Primary First Issue 29

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Issue 29 £5.00

Drawing by Rebecca Hale (aged 14)

Primary First

The Journal for Primary Schools


On another level it is about reimagining the concept of the ‘other; in society and preparing education to see cohesive outcomes, rejecting artificial labels and groupings and preparing a classroom for a different outlook. 2

Editorial According to my dictionary, ‘diversity’ means different kinds. In the United Kingdom, it may be accepted that to most observers and practitioners within education that this is about a varied population, usually in terms of heritage, ethnicity, faith or language. In the same vein, ‘multi-cultural’ means many cultures, which arguably, just like ‘diversity’, has no real semblance of togetherness or cohesion. Recent events in the USA and in the UK have exposed how certain aspects of society have not been cohesive and there are three main points I wish to draw from that. First is that reactions against racist incidents are not new, it is that they are promoted in a more widely accessible forms of mass communication and social media. That is worrying because racism does not seem to be on its deathbed, unless the power of social media and new technology can be used as educative tools in the battle for justice and equity. Social media has brought more of a focus on different manifestations of racism in society, a renewed focus. Second, is that there is a danger that seeing ‘others’ as different is the inherent problem in contemporary society. The ‘other’ has become the marginalised, the feared, the targeted and the exploited. Being ‘varied’ has not worked for those who are oppressed. The issue for educators is how to address this. Third, is the blinding that can occur when certain oppression is seen more prevalently in mainstream media. Of course, it is to be made explicitly clear that any form of oppression and injustice is abhorrent, for example gender inequality. Misogyny is a factor that exists because there is a lack of a cohesive society or even a global solution.

This edition of Primary First explores diversity, racial (in)justice and equity but perhaps for classroom teachers it may ask you to reconsider the purpose and positioning of Black history month, a reinterpretation of fundamental British values and probing children’s attitudes and general knowledge. It also calls for an examination of existing attitudes and, indeed knowledge of the situation. For example, you may wish to ask yourselves ‘can I name three influential female figures in the world today?’ ; then ask; ‘can I name three BAME* influential figures in the world today?’ Or two BAME female influential figures? The issue here is avoiding those who are dead or stereotypical in the responses or in the celebration or display of such figures and finding more appropriate role models. At one level it is about reimagining liberating pedagogy, more books in the library or reading corner that reflect contemporary society, resources depicting contemporary figures away from the safety of music or athletics, invitations from guest speakers (face to face or online). On another level it is about reimagining the concept of the ‘other; in society and preparing education to see cohesive outcomes, rejecting artificial labels and groupings and preparing a classroom for a different outlook.

Dr Robert Morgan Editor

*or even whether BAME is a term to be used! 3

Rosemary Evans

Bequest Award Are you a recently qualified early years or primary teacher (QTS gained since June 2019)? Are you keen to reflect on your professional development as a classroom practitioner? Are you keen to get something published in an educational journal and add it to your CV? If so, we hope you will be interested in the Rosemary Evans Bequest Award to be given on an annual basis to the best article received for publication in Primary First from a recently qualified teacher (who is currently in their first or second year of teaching). The award is for ÂŁ400 and EITHER the theme can be selected from one of the following: The highlights and challenges of taking on your own class What do you see as the key principles and/or values which inform your approach to learning and teaching? How can teacher retention be improved? The global teacher for the 21st century. OR you can identify your own issue for exploration which draws directly on your experience of teaching in the classroom and your developing professional awareness as a primary practitioner. This could, for example, relate to an area of responsibility you are taking on or might be linked to a masters level unit or might simply be an issue about which you feel passionate. The article should be between 1500 and 2000 words and you are encouraged to select your own focus and title, irrespective of whether you select one of the above themes or opt for something different. The article should both critically explore aspects of your own experience and identity as a recently qualified teacher and be informed, if and where appropriate, by relevant literature. The final date for submission for this academic year is 1 August 2021. It is to be submitted electronically in PDF format to Robert Young, NAPE General Secretary at The Primary First Editorial Board will judge the submissions and it is anticipated that more than one submission may well be considered for inclusion in the journal, although not in receipt of the Award itself. Further details about the Award can be requested from Robert Young.


About us Editorial Dr Robert Morgan Editorial Board Peter Cansell Stuart Swann Robert Young Primary First journal is published three times per year by the National Association for Primary Education. Primary First 57 Britannia Way Lichfield Staffordshire WS14 9UY t 01543 257257 e ©Primary First 2020 Winter Issue No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express written permission of the publisher. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the editorial content the publisher cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher.

Produced by Synergy

Contents Who are you?


Does teaching racial justice and equity have a place in our primary schools?


Review: Engines of Privilege by Francis Green and David Kynaston


Exploring the limits of representative literature in the primary classroom


Exploring white fragility and white privilege – a conversation


Ask First Monkey (2020)


How online experiences helped a pupil with selective mutism to blossom


The Rise of the Anti-racist Teacher


Positive responses for schools for equality and diversity


“Use your words!”


Who are you? The importance of building identity in the early years and the place of culture within this. Penny Borkett

Introduction Conversations around race and culture are never easy. Depending on your own life experience they will either be seen as a vital part of society and issues which particularly need addressing within education, or they may make you feel very uncomfortable and you would rather run a mile than get caught up in a conversation around them. I think when I was younger I would have put myself in the second category. Yet over the summer, discussions around race and culture have really come to our consciousness with the murder of George Floyd in the United States of America at the hands of the police. Thus followed protests across the world pertaining to the view held by some that the lives of black people are often adversely affected by ‘the white majority’. The term Black Lives Matter has hardly been out of the media since. In early October another news story hit the headlines but this time from Paris when a teacher was murdered. His crime? for teaching his students about tolerance. He was trying to encourage freedom of speech - something that I am sure all practitioners want for their children, whatever their age. My argument here would be that if we were less afraid to encourage our very youngest children (in the early years) to think about difference and diversity and to see it as an


important aspect of their burgeoning identity that there might be fewer incidents of racism, and that children would grow up to understand difference in a more positive way. This paper will focus on two main areas which I believe need to be addressed if real change is needed in the way that all children in the UK grow up to learn about aspects of difference and diversity. • The often contested role of culture in policy – in particular the National Curriculum (Primary Curriculum) and the Early Years Foundation Stage • The need to ensure as practitioners that we start to acknowledge the developing identity of children from the moment they enter early years settings, and the role of culture within this Just a couple of things to note at the start of this paper: Firstly, I always use the term practitioners to refer to everyone working with children. For me this values all those who work with children in settings across the country.

Secondly, I write this paper as a white British woman and therefore this is the position which I bring to my writing. When I started studying for an MA I became fascinated by how education systems across the world differ from that in the ‘western world’ and I will admit here and now that I am not always certain that we have it right here in the UK. I have spent much of my career working in multi-cultural areas with families from across the world. Previous studies that I carried out focused on play, and on some of the anomalies of using a play-based curriculum with families who did not understand the UK’s fascination with play as a

vehicle for learning. I think it is vital to try and unpick some of the differences in views around education sensitively and calmly, taking people’s views into account and using various tools to try and analyse why different opinions are held. Further, this paper will bring my thoughts and ideas to discussions about race and culture and the impact they can have on a young child’s burgeoning sense of identity in the early years. You may agree with some and disagree with others. However, I hope that they might encourage you to consider how you can ensure that every child’s unique identity and nature is appreciated and developed.


National Curriculum In 1988 Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government launched the National Curriculum (NC). This was designed to ensure that all children across the country would receive the same educational curriculum wherever they lived. Interestingly, the National Curriculum was launched to ensure that it:• offers a curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and society and • prepares pupils at the school for the opportunity, responsibility and experiences of later life ( In a similar way to the EYFS it sets out core subjects of • English • maths • science and then foundation subjects of • • • • • • •

art and design computing design and technology geography history music physical education

I have highlighted the subjects that seem to me to relate to culture and diversity. 8

As children become older, citizenship and languages are added to the curriculum. I wonder why these topics should not be offered earlier on in a child’s life? Many children these days come into primary school being able to speak more than one language and can tell stories from other cultures so why not nurture them from an earlier age, as this would ensure that citizenship education could begin earlier in children’s lives. The NC and the EYFS have been criticised as having a very ‘eurocentric’ approach. Some subjects have also been viewed as focusing too much on the history of the particular country that children reside in. So, for instance children in the UK rarely focus on the history of Ireland, Wales or Scotland. It is too easy to forget that children who are the same colour will have very different heritages depending on which part of the UK they come from. As we often hear through the media, it is of course vital that all children should learn about the history and geography of the countries that their families originate from. This is not only important for children from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities but also for white British children, but not necessarily in a good way. Sometimes the history of our own countries is not positive, and the history of the UK in terms of slavery is something that brings alarm and shame to many.

Recently I have been researching Critical Race Theory (CRT) a theory which I should say now is contested by some. However, it does help one to understand how people of colour are often blamed for things that happen in society. I have been reintroduced to the work of Professor David Gillborn from the University of Birmingham, whose work I researched when studying for my MA. His work particularly focuses on race inequalities in education. He pulls no punches in what he writes, and at times it is distressing to read, but I felt it was time to revisit his work for the purpose of this paper. What I have written is a synopsis of his views and I would recommend that you look deeper into his work, as I shall in the weeks to come. CRT takes the view that racism is normal in society and that it relates to the oppression of black people. It suggests that society is guilty of racism and raises the view that white people will always benefit more from society because they are in some way superior to people of colour. Black people will argue that this has come about through the slave trade which defined a lot of the UK’s history in the17th to 19th century across particularly Africa and the Caribbean. During this time Britain was guilty of appalling slavery and although this has now been abolished, it should never be forgotten. More recently in the 1940’s and 1950’s when families moved across the commonwealth from Africa and the Caribbean to take up employment

in the NHS, British Transport and in factories, families were treated appallingly and many still are today. These inequalities still exist between people of all cultures, and of course the pandemic has exacerbated this. Again, we have seen particular cultural groups in society affected, partly because of inequalities relating to where they live, their education and their employment. Children born to parents of different cultures still experience different life circumstances. Gillbourn believes that successive UK Governments do little to alleviate these inequalities because on the whole they follow a ‘standards driven’ approach to education. Statistics continue to indicate that some children from BAME communities make less progress in GCSE’s than their white counterparts, and fewer students from BAME communities go into universities and enter the teaching profession. If children in schools do not see their ethnicity represented by practitioners in schools will they ever aspire to work in them themselves? As I have been writing this paper, the government has spoken up again, stating that it does not want schools teaching children about ‘white privilege’ claiming that any teachers that do so will be seen to be ‘breaking the law’. We will all hold differing views on this but surely children need to be taught about history however unsettling it is, and to be given the tools to make their own minds up about these issues in a supportive mature way.


