To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.
Tim Jackson – Equality Advocate, Straight Ally & Supporter of LGBT Rights
by David Watters
Within the education sector there is an emphasis upon inclusion and equality of opportunity to access learning, so that all students can fulfil their potential within a nurturing and supportive, structured environment. Tim Jackson, Principal of Sparsholt and Andover Colleges in Hampshire, has consistently reinforced this idea. Education institutions are legally obliged to train staff on Equality and Diversity issues and, since 2012, I have been tasked with the job of devising and delivering a diversity initiative called the RESPECT Campaign, a student-focussed training program which, using the Equality Act 2010 as a foundation, will aid the development of respectful behaviours beyond the classroom.
“For me the RESPECT campaign is about human dignity and about respecting people for their humanity and not judging them on any other level,” Tim Jackson has said. “It’s a campaign which is designed to open people’s eyes and imagination to things which can so easily become unconscious ingrained prejudices and allow them to reflect on these and (I’d suggest in most cases), make changes.” Such initiatives would fall at the first hurdle without management support and Tim Jackson has clearly stated, from front and centre, a commitment to allowing the campaign space to grow.
In March 2012, I supported music students in the planning and delivery of a Pro-Equality Festival, Change of Tune, which raised awareness for numerous local and national charities. The intention was to tackle the “isms” creatively and to allow students the opportunity to use their talents to celebrate diversity. Tim attended the festival and was so moved by the passion and commitment of the students that he felt compelled to speak to the audience. In an impromptu speech he talked with great sincerity and demonstrated a genuine belief in the importance of such events.
In February 2013, a second festival took place, primarily to support the MS Society, and this time Tim was invited to open the evening event. (A video of the speech is at the end of this article.) His participation and his words were important to the students and to the audience. Students who are actively supporting their community need to feel a sense that their efforts are valued and recognised, since this, I believe, will spur them onward to further acts of active citizenship. This year so far, Music students have raised money and awareness for MacMillan Cancer Support, Dogs Trust and the MS Society, and have planned further events to raise money to fund the education of a young boy in Ghana.
The business of education, as it has become, would benefit from management that can respond to the insights of the staff, within a nurturing and supportive, structured context, so that the core educators can influence, shape and enhance their environment. Tim Jackson is a man who recognises that employers have a significant role to play in promoting compassionate leadership. He is acutely aware that it is important to develop team leaders who can communicate realistic expectations clearly, offer guidance and support in a professionally structured way, nurture talent and reward staff fairly for their contribution to the company.
I write this piece entirely from a personal perspective and base my words on my own interaction with Principal Tim Jackson. He has reached a significantly senior position within the education sector because he has developed the necessary skills, knowledge and experience as well as something that cannot be learned: an instinct to recognise and harness the talents of his staff, support individuals’ contributions, encourage and develop team spirit and promote the value of each individual within the organisation.