Redefining stereotypes by showcasing positive Black and Ethnic Minorities contributions, and empowering and inspiring the next generation.

EDITION NINE – 2020

Sandeep Phagura

I am…courageous, strong, kind, driven and want to make the lives of young people in my care the best it can be…

Who are you?

I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a teacher. I am courageous, strong, kind, driven and want to make the lives of young people in my care the best it can be.

What is your present role?

I am currently looking for my next new Senior Leadership role in a diverse, mixed comprehensive school in London.

Tell us about your life journey so far. What has brought you to your current role?

I grew up in a very traditional Asian (Indian) family as one of five children. My father worked but my mother never did, so I didn’t have the strong, working female role model that many children have these days, although I appreciate very much her being at home to take care of us all.

My parents expected me to do really well at school but never actively encouraged me to pursue a career. I worked hard at Sixth Form and found myself reading Law at Queen Mary College, University of London.

I thought I’d just take the next natural step and train to be a solicitor (I really wanted to be a barrister but thought was out of reach for me) however during a short stint as an unqualified supply teacher at a huge school in Kent, after I left University I decided to train to teach and never looked back since. I absolutely love it!

During my time in secondary education, I have worked in various schools in Kent, Suffolk, South East London and West London in roles ranging from Head of Department, Head of Faculty, Lead for Initial Teacher training/NQTs/Professional Tutor and most recently as an Assistant Headteacher in a large, mixed secondary school.

My greatest achievements in life have been having my (now five year old) daughter, working as a Senior leader in a London school and being privileged enough to work with thousands and thousands of young people I have taught – who even now take the time to make contact in so many different ways to say thanks for teaching them.

I am proud to be a young, British Asian (of Indian origin) working mother who does something great for the youth of today, every day!

In your field of work, what has been your observation and/or experience of white privilege, discrimination and prejudices?

In my experience of working in education for the past fourteen years, I have seen prejudices and discrimination in a number of ways.

Sometimes it’s outright prejudices that define how people work with and react to specific groups of young people; other times it can be not offering opportunities or promotions to BAME staff.

I have also personally faced discrimination whilst on maternity leave and as a new parent returning to work on a part time basis.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?

I now know how to be proud of my ethnicity and background. I wish I had known how not to compromise my own identity and culture as I was growing up.

I was ashamed of how I was brought up, the values that my family taught me and regrettably when I was younger I wished I was ‘white’ 🙁

What song, quote, statement or image do you find most encouraging?

I really love seeing the (rare pictures) of really dark skinned women in hijabs (one example) on the front a fashion magazine cover.

It is completely the opposite of everything I was ‘taught’ about beauty and strong women.

How are you redefining a stereotype?

I will be one of the few Asian female Headteachers in the UK in the future!

What advice or top tip would you give to the next generation of BAME individuals?

Be proud of who you are. Even if you don’t see others like you around you, be that person others can relate to and be the change maker. Just go for it!