Early Years Foundation Stage In 2008, the Labour Government combined three policies to launch the Early Years Foundation Stage. This new amalgamated policy was to be used for all children aged between birth to five. The following four aspects were laid out within the document:-

is acknowledged that this can have an enormous effect on a family’s /child’s identity.

• • • •

• • • • • • •

the unique child positive relationships enabling environments learning and development

the unique child viewed:‘every child as a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and selfassured’ (DCSF: 2008 pg.5) It celebrated the diverse characteristics of children, and also introduced the requirement that practitioners should offer ‘child led’ learning, which promotes ‘positive attitudes’ to diversity and difference in all children (p.6). The document went on to declare that practitioners must plan for the individual needs of children from varying cultures, and that issues of discrimination must be challenged. The policy stressed the importance of ensuring that the diversity of children and communities should be respected and celebrated, and that practitioners should ensure that no family should be discriminated against. The document goes on to challenge practitioners to ensure that the development of their own knowledge around other cultures remains up to date, and that to do this they should attend training around different cultures and faiths. Practitioners are also required to maintain respectful dialogues between themselves and parents and carers, accepting that parents are a child’s first educator. There is also a recognition of families’ spiritual belief systems within the Curriculum. This needs to be accepted by practitioners, whether or not they view themselves as ‘people of faith,’ and it


The document set out the following seven areas of learning – those highlighted seem to me to pertain particularly to culture and diversity Communication and language Physical development Personal social and emotional development Literacy Mathematics Understanding of the world Expressive arts and design

In 2010 Dame Clare Tickell was tasked by the then Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition Government to review the EYFS. Amongst others, she added the following two areas which are fundamental to culture and identity: • Children should be encouraged to develop their communication skills which are responsive to the child’s interests, home language and wider development • Bilingualism should be recognised as being an asset to children, and their parents should encourage use of their home language both at home and in settings. However, children should have good communications skills in English as they will be particularly needed when children enter Key Stage one of the education system. I have always found issues around bilingualism as being highly contentious in early years settings. Many families prefer their children to be encouraged to speak English in settings, without understanding that they firstly need knowledge and experience of their home languages before they are able to take on a new language. Yet of course the languages that children use both in and outside the home are central to their identity. Sensitive dialogue is often needed with families during this important time.

However, there is criticism of the EYFS and the fact that despite its focus on ‘the unique child,’ it does not go far enough to embrace the cultural diversity of the UK. Ang (2010) discusses how the document addresses issues relating to social justice, equality, and the need to celebrate the festivals of cultural groups and communities, but suggests that it gives an ‘elitist notion of culture’(p. 45) stating that the British culture is that which is extolled, in the main throughout the EYFS. Ang goes on to state that it is not in line with the ‘constantly evolving’ population in the UK and the ‘increasing numbers of children who are bi-racial or from mixed heritages,’ (p.43). Ang challenges the government to give more consideration to those children that come from ’linguistically and culturally diverse communities’ to ensure that early years provision is appropriate for the learning and development of all children. Although the document has gone through many changes since 2008, the concept of ‘the unique child’ has never been eroded, which fills me with some confidence that within the early years, children are still seen as unique individuals. Having focused on culture and its place in policy, the second part of this paper will examine the need for practitioners to ensure that the burgeoning identity of children is nurtured in early years settings – particularly in relation to their culture. This became apparent to me as I was carrying out the research for my book. I became fascinated by the way that children begin to learn about themselves, their family and environment, who they are, what they look like and what they like and dislike. I began to realise that this was something that I had not really considered before. Much of this paper draws on my book, and explains how and when children start to develop ideas about their identity and what practitioners should do to try and encourage them to have a positive sense of themselves. I hope that you will find it helpful and that it will give you ideas for your practice.

the concept of ‘the unique child’ has never been eroded, which fills me with some confidence that within the early years, children are still seen as unique individuals 11

How do children start to build ideas about their own identity?

What is identity? The term identity is a concept that is organic. It changes throughout life as children develop, learn and ask questions relating to their lives. Gunaratnam (2003) suggests that identity is ‘a process through which multiple and changing subject positions are given a sense of coherence.’ (p.11) Brooker and Woodhead (2008; pg. 4) view identity as ‘multidimensional’ with characteristics such as the child’s name, and nationality established and registered at birth. Children then go on to develop other more personal identities through their life. Aistear (d u) suggests that a child’s identity firstly relates to their place within the family, their parents’ roles in the community and their culture. They go onto suggest that identity also reflects the child’s characteristics, likes and dislikes, self-esteem and personality. Barley (2014) makes a similar suggestion that some parts of our identity are anchored. These might relate to our position in the family, culture, faith, nationality and gender. Issa and Hatt (2013) state the view that the culture children are born into is a large aspect of their identity. They go on to suggest that the two terms, identity and culture are interchangeable and cannot be separated. They discuss the view that cultural diversity relates to ‘a dynamic process which facilitates the transformation of particular social and


cultural characteristics of the child’s home and community.’ (p.6)≠ So having defined/described what identity is and viewed it as incorporating many aspects of families’ lives it is worth focusing briefly how it builds in a child’s life.

How does a child start to recognise their identity? Self – concept Before the age of two, children are very much ‘at one’ with their parents or main carers and they start to slowly develop a sense of self- concept – that is who they are. They feel safe when they are with their family and see themselves (very much/ delete?) as part of their parents’ lives. During this time, babies are forging those important links of attachment with their main carers and are beginning to find out who they are, what place they have within their family and who is important to them. They are learning that communication is reciprocal and reliant on someone else noticing them and communicating with them. They are getting to know their community and their role within it. For some this may mean that they are learning to recognise what is known as their nuclear family, with which they live. For others, growing up in wider family groupings means that they may be learning from their wider family who may be grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins or community elders.

The emergence of a child’s sense of identity However, at around the age of two things begin to change. Children start to acknowledge that they are people in their own right. This can be especially recognised through their language skills. Prior to the age of two Simpson (2011) suggests that children use the term ‘my’ or their name as a prefix to an action they are taking; however once they turn two they are more likely to use the term ‘I’, thus recognising that they have an opinion and a place in society. At this time in a child’s life we sometimes observe a rise in temper tantrums, this is not because the child is trying to be malicious or cause their parents extra stress but because their worlds have suddenly changed, they are aware that their communication skills matter, and they are testing out boundaries to see how far they can go. The situations that children experience before the age of two, however, do have an effect on their developing sense of identity. Children will have an awareness of the language used at home and how this may be different in certain circumstances or with different people. They may also be hearing and ‘playing with’ more than one language as part of the process of becoming bilingual in the future.

What part does culture play in identity? Culture is a word which, like identity, is often hard to define and seems to mean different things to different people. It is often a word which gets confused with issues relating to faith. People become mystified as to whether certain aspects or habits of someone’s life relates to culture or faith. Some define culture as being about the traditions and customs that bind groups of people together. Others view this as a superficial explanation which suggests that culture is fixed and unchangeable and does not accept that

artefacts, values, music, food and clothes are an important aspect of culture too. Vianna and Stetsenko (2006) view the term as being a ‘living continuous flow of practices which are enacted by different generations of people’ (p.90). This view values culture as being similar to identity – it is changeable, dynamic and evolves over time. Some hold the view that different communities change over time, suggesting that they reflect historical and familial changes. Often children get mixed messages relating to culture particularly in relation to traditions and festivals that are celebrated around the UK. A child coming to the ‘westernised’ world at Christmas might think that this celebration is about Santa Claus, snow and reindeer. This is a cultural view and is not the Christian view of Christmas which is about the coming of Jesus to the world. Likewise when celebrating Easter, children hear about chickens, bunnies and chocolate –cultural ideas of Easter and not the Christian story. The same could be said for Hindus who celebrate Diwali. Again, settings celebrate this because it is about light and the celebration of light coming at the end of dark – children often make little Diwali lights but there is much more to this celebration than lights, as the festival is celebrated to signify good over evil ( Similarly when settings recognise Ramadan and celebrate Eid they may not mention that it is a thanksgiving to the God Allah for all the blessings that he gives to Muslims (Maqsood 2009) . Not taking note of the ‘wholeness ‘of celebrations and customs which might also include Sikhism, or Jewish and other faiths, may appear to be tokenistic.

Often children get mixed messages relating to culture particularly in relation to traditions and festivals that are celebrated around the UK. 13

Can anything hinder a child’s growing identity? Racism It is imperative when relating to children’s identity to be aware that if children grow up with negativity in terms of their culture or any other area of their lives, it can have a damaging effect on the way that they view themselves and their identity. Of course, this is why events such as Black Lives Matter, which encourage society to consider again issues around prejudice and racism, are so important. Swadener states that: ‘Children who learn that their family, faith or cultural group is stigmatised, or otherwise discriminated against, need additional support for their growing self-esteem and self worth.’ (2008: pg.22) As I mentioned at the start of this article, I believe that it is therefore vital that when practitioners are working with children, they do not just offer experience of ‘westernised’ notions of childhood. They may be growing up in the UK, but essentially all children need to experience the traditions, festivals and cultural aspects of the world that they live in. This can be done through storytelling, singing, drama, role play and getting to know about the ‘cultural tools’ that come from their particular country of origin. Here we see the importance of adults and practitioners who will respect children for who they are, who will form strong reciprocal, respectful relations with them and who will help them to understand their lives and their growing sense of identity.


