Interview : Nicky Morgan MP, Conservative Party
Nicky Morgan stood as the Conservative Candidate for Loughborough at the 2005 General Election and again in 2010, when she was elected to Parliament to be Loughborough’s voice in Westminster. Nicky grew up in Surrey and studied law at Oxford University. She worked as a solicitor specialising in Corporate Law advising a range of private and public companies from 1994 till her election in 2010. In July 2014 Nicky was appointed by the Prime Minister to become Secretary of State for Education. She is also Minister for Women and Equalities.
What role does the education system in the UK have on educating children to understand and embrace peoples differences?
It is vital that all pupils leave school fully prepared for life in modern Britain – and teachers have a key role to play in ensuring this happens. Fundamental to this is encouraging pupils to respect other people’s personal circumstances, backgrounds, beliefs and origins. This can be done through Citizenship and PSHE lessons, but I feel it is best done when respect and tolerance permeate all aspects of school life, from the classroom to the playground. It is not the job of schools alone, however, as parents have an equally important role to play and some of the best schools are already actively involving parents in this work.
Schools like The Dame Elizabeth Cadbury school in Birmingham have been very visible in their support for standing up to homophobia and transphobia in the classroom and supporting key dates like Spirit Day and flying the LGBT pride flag. How important is it that schools are visible in their support for key diversity days and share these days with pupils – increasing knowledge and understanding of different cultures and communities?
This kind of bullying affects everyone, not just those who identify as LGBT – anyone who is seen as different can be subjected to intimidating and distressing abuse. I am encouraged by the efforts of schools across the country in tackling homophobia and transphobia. Diversity days can help to support those who feel marginalised, and the best schools already tackle these issues as part of their curriculum. In Government we have taken steps to ensure more young people can grow up free from this kind of bullying, including a £2 million package to help charities develop strategies with schools to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. We are also providing £4 million to tackle other kinds of bullying, including £1.5 million for those who are bullied because they have special educational needs or disabilities.
Bullying is still a big issue in society and in schools. We know that bullying has a devastating and lasting impact on many people. What message would you give to someone being bullied and what role do schools have in creating cultures where reporting bullying, and being clear it is not acceptable and dealing with it effectively, is encouraged?
We know that bullying is decreasing, but parents across the country – including me – feel that even one child bullied is one too many. No child should arrive at school with the fear that they may be abused, assaulted or mocked. We know that bullying doesn’t just make young people unhappy, but has a very real impact on their attainment and achievement at school, and in some cases has real consequences for young people’s mental health. My message to anyone being bullied is that help is out there and that parents, teachers and charities can all stop you being bullied. We have given schools and charities the funding and the tools to help pupils and they are doing an excellent job, but we parents know that we cannot be complacent until every one of our children are safe and happy in, and out, of school.
“It’s clear that network groups can make a very real contribution to the workplace, helping create a culture which values diversity and attracts the best talent.”
How important is it to have visible diverse role models (in schools, media and beyond) from all walks of life and backgrounds?
It’s important to find positive role models wherever you can – we all need something to aspire to. Role models can be found in all areas, have a range of backgrounds, and provide a great variety of different experiences. Role models help us achieve things that we never thought were possible, leading to greater diversity in all areas of life. This is good for the economy, and good for our society as a whole.
Did you have a role model growing up and what impact have they had on your life?
I was very lucky growing up – I was surrounded by strong role models. My headmistress gave us all the message that nothing should hold you back, and how important it is to find something you care about. It is vital that no one allows themselves to be held back by stereotypes and is able to develop their own unique talents.
Network Groups are a big part of lots of people’s lives, offering a space and opportunities to meet other people, share experiences, offer encouragement, develop and learn new skills. How important do you think networks are and do you have any experience being a part of a network group or attending network group or networking events?
We know that networks are important – we’ve seen how the ‘old boys’ network’ used to dominate the workplace at senior levels. Luckily, things are now changing and there is much more diversity in the world of work. However, there is still a lot of benefit from both formal and informal networks. Groups like Everywoman, City Women’s Network, and local Chambers of Commerce can provide valuable networking and support to women in work.
Many employers have internal employee network groups who support creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace where everyone feels they can bring their full self to work. What message would you give to the dedicated individuals who support network groups and do you think employers should reward and recognise their work?
It’s clear that network groups can make a very real contribution to the workplace, helping create a culture which values diversity and attracts the best talent. It is of course up to individual firms how they recognise the work that network groups do, both inside and outside of the organisation, but I would certainly encourage any company to reward staff who give something back to the workplace and their communities.