During Black History Month, the 2023 theme of 'Saluting our sisters' prompted conversations across the network about the incredible black women who motivate and inspire us.
We spoke to Joycelyn Thompson, Head of Safeguarding at Ark, about her career journey and pioneering a new approach to safeguarding in multi-academy trusts. Her story is part of our #ArkPeople series.
Growing up in a Caribbean household, Joycelyn's Grenadian parents valued education and saw it as a key to unlocking opportunities for success. They prioritised their children's education and encouraged them to pursue academic and extracurricular excellence. This purpose is ingrained in Joycelyn's values and beliefs and has had a significant influence on her career journey.
Joycelyn obtained an LLB (Hons) degree in Law, specialising in family law, and numerous social work qualifications. Throughout her career, she has worked extensively with local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations - often on the front line of child protection cases. She has advocated for excluded and suspended pupils, specifically black boys, and has worked with the UK and Grenada governments to establish child welfare standards.
In the late 80s and 90s, Joycelyn played a pivotal role in establishing supplementary schools. These volunteer-led after-school or weekend classes focused on teaching cultural, linguistic and religious subjects not covered in mainstream schools. They were a valuable resource for families who wanted their children to learn more about their heritage and improve their language skills. The schools also provided a positive social environment for children to meet others from similar backgrounds.
Joycelyn was appointed as Ark's Head of Safeguarding in 2015 – a role no other multi-academy trust had at that time. Since then, she has pioneered how we work with schools – implementing policies and processes to ensure children can access the resources and support they need to stay safe.
Reflecting on her journey, Joycelyn says, "I have played an important role in having strategic oversight and ensuring that we talk about safeguarding at a network level. We've come a long way. People are constantly contacting me, wanting advice and a high level of advocacy."
"More conversations are happening within our school system around knowing every child. Our schools know our children better and are taking the time to know their journeys, their stories, and understand every child as an individual."
Joycelyn's wealth of experience in safeguarding, school welfare, child protection and family advocacy has deeply informed her work at Ark. She is passionate about creating safe and nurturing school communities where all children can make the most of their education and truly thrive.