Conclusion So, to close, how can practitioners ensure that their practice encourages all children to value each other’s culture and identity positively? Here are just a few suggestions of ways that you can adapt your practice to make settings more inclusive: • Use posters / pictures which reflect diversity • Rather than using plastic toys, provide more natural toys such as treasure baskets and heuristic play - these can inspire children to learn, and can break down barriers for parents who do not quite understand the Western fixation with toys. • Ensure that craft activities reflect a diversity of cultures, especially art from different parts of the world • Offer painting activities which encourage children to mix paint and discuss how they themselves are different from each other • Resource home corners with different cooking utensils from around the world • Food can be brought in from other cultures for children to taste • If the setting is responsible for the meals that children eat, you could offer a variety of foods such as pizza, pasta, curry, stir fries • Lengths of fabric can be offered for children to dress up, in rather than relying on dressing up clothes that represent characters from television programmes. I do realise that at the moment some of these may be out of bounds because of the pandemic • Look carefully at books in your setting– how many of them represent multicultural Britain, or are they in the main related to white children? Books need to reflect the every day worlds of all children.

References Aistear the curriculum framework for children from birth to 6 years in Ireland (2009) Identity and Belonging. principlesthemes Barley, R. (2014) Identity and Social Interaction in a Multi-ethnic Classroom. London. Tufnell Press. Borkett. P. A. (2018). Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in Early Years Education. London. Routledge. Brooker, L. (2008) Defining Positive Identity, in Woodhead, M. and Oates, J. Developing Positive Identities – Diversity and Young Children. Early Childhood in Focus, volume 3. Department for Children, Schools and Families. (DCSF) (2008) Early Years Foundation Stage. Notts. DCSF. Gov.UK. (2002) Education Act. ukpga/2002/32/part/6/crossheading/general-duties-in-respect-of-thecurriculum?view=plain. Gunaratnam, Y. (2003) Researching race and ethnicity: Methods, knowledge and power. London, Sage. Issa, T and Hatt, A. (2013) Language, Culture and Identity in the Early Years. London, Bloomsbury. Maqsood R. W. (2009) Teach yourself Islam. Oxon. Bookpoint Ltd. Simpson, K. The Unfolding Self - the essence of personality in House, R. Too Much, Too Soon (2011) – Early Learning and the Erosion of Childhood. Gloucestershire. Hawthorn Press. Swadener, B. in Woodhead, M. and Oates, J. (2008) Developing Positive Identities – Diversity and Young Children. Early Childhood in Focus, volume 3. Tickell, C. (2011) The Early Years: foundations for life, health and learning - An Independent Report on the Early Years Foundation Stage to Her Majesty’s Government.

Penny Borkett is a retired Senior Lecturer for Early Childhood Studies at Sheffield Hallam University and author of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in Early Years Education. (2018) London: Routledge. 15

Does teaching racial justice and equity have a place in our primary schools? Penny Rabiger

Just when we thought that schools could not possibly absorb any more of society’s most complex needs being driven through their already heaving agendas, the crisis associated with the Coronavirus pandemic over the past six months suddenly focused a more harsh spotlight on the way in which increasing divisions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ determines outcomes for children and their families, not only in terms of academic achievement at school and beyond, but now in terms of health, employment and life-expectancy in the face of a global pandemic. Stark divisions which have already become entrenched during prolonged austerity, have become even more acute in the face of national lockdown measures, forcing many families into precarity they never imagined would touch them, and pushing the already vulnerable deeper into poverty which seems fitting for Victorian England, not 2020 (1). We have seen schools step up to the challenge without hesitation, sourcing food parcels for the families they serve, reinventing teaching through online lessons, providing devices and internet access for those that need it, producing work packs for home delivery where technology just isn’t going to be an option, rallying round and making sure that everyone is okay, learning, connected in one way or another to the school community. On the backdrop of so much activity, care, and action, the gross injustices of


racial discrimination seemed to suddenly rear up into focus as well, as the brutal murder of George Floyd (2) at the hands of police in the USA resonated with so many people worldwide, as a sign that enough is enough. The grassroots organisation, The BAMEed Network , has been working with schools throughout the pandemic to ensure that the needs of staff from Black and Asian backgrounds in particular, have been adequately taken into account through producing a risk assessment and guidance document (3) specifically for these staff members. Although statistically, Black and Asian colleagues are at higher risk of illness and death from Covid-19, (4) nothing had been produced to safeguard them as frontline workers in schools, in the way that the NHS had accounted for their staff members’ needs as key workers. We were glad to be able to close this gap and produce the guidance for schools ourselves in a timely manner. Part of the guidance document’s purpose was to support schools to do more to see the needs of their staff members that are from Black and Asian heritage, and to start a conversation with them more widely about their lived experience of class, race, and discrimination within our schools, workplaces and society as a whole. The focus on racial justice by the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder has made this conversation even more relevant and important and it has helped

to bring a new lexicon and new understanding of the issues for many, that were oblivious. It is one thing to consider the importance of racial and social justice on the workplace conditions of adults in our education system, but how do we ensure that this extends beyond ticking boxes of the legal duties of the Equality Act (2014)and takes the form of meaningful change over time? Where do we start to ensure that we all improve our awareness and education on these important matters? When is it the right time to start to learn about racial and social justice? One thing that has come to light as a result of the focus on inequities and structural racism endured by Black people and other minoritized people of colour, is that our education system has somehow simultaneously been seeing itself as a great equaliser, while perpetuating structural inequalities through its own practice. Part of the cause for this is the focus on quantifiable, measurable outcomes to come above the more intangible and yet vital ‘soft’ skills of critical thinking, empathy, a sense of collective social responsibility. It was interesting to see the surge of emotion and the subsequent urgency to take action that ensued from the George Floyd incident and which emulated from the education sector. The BAMEed Network inbox has been inundated with requests for support from every level, be that CEOs of major education organisations, leaders of teacher unions, senior

staff at local education authorities, multi-academy trusts or diocesan boards of education, as well as from headteachers and leaders from individual schools, and individuals from within the junior ranks of school staff, or parents, governors and even young people themselves. Across the board, people are looking for answers and seem ready and willing to take steps to ensure that their own practice is inclusive and actively anti-racist. What seems to have shifted, and potentially divided educators along the way more recently, is the notion of institutional and structural racism which is inherent in every element of society and not least, school life, and which runs like a stick of rock through our practice unless we make particular efforts to seek it out and adjust what we do, accordingly. At the end of the academic year of 2019-20, two major Charter School chains in the USA, Uncommon Schools and KIPP, denounced their own use (7) of ‘carceral’ or ‘no excuses’ discipline techniques as racist. These were practices that had been the cornerstones of their educational philosophy. These techniques have been much lauded by a number of schools in England, and these schools have not subsequently re-evaluated their position, adamant that any less of an iron grip on children’s bodies, gaze and mouths will result in destruction of their lives as disadvantaged young people. The interesting thing is that both camps in this schism around discipline, believe that they are


acting in the best interests of the young people from disadvantaged backgrounds that they serve. However, what is clear from one methodology, is that it is about ensuring that young people get the grades, sometimes at any cost, that will take them onto educational pathways for the future without questioning, disrupting or skilling up young people, or their teachers, to see or tackle the socio-political causes for the disadvantage, inequity and structural discrimination which creates such deep divisions in society in the first place - or indeed why the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students has stopped closing. And this is the key dividing line that has seen the initial surge of interest in making changes go through a further selfselection process. After the public statements of intent were posted on websites, or circulated by letters home to parents, some driven by guilt or alarm, and others by an emerging or enduring understanding of racism, it is clear which organisations are willing and able to see that structural racism needs to be dismantled at every level, and which organisations have retreated to tinkering around the edges, at most perhaps creating some better optics and remembering some more pressing issues they might focus on right now. And there are many pressing issues for the education sector right now. Looking at whether a sharper focus on racial justice in the form of anti-racist practice should be enacted in schools or not is one heck of a question. There are a growing number of programmes, awards, charter marks, organisations, formal change management structures and guide books which are emerging that can support schools to map their pathway (8) to dismantling structural racism in their curriculum, (9) employment and staff development policies and practices, discipline, hair and uniform policies, and in supporting teachers’ professional understanding and practice in the classroom and beyond. However, alongside these developments, there seems to be growing pressure on schools not only to not disrupt the


status quo, but with what some educators see as sinister suggestions that doing so may be treading a fine line between enacting the Equality Act and breaking the law for standing up for equality in a way many witnessed during the time of Section 28 only 30 years ago. At the start of the academic year 2020-21, new DfE guidance on the teaching of relationships, sex and health education has become the site of specific instruction to schools around the potentially extreme political stances held by the very resources and external agencies they seek support from to deliver this statutory curriculum area. In this document, such extreme stances include: “divisive or victim narratives” and “selecting and presenting information to make unsubstantiated accusations against state institutions”. Around the same time that this guidance was published, a letter to headteachers and SLT (10) was circulated by a new organisation which sees itself standing up to anti-racist discourse, and specifically Critical Race Theory, as divisive, rife with socalled victim narrative, and potentially illegal, supposedly going against the 1996 Education Act and Teachers’ Standards which state the need for teachers to maintain political neutrality. By shifting the focus in this way, the anti-racism narrative stops being seen as about creating greater race equity, and instead about anti-white sentiment, or is seen as an expression of political leanings rather than a desire to understand the historical and societal causes of inequalities which have played out over generations in terms of educational progression, health outcomes and life-expectancy for Black and Asian British citizens. This group advises teachers that to regard the acceptance of structural racism as fact, to challenge inherent bias, or have any association with Black Lives Matter is politically motivated and therefore should be viewed as indoctrination. In their view, discussion of anti-racism will make teachers, children and their families feel guilt and that actively seeing race is a way to divide us.

We need to connect education to our core purpose, which cannot simply rest on passing tests. 19

When considering whether teaching racial justice and equity has a place in our primary schools, we need to think carefully about the core purpose of education. For the proponents of the no excuses education and the charter schools movement, it has been about moving children through the testing process with as much skill and knowledge necessary to ensure that they compete with their more privileged peers and reach the next stage of their education with comparable test scores. Until these tests explicitly contain questions about racial justice and equity, there is no place to learn about it. Our testing system in itself is inherently flawed as it requires one third of children to fail for the two thirds to succeed. In the words of Daniel Koretz in The Testing Charade,

discipline. School 21 in Newham for example, is an all-through school which educates the ‘head, heart and hand’, seeing the aim of school to educate for knowledge, values and attitudes and also manual skilled tasks such as craft and handiwork. Inherent in their curriculum will be what they call ‘Real World Learning’ about social justice, and developing the critical skills to know, think and to talk coherently about history, politics, societal structures, inequalities and more. Students are engaged in answering complex questions in partnership with organisations such as the Justice Department and the Metropolitan Police, such as ‘With the continual restrictions on legal aid, how can we ensure wide-ranging and fair access to justice?’ and

“When test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways. That is exactly what happened when high stakes testing became the core of education ‘reform’”. (11)

‘Does the Met Police effectively engage with young people and what could we do differently?’

