions of people worldwide 
  • Professor David Olusoga OBE, British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and film-maker. David is also the author of Black & British: A Forgotten History, awarded both the Longman-History Award and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize
  • Lemn Sissay OBE FRSL, poet, playwright, artist performer and broadcaster. Bafta-nominated international prize-winning writer awarded the OBE for services to literature and charity, the Pen Pinter Prize and a Points of Light award

Next steps

DEI is central to Challenge Partners’ five-year strategy. We hope to be a future DEI leader in the education sector, and continue to challenge ourselves to address this internally and externally. We will further develop knowledge exchange resources on DEI, building a strong body of work to support schools to develop their own DEI strategies. It will also be integrated as a strand of work across all our programmes and networks. We will provide all staff with ongoing training in DEI.

Our DEI agenda is driven from the top by our Chief Executive, Kate Chhatwal, as well as a committed and passionate group of staff from all levels of the organisation. Kate and the DEI group are proactive in challenging the organisation, our network of schools and the wider education sector to do more to ensure DEI is consistently considered – from recruitment to programme delivery, from representative leadership to systematic change. We recognise this will be an ongoing process.