In modern complex society such as ours, we need to be able to give children something that will serve them as powerful adults with agency in their own right. Learning is as much about agency as it is about knowledge retrieval, and there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that the work that schools do now to prepare their students for the 21st century, should include a consistent and high quality focus on knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes. Gert Biesta’s work (12) suggests that what we do in the classroom can make the biggest difference to children while they’re in our schools and the way in which we guide them to ‘meet the world’ will serve them now and beyond their schooling. We need to connect education to our core purpose, which cannot simply rest on passing tests. There are several good examples of schools serving the same kinds of underprivileged cohorts which may receive no excuses, rote-based learning in some circumstances and yet which deploy an entirely different framework for learning and


At primary, Inspire Partnership Trust serves disadvantaged areas Greenwich, Medway and Croydon. Their curriculum structures itself around similar lines to School 21 with a focus on the cognitive (head), affective (heart) and psychomotor (hand) domains of learning. Academic engagement is rooted in relationships and is about students’ own commitment to being a learner, social engagement as an active participant in school life and intellectual engagement in the learning. The curriculum framework is rooted in core texts which have been carefully selected to be contemporary enough to allow pupils to engage deeply and critically with a range of complex issues, linking to an outcome which has a social justice element and supports children to make sense of a modern complex society with strong and robust knowledge which will help them develop the skills they need to navigate some of the challenges they will encounter in life. For both these examples, the journey of learning is what makes the outcome strong and there is absolutely a place to give the children the knowledge they need to understand the past, the present and to imagine a more just and equitable future, which they will be active agents in creating. In this way, providing children

a way to make sense of themselves as learners, a focus on themselves as meeting the world but not the centre of the world, gives them and their teachers the opportunities to be trusted to explore complex societal problems such as inequity, race and racism, gender, climate change and more. Schools like these should and absolutely do see themselves as equipped and adept at teaching racial justice and equity, without fear of straying from their core purpose. In the words of Paulo Friere, “Education is a political act. No pedagogy is neutral... Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other.� And so, it stands that while racial injustice and inequity exist in the world, so must learning to dismantle them exist in the education of both teacher and student.

Penny Rabiger is one of the founder members of The Key, where she became Director of Business Development, is currently Head of Membership at Challenge Partners, an education charity which enables collaboration between schools to enhance the life chances of all children and works with BAMEed Network. She blogs at and is on Twitter @Penny_Ten References 1. 2. 3. Schools-and-Covid-19_-guidance-for-BAME-staff-and-their-employers-2.pdf 4. 5. attachment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.


Review: Engines of Privilege by Francis Green and David Kynaston Published by Bloomsbury (2019) John Coe

It will be some time before we can once again consider life beyond the threat of the Coronavirus but already a consensus is emerging which indicates a welcome for some changes to the current reliance upon market forces as the engine driving the organisation of the education system. The challenge we face has shown the importance of the individual and our local democratic representation. The government has found that unquestioned central power cannot deal with every aspect of the human condition and consequent vital decisions have had to be delegated to the schools and the reality of children’s lives. It remains to be seen whether this growing desire for change will extend to new thinking and possibly action to bring to an end the sharp divide which exists between the schools which serve 93% of families and the 7% of schools, private and never public, which sell their work to families who can afford their high fees. Perhaps the publication of Engines of Privilege is well timed, it is a powerful contribution to the debate we should be having now and having most certainly in the future when we make the best of the changing climate of opinion stimulated by our emergence from the current crisis.


The book assembles a truly formidable catalogue of evidence that the existence of private education is inherently unfair in its impact upon the great majority of families and upon the political, social and economic make up of the country. Furthermore, this view of unfairness is agreed by no less than three quarters of the population as shown in a Populus poll quoted in the book. It is astonishing that around 25% of educational spending is directed towards the private 7% of children. For every pound invested in the individual pupil in state schools the private schools spend three times as much. 16% of teachers work in private schools and the result is that class sizes are around half the size of those in state schools. A well-off family may well be spending £15,000 per year for a primary child who continues to live at home and attends as a day pupil but in return the child’s class has only 15 pupils and is taught by a teacher who is supported by as many as three teaching assistants. Attendance at a private school is usually an early rung on a ladder which has the capability of leading to a world of privilege and advantage in adult life. The authors are clear in showing the links between private education and entry to university, particularly Oxbridge. They quote a Sutton Trust survey in 2016 which shows that 42% of Oxford and Cambridge places went to privately educated students. Just six public schools took more than the total of places achieved by 3000 state schools.

Inevitably the ladder reaches into the professions and most areas of modern life. Almost three quarters of senior judges, some 60% of doctors and more than 50% of journalists together with the same proportion of solicitors have been on the ladder which reaches upward from private school. Of equal or arguably greater importance are the privately educated members of parliament --- the 32 % becomes 66% of the current cabinet. All those of us who are working to improve the practice of pre-primary and primary education must be extremely concerned that decisions at government level are being taken by legislators who have no personal experience of the schools attended by the substantial majority of children. The book is concluded by a detailed consideration of measures which might be taken to ameliorate or even end the situation so harmful to this country. Although confined to a single chapter such consideration merits a high priority as we debate a future untrammelled by the Coronavirus. Do we agree with the authors’ conclusion that one measure above all others is most promising as a way of engendering success in an evolutionary way? The following is taken from the book, ‘...all private schools (should) accept a significant proportion of pupils chosen by the state, after means testing, funded at the same rate as everybody else in the state system. ...each school would have to make up the rest of the cost of

educating the children from its own bursary funds and any surpluses. Fee-paying parents would bear at least some of the additional costs through fee increases; these would come in gradually, through the years following the first intake of students under the new policy’. Perhaps this is disappointing for those of us who are impatient for more radical change. Not for the first time it is helpful to look at Finland as a harbinger of progress in education. In 1963 the Finnish parliament decided to commit to the long term phasing out of private schools. Despite vehement opposition mounted by defenders of the status quo this was achieved ten years later and the spectacular outcome for democracy was seen in the Pisa international comparisons of educational standards. In 2001 Finnish schools were shown to be among the best in the developed world and sixteen years later Finland was identified as the most stable, the safest and the best governed country. What a contrast to our own sadly divided nation insistent on the continuance of the privileged education of a powerful elite. As we mull over the shape of education in the future this book is required reading. It mounts incontestable evidence of the need for change and offers several ways ahead. It is up to us to decide which could be in the best interests of all our children and then take action.


Exploring the limits of representative literature in the primary classroom Seraphina Simmons-Bah

The emphasis placed upon the use of ‘diverse books’ or ‘representative literature’ in schools has been gradually increasing for some time, with this focus recently being somewhat galvanised by the publication of the CLPE’s Reflecting Realities findings (CLPE, 2018; CLPE, 2019). Since I began working on this article, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen mainstream resurgence and, as part of this, there have been urgent calls for the development of anti-racist curricula and recommendations for anti-racist books. What is perhaps missing in some lists, however, is the inclusion of a range of books that recognise Black people as multifaceted individuals who experience joy and have their own interests - not just a homogenous group of people defined by oppression and suffering. Furthermore, although there have been calls to amplify Black voices within this push for diverse literature, there has arguably been limited critique of how and why books featuring Black characters are produced. That is, critique of the quality and potential impact (negative or positive) of certain books has been limited. This article presents a summary of critical race theory (CRT) and suggests how it could be used as a helpful framework which can be used in the selection and use of representative literature in primary schools.


What is critical race theory (CRT)? “The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars engaged in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, setting, group and self-interest, and emotions and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order” (Delgado and Stefanic, 2017, pp. 2-3). The above definition is offered by Richard Delgado – one of the founders of critical race theory - and Jean Stefanic in CRT’s original context of the American legal system. A key tenet of the theory is the recognition of racism as institutionalised, systemic, and insidious, and that this phenomenon may go unnoticed by much of society despite the very real consequences white supremacy bears for non-white people. Since its inception, CRT has been applied to the

education systems in both the United States and United Kingdom, and it is argued that education policy and practice (being products of the system in which they are created) are essentially discriminatory (Gillborn, 2014; 2017). Duncan (2017), writing in the context of CRT in education, notes that the survival of racism is predicated upon the erasure of Black voices. This erasure serves to further amplify damaging racialised assumptions in the education system: stereotypes are projected onto students, thus hindering their progress, and curricula are racially biased and used to perpetuate the idea of a White-dominated society. Being such an integral part of teaching and learning, literature can also be used to further racist ideologies if damaging representations dominate and go unchallenged (Malcolm and Lowery, 2011).

On the matter of representation in children’s literature Taxel (1986;1988) drew upon the concept of Black erasure in children’s literature in the 1980s. He built on the work of Bishop (1982;1984) to suggest that the proliferation of inauthentic and stereotypical representations was a direct result of the marginalisation of Black people in publishing. Although there has since been an increase in diverse representation in children’s literature, as the Reflecting Realities findings (CLPE, 2018; 2019) show, there is still a significant imbalance in the industry. Further to this, amongst the titles that purport to include diverse representation, there are still problematic tropes which can contribute to the perpetuation of damaging racial assumptions. Indeed, it is now generally accepted that representation is vital but a critical eye is not always turned onto how this representation is carried out. Moreover, whilst there are books featuring authentic portrayals, these books do not necessarily see prominence in schools. This in itself contributes to the lack in developing accurate perceptions that view Black people as multifaceted individuals.

It could be argued that the prominence of stereotypical narratives in children’s literature contribute to the formation of ‘a single story.’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie introduced the term in a 2009 TED talk in which she explains ‘a single story’ as a repeated narrative that peddled stereotypical assumptions and contribute to discrimination in media, literature, and everyday life. Speaking of her own experience of growing up in Nigeria and going to America, she describes how American people were stunned that she could use an iron and other appliances which may be considered modern and even that she could speak English because she was from an African country. The people she had encountered had come to believe the ‘single story’ of African people as savage, primitive, and uncivilised; a narrative that was only galvanised by the proliferation of ‘aid for Africa’ incentives since the inception of Live Aid and Comic Relief in the 1980s and 1990s.’

she describes how American people were stunned that she could use an iron


The Noble Savage and the White Saviour Racist assumptions that take the form of stereotypes in literature are constructed and political; they are used to perpetuate the myth of Black inferiority and reinforce white dominance (Ellingson, 2001; Hughey, 2014). One such myth is that of the Noble Savage. This trope was propagated by mid-century Romantic writers in response to dissatisfaction with the modern developments of the Western world and was presented as a critique of the more blatantly derogatory epithet of the Savage, which implied wildness and violence in non-White societies (Ellingson, 2001). According to Hughey (2014), “[a]s European colonialism gained momentum, Africans and the indigenous New World peoples were said to possess the noble qualities of harmony with nature, generosity, childlike simplicity, happiness under duress, and a natural, innate moral compass” (p.64).However, this apparent positivity obfuscates the underpinning principle of White paternalism and the problematic projection of a white perspective onto a group of people regardless of their own


identities. Furthermore, the paradigm hinges on the false white/non-white and civilised/savage binaries, thus allowing it to be exploited as a political tool for perpetuating discriminatory power structures (Ellingson, 2001). As Hughey (2014) notes, the Noble Savage myth is often partnered with that of the ‘White saviour’: the white saviour will enter into the territory of the Noble Savages and simultaneously save them from themselves, issues apparently inherent in their society, or the ‘bad’ White people, whilst being redeemed through learning from their ‘savage’ yet pure ways. In other words, whilst the Noble Savage has become less commonplace in modern discourse, the spirit of it lingers in the White saviour trope, which is underpinned by shared assumptions of nonwhite people as inferior and less ‘civilised’ in comparison to the superior, dominant white people (Hughey, 2014; Maurantonio, 2017). This trope continues to pervade media (see: Comic Relief ), film, literature and, within this, children’s literature, meaning that many children are exposed to it in schools without it being duly critiqued or challenged.

Ideology, critical literacy, and the Black perspective Although racist representations are commonplace, that does not mean they are always deliberately communicated in writing: an author’s ideology can be explicit or implicit and even unconscious (Hollindale, 1988). As Nel (2014) shows in his critique of Dr Seuss’ work, an author may actively endeavour to dispel problematic assumptions but the dominant ideology of the society in which they live will still be communicated – even if these ideologies are essentially racist. A recognition of individual and contextual ideologies as having significant impact on both the creation and the reading of literature underpins critical literacy pedagogy, which has become a common approach in schools. Critical literacy is characterised by the process of readers engaging with a range of perspectives to interrogate and even challenge the ideologies present (Scholes, 1985; Freire and Macedo, 1987; Lewison et al, 2002; McDonald, 2004; Aukerman, 2012), sometimes with a view towards social justice (Lewison et al, 2002; Aukerman, 2012). From a CRT perspective, however, it could be argued that if society is predicated upon White supremacy, teachers and children will read literature from a racially biased stance unless they are actively exposed to counter perspectives - that is, Black perspectives. But herein lies the problem: Black voices are systemically marginalised so there would need to be a concerted effort on the part of educators to ensure that these perspectives are sought and shared through the primary texts themselves and interpretations of the literature and this does not always happen. However, there is hope that the conversations that started happening in the mainstream earlier this year will continue to gain momentum and children’s literature can be used as a powerful means of challenging discriminatory structures.

Seraphina Simmons-Bah is a supply teacher based in south London.

References Adichie, C.N. (2009), The danger of a single story, [TED talk], Available at: adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/up-next, Date accessed: 20th May 2020 Aukerman, M. (2012), ‘”Why Do You Say Yes to Pedro, but No to Me?” Toward a Critical Literacy of Dialogic Engagement’, Theory Into Practice, 51(1), pp. 42-48 CLPE (2018), Reflecting Realities: Survey of Ethnic Representation within Children’s Literature 2017, London: CLPE CLPE (2019), Reflecting Realities: Survey of Ethnic Representation within Children’s Literature 2018, London: CLPE Delgado, R. and Stefanic, J. (2017), Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, 3rd edn, New York: New York University Press Duncan, G.A. (2017), ‘Critical Race Ethnography in Education: Narrative, Inequality, and the Problem of Epistemology’ in Dixson, A.D., Rousseau Anderson, C.K. and Donnor, J.K. (eds), Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song, 2nd edn, New York/Abingdon: Routledge Ellingson, T. (2001), The Myth of the Noble Savage, Berkeley/ Freire, P. and Macedo, D. (1987), Literacy: Reading the Word and the World, London: Routledge Gillborn, D. (2014), ‘Racism as Policy: A Critical Race Analysis of Education Reforms in the United States and England’, The Educational Forum, 78(1), pp. 26-41 Gillborn, D. (2017), ‘Critical Race Theory beyond North America: Towards a Trans-Atlantic Dialogue on Racism and Antiracism in Educational Theory and Praxis’ in Dixson, A.D., Rousseau Anderson, C.K. and Donnor, J.K. (eds), Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song, 2nd edn, New York/ Abingdon: Routledge Hollindale, P. (1988), ‘Ideology and the Children’s Book’, Signal, Vol. 55, pp 3-24 Hughey, M.W. (2014), The White Savior Film: Content, Critics, and Consumption, Philadelphia: Temple University Press Lewison, M, Flint, A.S and Van Sluys, K. (2002), ‘Taking on Critical Literacy: The Journey of Newcomers and Novices’, Language Arts, 79(5), pp. 382-392 Macaluso, M. (2017), ‘Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird Today: Coming to Terms With Race, Racism, And America’s Novel’, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 61(3), pp. 279-287 Malcolm, Z.T. and Lowery, R.M. (2011), ‘Reflections of the Caribbean in Children’s Picture Books: A Critical Multicultural Analysis’, Multicultural Education, 19(1), pp. 46-50 Maurantonio, N. (2017), ‘”Reason to Hope?”: The White Savior Myth and Progress in “Post-Racial” America’, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(4), pp. 1130-1145 McDonald, L. (2004), ‘Moving from reader response to critical reading: developing 10-11-year-olds’ ability as analytical readers of literary texts’, Literacy, 38(1), pp. 17-25 Nel, P. (2014), ‘Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: Exploring Dr. Seuss’ Racial Imagination’, Children’s Literature, Vol. 42, pp. 71-98 Scholes, R.E. (1985), Textual Power: literary theory and the teaching of English, New Haven/London: Yale University Press Sims, R. (1982), Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children’s Fiction, Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English Sims, R. (1984), ‘A Question of Perspective’, The Advocate, 3(3), pp. 145-156 Taxel, J. (1986), ‘The Black Experience in Children’s Fiction: Controversies Surrounding Award Winning Books’, Curriculum Inquiry, 16(3), pp. 245-281 Taxel, J. (1988), ‘Children’s Literature: Ideology and Response’, Curriculum Inquiry, 18(2), pp. 217-229


Exploring white fragility and white privilege – a conversation Dr Rachel Morgan-Guthrie


In March I attended an online workshop which was a critical discussion in racism. The professor speaking talked about having to navigate herself in a white room and the question that she was always asked ‘where do you come from originally?’ I have to openly admit that I had not considered such aspects of people’s lives and recognised that I felt, as Diangelo (2018) describes it, white fragility.

colleagues have used the term ‘person of colour’ when describing themselves. I became afraid to use any term for fear of getting it wrong, my fragility coming through, but with research and reading I started to question why I needed to know and consider how to approach discussions.

As a child in the 1970’s, where I lived the term ‘black’ was seen as racist, I was told to use the term ‘coloured’. As I got older the term ‘black’ was used and then more recently friends and

‘the racial status quo is comfortable for white people; we need to be uncomfortable’

‘White fragility is discomfort and anxiety born of superiority and entitlement’

Diangelo (2018, p14)

I have not in the past considered myself as privileged in anyway and yet when I started exploring white privilege; living without prejudice, though activities at the university I recognised my lack of understanding of the term white privilege. All humans have prejudice (based on social groups, stereotypes and attitudes) shared with those we swim in the same water as culturally. The difference with white privilege is the social and institutional power held to that can transform the prejudice to racism. Whiteness can give an entitlement to self-worth, visibility, positive expectations, freedom of movement and a sense of belonging – a definition of whiteness as ‘the norm’ and a person of colour as a derivation from the norm (Eddo-Lodge, 2017). A lot of people have a misunderstanding of the word privilege, it does not mean that you are rich, that you have had an easy life, that everything has been handed to you, that you have never had to struggle or work hard. It means is that there are some things in life that you will not experience, or ever have to think about, because of who you are. During workshops this year the Primary ITE team discussed privilege, including white privilege, considering that the experience of a white person is not the norm for everyone. That if you are white, your race will almost certainly project positively on your life’s trajectory in some way even if you do not notice it and that privilege is something that society gives you. You cannot give it up. The only thing you can do is challenge the systems and institutions that give privilege. To open discussions we used the Advance HE Principles for respectful enquiry: • Listen to understand • Honour confidentiality • Pay attention to each other as if we were together in person • Welcome and respect the diversity of voices, pay attention to the voices of people of colour • Be mindful of the impact of what we say • Give and receive caring feedback • Practice and respect self-care • Be curious about emotional responses (Advance HE)

We watched a really powerful clip online ‘where are you from, the game’ to consider the question ‘is it wrong to ask a BAME person where they are from?’ I’ve made this mistake, I admit it, I thought I was being curious and making conversation. I love to travel and talk about different countries and had not considered how a BAME person may find this question intrusive and insulting, however, you need to accept that you are going to make mistakes, nobody is perfect. Unlearning problematic behaviours takes time and commitment. If you do mess up/get called out then listen, apologise, commit to changing your behaviour and move forward. Remember that it is not about your intent, it is about your impact. Saying you are not racist is not the same as being anti-racist. You need to be an ally, speak up, but not over. An ally’s job is to support. You want to make sure that you use your privilege and your voice to educate others, but make sure to do it in such a way that does not speak over the community members that you’re trying to support or take credit for things that they are already saying. Remember that ally is a verb, saying you are an ally is not enough.

You need to be an ally, speak up, but not over. An ally’s job is to support. You want to make sure that you use your privilege and your voice to educate others, but make sure to do it in such a way that does not speak over the community members that you’re trying to support or take credit for things that they are already saying. 29

when he ‘called her out on this’ she got upset and he was told to apologise. Despite being the victim, Goodes was vilified by some as a bully 30

Next we watched ‘The danger of the single story’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This clip really made us question the curriculum; how much do our students and the children in the schools we work with see themselves in the curriculum, in the theories we refer to and in the books they read? Once my eyes were opened, I began to see prejudice and white privilege everywhere. I read about ‘the power of a white woman’s tears, this was uncomfortable and seemed alien to me, and yet within two days I listened to a podcast where the presenter was interviewing an Aboriginal Australian Rules football player, Adam Goodes. Adam had been called an ape by a young white girl whilst on the pitch and unbelievably (or perhaps not) when he ‘called her out on this’ she got upset and he was told to apologise. Despite being the victim, Goodes was vilified by some as a bully. A white colleague shared that whilst in India with a group of students, some people were asked to have a passport check, as my colleague went to get her passport one of the BAME students said ‘you don’t need to get yours’ your skin colour is your passport’.

Moving Forward We need to ensure we have safe spaces and opportunities to have conversations where privilege, fragility, colour-blindness, culture and race can be discussed openly. We need to ensure all the stories of our students are shared and reflected in the curriculum we cover and theorists we discuss. Oluo, (2019, p15) tells us; it is about race if a person of colour thinks it is about race. It is about race if it disproportionately or differently affects people of colour. It is about race if it fits into a broader pattern of events that disproportionately or differently affects people of colour. We need to be aware, but more than this we need to challenge. ‘If I am not aware of the barriers you face, then I will not see them, much less be motivated to remove them. Use your insider status to challenge racism’ (Diangelo, 2018)

Dr Rachel Morgan-Guthrie is a senior lecturer within primary education at the University of Wolverhampton.

Additional Reading Alexander, C. & Arday, J. (2015) (Eds) Aiming Higher: Race, Inequality and Diversity in the Academy, London: Runnymede Trust http://www. Andrews, K. (2016) Universities do not challenge racism says UK’s first Black Studies Professor, The Guardian, education/2016/oct/23/universities-do-not-challenge-racism-says-uksfirst-black-studies-professor (last accessed 19 February 2017) Diangelo Robin (2018) White Fragility: Why its so hard for white people to talk about racism. Collins, S. (2017) Why White People Shouldn’t Impose Their Feelings Into Conversations on Race, Everyday Feminism Online Magazine, 17 January, (last accessed 18 February 2019) Rollock, N. (2015) Why is it so hard to talk about race in UK universities? The Conversation, (last accessed 19 February 2019) Eddo-Lodge, R (2017) Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race (last accessed 5th June 2019)


Ask First Monkey (2020) By Juliet Clare Bell, illustrated by Abigail Tompkins. Published by Jessica Kinglsey Publishers. Peter Cansell

Juliet Clare Bell has written a book, with illustrations children will enjoy by Abigail Tompkins, which has long been overdue. This introduction to young children making choices is vital in establishing their view of the world, which is likely have an impact throughout their lives. The monkey in the story declares himself “officially the best tickler IN. THE. WORLD. EVER” 32

and goes round tick ling all of his animal friends, whether they like it or not, but it is not until one of them says “No. I don’t want to be tickled”that anybody questions his behaviour. He tries all his best tickles but when others show that they don’t like it either he has to take stock and question his behaviour. The realisation dawns that it would be a good idea to get permission from the friends he wants to do things to before he does it. His irrepressible personality won’t

let him stop, but he does learn to ask first and respect others’ feelings even when he offers them an alternative of a hug. The guidance for adults in the back of the book gives very sensible advice with a number of suggestions and prompt questions to share with children. I can see this as a great resource for class teachers who want to explore the issue of consent with

a group of younger children as well as being a valuable book to go on the shelf for families to discuss at home. I would heartily recommend it.

a great resource for class teachers who want to explore the issue of consent 33

How online experiences helped a pupil with selective mutism to blossom Vicky Heslop

I’ve seen first-hand the ways in which online learning experiences can transform young pupils. Last year in my Year 6 class I had the experience of teaching a child who was selectively mute. I’ll call him Daniel. Talking to adults was a massive challenge for Daniel. He would speak to other children, but when it came to grown-ups, he might say the briefest of phrases, ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘thank you’, but at that time a face to face conversation was just too much for him. Of course, this was a huge worry for his parents and we worked with them to ensure he was supported, but it was also a huge challenge for me to understand his inner world, his real interests and passions. That changed however when we decided to undertake an online experience called I’m an Engineer, Get Me Out of Here! a free online, student-led outreach opportunity that puts classes in touch with engineers and scientists across the world. Using a simple webchat, pupils are able to quiz experts on anything they like, from how they engineer space stations to their favourite pizza toppings. At the end of the series of chats, they vote for their favourite. From the moment we started our first webchat with a space engineer, I’d never seen Daniel so engaged. Usually in a one to one situation with


an adult he was very reluctant to communicate, but because of the anonymous nature of the webchat he completely opened up. It turned out to be the perfect medium for him to engage with. He was asking questions about constellations and space supernovas, advanced terms I had no idea he knew, least of all that he had such a passion for space! It was really eye opening for me because I saw a whole level of interest and understanding that he had in science and engineering that I was totally unaware of. Having the medium of a webchat allowed him to open up and explore a topic that he obviously loved; a passion of his of which I had no idea. It was really powerful for him and for me. His parents said to me it was great that he had engaged with something so personally, when he found it so difficult to engage with lots of things in school. If that same engineer had come for a face-to-face visit, there’s no way Daniel would have put his hand up and asked him a question. He would not have had an opportunity to engage on terms that he felt comfortable and confident within, and I might never have learned of his love for the intergalactic! But in this instance, he was able to ask loads of really relevant questions and feel confident to have a real conversation with an adult.

You might presume that the ideal STEM experience is to bring engineers or scientists into the classroom in real life, not through an online chat. But, what was amazing about this experience was the impact it had not only on this one selectively mute child, but the whole class. They really embraced the idea of talking to somebody from a different background and loved being taken seriously by an adult. Face to face interaction will always be at the heart of education but we shouldn’t assume that online experiences are any less powerful. I saw first-hand the impact that this online experience had on my class - especially Daniel.

As a primary school with limited resources and a high level of pupil premium students (circa 35%) we are always looking for effective ways to engage pupils in different experiences that open their eyes to the opportunities out there. Online experiences are an amazing way to engage more children in outreach opportunities that they may otherwise never have the chance to take part in. We’ve been impressed with what’s out there right now. For example, we’ve been looking for inspiration on Neon, from EngineeringUK which is an online hub that brings together both online and in-class STEM experiences from a whole range of organisations in one place.

They saw a real engineer, a professional in the industry making time to speak to them about their work but also talking to them as a real person their favourite ice cream flavour, what they did at the weekend etc. It also allowed the class to have access to a range of scientists and engineers from different backgrounds - they chatted with four different professionals from different backgrounds, including one who was visually impaired. The experience showed that there is diversity in the STEM industries and created a feeling of connectedness, showing that STEM is packed full of real people, just like them.

With the ongoing challenges of coronavirus restricting our ability to take learning out of the classroom, we are continuing to look at how we can integrate powerful online experiences. Not only are they safe to run in the current climate but they can give voice to students who are otherwise unable to share their passions, opening up eyes to the real world and real people of STEM.

Vicky Heslop is a Year Five teacher at Westbury Junior School in Wiltshire.


The Rise of the Anti-racist Teacher Simi McConnell

The concept of anti-racism is here to stay, and every teacher has a choice whether to be an active part of a journey to ensure equality and inclusion for their pupils or choose to do nothing. DiAngelo (2016) considers the option of doing nothing as a form of passive racism as it allows the racial inequality to persist. From personal experience and having lectured to Primary Initial Teacher Education students for the past eight years, the new teachers of today are not willing to stand by and allow racial injustice either in their classrooms or in their schools. They are instead joining their experienced colleagues in the movement and rise of the anti-racist teacher. The aim of this piece is to focus on the role teachers can play in anti-racist practice and it is centred on a suggested three stage approach for development.

What does it mean to be an anti-racist teacher? In recent months this term could be confused with political activism but in reality, it refers to teachers who appreciate the need of an inclusive and diverse experience for all their pupils and work towards this aim. The key detail here is ‘work toward’ as it implies effort and forethought in everyday actions in and out of the classroom. No longer is it acceptable for individuals to merely profess they are ‘not racist’ in response to 36

racial issues. If simply, not being racist enacted in real change for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups then the continual struggles against racism would not be evident today. More action needs to be taken, everyday practice needs to be challenged and greater change is needed. With the growing concern over racial issues in recent months, following the death of George Floyd and the ever-growing Black Lives Matter movement, the focus is increasingly upon education and the role of teachers to provide a balanced and equitable experience for all. For anti-racism to be more than a passing trend it must be embedded in our everyday thoughts and actions. Across education there is talk and plans for decolonising the curriculum and employing strategic systems to address racial inequality, diversity and inclusion. It is argued that there is no time to wait for higher authorities to give direction and teachers must act now to ensure an inclusive learning environment for their children, celebrating diversity and ensuring equality in pupil outcomes. It is after all the teachers, who are in an ideal position to consider their pupils’ needs and look critically and analytically at their own current practice and provision. The process to becoming an anti-racist teacher requires time, commitment and perseverance inorder to contribute to long-term change for the

benefit of all pupils. The approach below consists of three stages: 1. Self-education 2. Classroom practice 3. Reflection and progression

Stage 1: Self-education 1. The first steps to prepare for an anti-racist approach is to self-educate. Start the journey by reading articles on anti-racism in education. This may invoke lots of questions and this is where the journey to wider reading begins; inorder find answers to those questions. Without such background reading and understanding it is unlikely that genuine change can occur. Use what you have read to initiate discussions with colleagues on positive practice. An ideal starting point for research is to understand the topic of Whiteness and what this means. Whiteness refers to behaviours that contribute to inequality. Such behaviours may be unknowingly and innocently enacted but nonetheless can also result in harm for BAME groups. Ridley (2005) refers to unintentional racists who are unaware of the consequences of their behaviour and because they wish to do no harm it is often difficult to explain or allow them to see themselves as racist. Investigating behaviours such as colourblindness, white silence and white fragility are useful starting points. Without a clear understanding of terms and behaviours anti-racist dialogue can be stifled and unintentionally cause upset. One such term that is often misunderstood is ‘White privilege’. White privilege simply means to not being disadvantaged in life because of skin colour. It does not deny that white people as well as people of colour face disadvantage in other aspects of their lives. It is a useful term when considering how everyday experiences can differ for White and BAME groups. 2. Consider and tackle your own biases. Unconscious bias is a term used to refer to biases that everyone has. These biases may not be intentional but instead are a result of what

a person was bought up to believe. Coates and Morrison (2012) describe a conflict between a person denying personal prejudice and the underlying unconscious negative feelings and beliefs they have. In the course of becoming an anti-racist teacher, the teacher will need to reflect on their own assumptions and challenge the beliefs that they were raised with. This can be a difficult journey as it may shed light on past experiences with friends and family and how these experiences may have influenced beliefs at that time. This may include beliefs that are no longer held but the time spent on acknowledging unconscious bias is needed for self-development. 3. Talk, listen and engage in discussions. The discourse surrounding race and racism needs to be explored and probed to enable a clearer understanding of some of the issues. Often such discussions may lead to follow up reading and research which is at the heart of antiracism. It is important to keep abreast of the current rhetoric on the subject of racism which could be through social media, YouTube videos, webinars, podcasts or through reading current educational materials. It is natural to identify and form relationships with people that have similar experiences or cultural identities to your own however it is also important to develop inter-racial relationships. This is encouraged by Morrison (2011) who suggests that forging inter-racial friendships allows reciprocity and learning about each other’s cultures, traditions, religious beliefs and interests. Engaging in discussions about individuals’ lived experiences is far more insightful than reading about them. If you are not in a position to form such relationships, then look further afield for like-minded people in groups and societies that promote antiracism. Check what support, initiatives and networking opportunities are available within local schools and the community.


It is important that the first stage of selfeducation is a starting point for engagement with anti-racist practice. Jumping straight to the second stage in the cycle can result in a lack of genuine authenticity needed for changes in policy and practice.

Stage 2: Classroom practice 1. Does your classroom environment and resources that are used promote diversity? This may mean searching for alternative reading materials to share with your class and paying attention to the visual resources that are used. Are the stories, information or contexts you share with the class from diverse cultures or countries? Can all children see themselves within the curriculum? The aim is for all the children to relate to and engage with the lesson content so thinking about how to pitch lessons and encourage opportunities for equal engagement is needed. Is the language used inclusive? Use pronouns such as we/us rather than they/them. 2. Consider if all children, regardless of their ethnicity, are adequately equipped with the skills, knowledge and understanding to succeed in a diverse world. Model expected behaviours towards people from diverse cultural backgrounds and aim to normalise experiences by taking care taking care not to position ‘white’ as normal and everyone else in relation to this. If you work in a school with few ethic minority pupils the need to diversify the curriculum and environment is even


greater. Inappropriate behaviours or comments from children, visitors, parents or staff must be challenged in private with clear expectations given. 3. Consider how the curriculum and assessment processes can contribute to BAME underachievement. It is important to have high expectations of all the children and address any unconscious bias based on stereotyping. A limited curriculum does not allow for the type of engagement that would allow a child to succeed. From a personal perspective I struggled to write well at school and made up false experiences to fit in with peers and what I thought the teacher wanted to read; such was my need to fit in with the majority. This meant that I would fictionalise my own life experiences, resulting in work lacking genuineness and a richness that could have been achieved if encouraged to incorporate personal experiences.

Stage 3: Reflection and Progress 1. It is important to reflect regularly on personal development. Reflect on any reading undertaken and what has been learned from this. Mills (2008) suggests that by keeping a physical reflective journal this allows the writer to become more engaged and active in the learning process. He also states that the process of recording reflections allows the tracking of the learning and their progress over time. Reflect on areas where there is a level of agreement and on areas where uncertainty

arises. Consider where you may go to clarify understanding; this may be through accessible reading, colleagues or network groups. 2. In order to make progress, mistakes will be made, and it is vital to accept that this is part of the cycle. It is how mistakes are handled that will support your progression. The first stage is to hold your hands up and accept that a mistake has been made. It may be through misinformation or an unawareness of issues but whatever the reason, offer an apology as soon as an incident occurs. Following on from this, with the support of your colleagues and own research it is crucial that you are able to learn from mistakes and then more importantly to move on. Do not dwell on mistakes as this will hinder your progress. 3. Finally reflect on positive actions made within your own practice and any positive effects this has had on pupils. Look for opportunities to share good practice with others and learn from others too. This approach to anti-racism ensures that the cycle of personal development and anti-racist practice continues. Dipping in and out of the different stages seamlessly and continuously will allow tangible progress to be identified along the way. If you are still reading this article, then you have already demonstrated some commitment to becoming part of the rising generation of anti-racist teachers. A generation of teachers who believe that a change in policy and practice is needed to change the educational experience of all their pupils. There is so much more to anti-

racism in education than what has been included in this article, but it is the first steps towards that journey that are imperative for change to begin. The alternative to being anti-racist is to do nothing. Waiting for direction and following processes and procedures is part and parcel of your job but it is not an anti-racist approach. An anti-racist approach is to take action for yourself and to contribute to policy and practice to allow equitable and inclusive experience for all. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to decide.

Simi McConnell is a senior lecturer within primary education at the University of Wolverhampton.

Reference Coates, R. and Morrison, J. (2011) Covert Racism: Theories, Institution and Experiences. Boston: Brill DiAngelo, R. (2016) What does it mean to be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy. New York: Peter Lang. Mills, R. (2008). “It’s just a nuisance”: Improving college student reflective journal writing. College Student Journal, 42, pp.684–690. Morrison, J (2011) Journey to awareness: Learning to recognise invisible racism in Coates, R. and Morrison, J (ed) Covert Racism: Theories, Institution and Experiences. Boston: Brill pp. 405-417 Ridley, C. R. (2005). What is racism? In Multicultural Aspects of Counseling and Psychotherapy Series 5: Overcoming unintentional racism in counseling and therapy: A practitioner’s guide to Intentional intervention (pp. 29-41). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Recommended reading to get started: BAMEed Network, DiAngelo, R. (2016) What does it mean to be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy. New York: Peter Lang. Eddo-Lodge, R. (2018) Why I’m no longer talking to White people about race. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Shukla, N. (2017) The Good Immigrant. London: Unbound


Positive responses for schools for equality and diversity Michelle Prosser Haywood

Over the last academic year, not only did we have a lockdown due to COVID19, which affected the way we teach, but we also witnessed a worldwide response to the Black Lives Matter protests which started in America following George Floyd’s death and prompted us, in response, to review our curriculum. In her latest piece, Michelle Prosser Haywood, outlines how we can address some of the issues raised by the protests.

We have to construct a curriculum that exhibits diversity and respect, recognises and celebrates differing backgrounds and experiences, and in doing so ‘address(es) widespread stereotyping, discrimination and the fear and violence caused by racism’

#Blacklivesmatter as an organisation was founded in the USA in 2013, following the fatal shooting of a 17-year African America, Trayvon Martin, by Martin Zimmerman - a member of a community watch organisation, whilst waiting for the police to respond to his phone call to them. At the time of the shooting Zimmerman was not charged, but after a media campaign he was later charged, tri and eventually acquitted.

All action in school should start with the school’s policies and procedures.

Despite being an American based organisation, the title #BlackLivesmatter, along with global protests during the Summer of 2020, promoted long overdue discussions about equality, diversity and systemic racism in the UK. It is important that as teachers we recognise how we can contribute positively, through an inclusive and supportive approach to the #Blacklivesmatter agenda, whilst being careful not to get caught up in a politicised dispute.


Policies & Procedures

It is good practice to have a School Race Equality Policy, but it is not a policy listed by the Department of Education (DFE) as statutory. Nevertheless, race equality is covered by the Equality Act (2010), https://www.legislation. which protects all people (including learners in schools) against discrimination, harassment or victimisation, and lists nine protected characteristics of which race is one; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Protected characteristics may not always have a policy of their own, and some of them are not applicable to learners in school, but the characteristics which do apply could be covered in a range of different policies.

The School Behaviour Policy, for example, may outline the procedures for tackling racist behaviour between learners, and the Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy will detail school procedures for addressing Peer to Peer abuse, bullying and coercive behaviour, whilst the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) policy will focus on living within the wider world and being a responsible citizen. The recommendations from The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report (https://assets. uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/ file/277111/4262.pdf ) should also be by now, firmly established in a school, but the actions of how to address the recommendations should be an annual revisit. The Inquiry stated that there should be a curriculum in place which values cultural diversity, prevents racism and reflects the needs of a diverse society and there should be a policy which states that all racial incidents are recorded and reported to parents/guardians and the Governing Body. Furthermore, a school should understand its context and engage local support groups, the police and the community to address racism. Alongside these recommendations, a school should also clearly define racism and institutional racism and create opportunities to discuss both terms in an age-appropriate way.

Curriculum Intent Clear curriculum intent should provide all the resources and strategies needed to address racism. It should be cross curricular and not just left to subjects such as history or an infrequent whole school assembly . The curriculum should be designed so that a learner’s ideas and thoughts about race are explored. Learners should be supported to challenge racial inequalities, explore oppressive racial norms and assumptions and achieve cultural inclusion. A Curriculum review can help with to evaluating how the school addresses black and global history, and the achievement of Black Britons. Many learners, for example, are taught about the pioneering work of Mary Seacole during the Crimean War but not that of Mary Seacole, but there needs to be a wider representation here. In response to this exclusion, The 100 Great Black Britons was written in 2003, and provides examples of role models and previously unknown historical personalities to address this lack of representation. It has recently been updated alongside a campaign for the public to vote for the Black Briton they most admire.


The NEU’s Anti-Racist framework, https://neu. is a useful resource to help review the curriculum. It stated aims are; “to respond to the experiences of Black learners and to help teachers develop a range of anti-racist approaches. Schools are advised to consider what materials they are using to reflect cultural backgrounds, to avoid stereotyping, promote attitudes and values which challenge racist behaviour and provide opportunities for all learners to celebrate their own culture and the diversity of other cultures.” A careful choice of literature can be used to support the curriculum and should be included as part of the curriculum review process. Overt racism can be found in some classic novels which may have been used within the school curriculum, (for example, The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett and Mary’s encounter with Martha). There are other classic and contemporary books which do not demonstrate any form of racism and can be used more positively. A helpful starting point and good guide is the website 10 quick ways to analyse children’s books for racism and sexism https:// This page also leads to a number of sites suggesting good literature choices which do not stereotype, are not tokenistic and yet challenge the traditional view of the


sexes. There is also a good collection which has been put together on the BAMEed website uploads/2019/12/Books-for-learners.pdf Black History for Schools http://www. explores black presence in history from the Tudor period, and has links to original sources which explore misconceptions and bias in British history. The Windrush Foundation https:// has produced a series of lesson plans which explore the post-war stories of Caribbean people in Britain. There is also The Black Curriculum, https:// which was set up in 2019. Onn its website it has 12 topics and 4 modules which focus on art history, migration, politics and the legal system, and land and the environment The introduction of the Statutory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) Curriculum https:// relationships-education-relationships-and-sexeducation-rse-and-health-education, states that “(Learners should) know the importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them (for example physically, in

character, personality of background), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs.’ This is another way to use the curriculum to embrace difference, and planned sessions such as circle time activities which focus on the differences of all learners in the circle, from being in a sports team to being good at spelling, to being a friend to a friend in need, to physical differences, and is one of many similar activities which could scaffold learning about misinformation and misunderstandings about difference and show learners that they are all unique and to respect each other. Black History month https://www. takes place in Britain, in October each year, and is a historical tradition which began in 1926, when a black history week was introduced in America. There is no reason why a school cannot use some of the suggestions and resources promoted as part of Black history month throughout the year as well. A magazine is produced to support the event and last year, children’s presenter Floella Benjamin wrote about her own experiences in Coming to England, which inspired a drama lesson for Key Stage two learners https://www.teachwire. net/teaching-resources/ks2-drama-lesson-plancelebrate-black-history-month-by-exploringfloella-be

Don’t Forget The school environment should represent and promote diversity, so take time to understand each learner in the classroom. Make sure that every learner has the opportunity to participate and contribute not just in the classroom but across the school and allow learners to share their diversity with their peers. Make sure that the role models and images used around the school are representative of the learners in that environment. Using famous recognisable people such as Barack Obama and Beyonce is a good start, but celebrities can seem out of reach, and local heroes and previous learners could have more relevance and feel more real. Further support can be gained from growing networks such as The Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Educators (BAMEed) https://www. who are working towards an education sector that is reflective of society. They offer a range of events and resources which support intersectionality and diversity in the education sector, not only for learners but for educationalists as well.


“Use your words!” Lisa Morris

‘Use your words!’ … heard in Early Years twenty (plus) times a day! From the moment a child enters their nursery / reception classes they are encouraged to speak and to express themselves clearly so they are understood; because that is the way things can happen, and changes can be made. Communication and language start with speaking, it is how children share what they are thinking; it feeds the development of reading and writing and equips our future citizens with the tools to explain, listen, negotiate, reason and persuade. But are schools recognising the value of teaching these skills? Has the need for clear and confident talking increased since, during the recent pandemic, the necessity to video conference has become the social ‘norm’? Is there a place for oracy in the curriculum?

What is Oracy? Oracy is a neologism, coined by Andrew Wilkinson (1965) and defined as ‘the fluent, confident, and correct use of the standard spoken form of one’s native language’. A command of words can be powerful. To be able to speak clearly, talk with others effectively and express opinion confidently is using language to get things done. It is at its most successful when all the skills involved in oracy work together; oracy is not just about talking. An effective orator listens 44

as much, and sometimes more than, as they speak, they are aware of their audience and social intelligence is at work as they exchange ideas and adapt their vocabulary choices, changing the tone they use appropriately. We do it every day … our response to ‘How are you?’ looks, and sounds, very different if speaking to our family, to a parent or carer at the classroom door or to the doctor. It is important we get that right, it is the key to a successful exchange. Children, and their teachers, spend an awful lot of time talking in school … but the place of talk in learning is more than just classroom talk! Professor Robin Alexander describes talk as “essential to children’s thinking and learning, and to their productive engagement in classroom life” (2012). Since the early 2000s, his extensive research has identified the importance of the quality of classroom talk and proven that by improving it standards can be raised. He identifies the six functions of talk as thinking, learning, communicating, democratic engagement, teaching and assessing … these are not just classroom skills, they are life skills and the more they are rehearsed, the better equipped our future movers and shakers will be! However, beyond rehearsal, oracy skills need teaching and direction if they are to flourish in our schools.

Communication works for those who work at it. - John Powell, Aksent, 2013 The very specific change to ‘spoken language’ in the 2013 National Curriculum (NC) from the previous ‘speaking and listening’, calls for schools to think forward and creatively. Spoken language (NC) is about building capacity for children as they grow through the school, developing the language of what they know and how they use it. Most importantly, it is about creating a whole school culture where talking is encouraged. It is tempting to believe that a quiet classroom is the best environment for learning but talking expands vocabulary. The most outstanding learning I have ever seen has been in classrooms where, there is an energy and an eagerness in the learning, children are exploring ideas, sharing and rehearsing solutions confidently and presenting their thoughts clearly and with passion. Great pedagogy focuses on developing higher order thinking and metacognition. Great teaching does that through dialogue and shrewd questioning, where teachers talk with children and the children talk with their peers, where there is an awareness of audience and purpose for exploration, exposition and explanation. It is by creating opportunities to discuss, question, philosophise, debate, listen, feedback and present that the skills of oracy – physically, cognitively, socially and linguistically (Voice 21, 2016, p.13) – improve and children develop an understanding of where they fit in, they know what they have to offer matters and are able to express themselves so others want to listen; they become agents of their own learning. And then we hit ‘mute’… Absence sharpens … presence strengthens … (attributed to William Shakespeare) I am writing this when, almost overnight, all physical interaction has been taken from us, the COVID – 19 pandemic has hit the world; we are on Lockdown and all schools have closed. An incredible response from schools and teachers to maintain contact with their classes has meant the world has gone ‘online’.

On screen teaching has taken the place of the classroom and discussions are now through meeting platforms where we appear as an image on the screen alongside everyone else. Opportunity to speak has new ‘ground rules’ and we need to apply our oracy skills to meet them. We are speaking from our own ‘box’. There is a level of disconnect and, suddenly, many of the cues we use to gauge mood, energy, and interest from our audience …have been taken away and it can be quite challenging. It is hard to know when to speak, who is listening and, sometimes, feels like you are your own. Now is the time to apply oracy skills rehearsed and mastered in school in new ways. It is noticeable how much more you listen and focus on people when they are speaking on the screen, which highlights the importance of speaking well and saying what you mean when it is your turn. There is an etiquette for everyone to take the podium and you need to use this time to prepare what you want to say. You need to speak clearly, decisively, and succinctly and use your moment well. Learning is the key to success and being able to

I am writing this when, almost overnight, all physical interaction has been taken from us, the COVID–19 pandemic has hit the world; we are on Lockdown and all schools have closed. An incredible response from schools and teachers to maintain contact with their classes has meant the world has gone ‘online’. 45

Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. Article 12 (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child)

make good choices and decisions. Embedding a culture of oracy in school is to equip children with the knowledge and skills to grow into adults knowing they have a voice and recognise the positive contribution they bring to society. If the question is … is it important that oracy has a place in the curriculum …? The answer is … Yes! Now, it is more important than ever. We are exploring communication in different ways and adapting to the change in expectation and demand; we are in the 21st Century. There is no turning back.

Lisa Morris is a former head teacher and now a lecturer at University of Greenwich.


References Alexander, R (2012) Extended, and referenced, version of a presentation given at the DfE seminar on Oracy, the National Curriculum and Educational Standards. DfE (2013) National Curriculum, English Programme of Study. Millard, W. & Menzies, L. (2016) The State of Speaking in our Schools. English Speaking Union and Voice 21 United Nations, (1990) The Convention on the Rights of the Child. UN Commission on Human Rights Further reading English Speaking Union (2016) Speaking Frankly – The case for oracy in the curriculum. English Speaking Union and Voice 21 Mercer, N. & Dawes L. (2018) The Development of Oracy skills in school-aged learners. Cambridge University Press

Towards a balanced and broadly-based curriculum Virtual Conference Monday 8 March 2021, 4.15pm – 6.45pm

The Conference, embracing a theme which has always been central to debate about children’s entitlements, has been highlighted by OfSTED as critical in curriculum development and its central importance has been further accentuated by the pressures under which primary schools are working in the post-lockdown phase as they prioritise what is perceived as essential in educational recovery. It will therefore be of interest to school leaders, classroom practitioners and governors alike, with the presentations providing a window on innovation and quality in action in the primary school. Keynote Schiller Lecture DR. TONY EAUDE – a former Oxfordshire Primary Head, and author of several seminal texts in the area of primary education: Why a balanced and broad curriculum matters – particularly for young children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds Presentations on the Curriculum in Action Naheeda Maharasingham, Head of Rathfern Primary School, Lewisham, on Social Action in the Primary School

Conference Fee £10 per individual or £50 for 5 or more staff members from a school. Free for students. Please visit for booking details or contact e or t 07940 487628.

Tina Farr, Head of St Ebbe’s Primary School, Oxford on Developing a Curriculum, as Rich in Humanity as in Knowledge Alison Hales, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Greenwich, on Exploring History through the Local Rachel Ford, Head of Bannockburn Primary School, Royal Borough of Greenwich, on Beyond Teaching: Experiencing the Humanities

National Association for Primary Education in collaboration with Humanities 20:20 Project and Primary Umbrella Group 47