Supporting quiet shy or anxious Black, Asian and minority ethnic children with English as an additional language in the Early Years.

Dr Susan Davis portrait

Written by Dr Susan Davis

Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Many articles that have been written in relation to the Black Lives Matter agenda, state that education is key to improving Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children’s life chances (Blair, Bourne, Coffin, Creese, & Kenner, 1998; Blair, 2002; Ofsted, 2005). However, the system itself is at fault. The UK educational system perpetuates disadvantage: from the very earliest years of schooling (Richardson, 2007; Tomlinson, 2008) children’s sense of identity may be affected by a range of factors such as their experience of being in a minority, or having a lack of BAME role models. School staff may demonstrate unconscious bias in relation to these children. There is also an impact of differing levels of staff knowledge and understanding in relation to cultural issues. We can see how inequity becomes embedded as a result.

My research on how quiet, shy or anxious children cope in the early years classroom was based on a targeted programme entitled Special Me Time (Davis, 2012) aimed at supporting quiet children in vocalising their feelings; accessing classroom opportunities; and communication and developing friendships. Evaluation of the programme was conducted in early years classrooms predominantly in south Wales. I found that this intervention especially benefitted BAME children with English as an additional language (EAL). These children worked very effectively in a smaller group dynamic with more support. It is essential to allow young children with EAL longer thinking and processing time in relation to oracy, especially when responding to teacher questions. Quiet children with EAL need additional time to formulate replies, in a busy mainstream classroom.

The taught sessions were delivered to small groups, over a six-week period. Baseline evaluations were employed. Assessments were taken at the start and on cessation of the programme. BAME learners with English as an additional language made significant gains in their personal and social development as a result of engagement within the smaller group dynamic. This was true across all settings in the research project. A year 1 teacher on the programme stated:

‘I have some very shy children in my class, many of them would play alongside others and not join in or were led by others. A BAME child with EAL – K – was the child that I noticed got the most out of the Special Me Time (SMT) programme; after taking part, she played with other children in the class much more. Now she will initiate games with the others, where she would not do this before. She really bonded with E (also BAME EAL) during the SMT programme – they had not been friends before, but they both grew in confidence and this was due to the programme.’


It became apparent that the role of the teacher or teaching assistant was paramount, in relation to supporting the children’s oracy, confidence and engagement skills. The support needed was simple, such as giving children peaceful time in the book corner of a classroom or allowing them to work alone, or in pairs rather than in large groups. Taking time to listen to the children when they were speaking, without any interruptions, and also waiting for them to offer answers to questions in their own time, rather than rushing them, was also particularly effective. The research also found that the children had improved social and emotional skills, gained within the small group dynamic and were able to effectively transfer those skills to the wider classroom, demonstrating improved confidence and communication skills.

To conclude, it is pertinent that teachers are aware of the needs of all BAME learners and support them accordingly. Brentnall (2017) suggests that we need to train teachers in diversity awareness and equip them with strategies for supporting and raising attainment across the board. BAME children with English as an additional language need to be in classrooms where the practitioner is aware of their specific needs, in order for them to thrive. In a nurturing classroom, with a high level of support, and with an intuitive and emotionally literate practitioner, this research study suggests that the child can flourish and as a result their life chances and educational trajectory will be significantly enhanced.



Blair, M., Bourne, J., Coffin, C., Creese, A., & Kenner, C. (1998). Making the difference: Teaching and learning strategies in successful multi-ethnic schools. England: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Blair, M. (2002). Effective school leadership: The multi-ethnic context. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(2), 179–191.

Brentnall, J. (2017). Promoting engagement and academic achievement for Black and mixed-ethnicity pupils in Wales. Cardiff: Welsh Government. Retrieved from   

Davis, S. (2012). Examining the implementation of an emotional literacy programme on the pedagogy and reflective practice of trainee teachers (EdD thesis, Cardiff Metropolitan University). Retrieved from 

Ofsted. (2005). Race equality in education. Good practice in schools and local education authorities. Retrieved from equality in education good practice in schools and local education authorities (PDF format).pdf

Richardson, B. (2007). Tell it like it is: How our schools fail black children (2nd ed.) London: Bookmarks.

Tomlinson, S. (2008). Race and education: Policy and politics in Britain. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work

Wayne Reid portrait

Written by Wayne Reid

Professional Officer & Social Worker

[This article was originally published in Community Care magazine (online) on 17/07/20.]

Following the constructive feedback received on my last article, I’ve been keen not to rest on my laurels.  Kind words and superlatives are, of course, pleasant and healthy for the ego – but they won’t eliminate the barrage of everyday multidimensional racism.  Whilst pausing the platitudes, I’ve been ruminating about clear actions that social work educators, employers and key stakeholders can take to promote anti-racism.  My aim in this article is to outline some practical (and skeletal) ideas for social work organisations to consider.  I will use the terms people of colour (POC) and Black and ethnic minority interchangeably for ease.  Again, I write this article from my own viewpoint, not on behalf of all Black and ethnic minority people or social workers – as we are not a homogenous group.  Also, I’m by no means an expert in organisational development/leadership, but I do consider myself as an ‘expert with lived experience’ of personal and professional racism in life and in social work.  These are purely my opinions.  Contemporary scholars include: @gurnamskhela, @consultancy_hs, @kguilaine and @muna_abdi_phd (Twitter handles).

Black and ethnic minority social workers cannot and should not be expected to ‘fix’ racism

Black and ethnic minority social workers cannot and should not be expected to ‘fix’ the racism in their workplace.  However, those of us who are confident and capable enough (with the right support) can have a crucial role in educating, empowering and equipping ourselves and (potential) allies and influencers to enhance and shape anti-racism initiatives in our workplace settings.

EVERYONE has a duty to combat racism (and other forms of discrimination) in the spaces they occupy.  This includes reporting racist incidents when they occur; forming like-minded alliances with peers to tackle key issues; raising awareness and making suggestions for positive reform.  However, this article is aimed primarily at social work employers, educators and key stakeholders.

Typical organisational responses to tackling anti-racism:

From my cultured social work experience, the responses below generally indicate an organisation’s prioritisation and level of commitment (or not) to anti-racism.  However, before any meaningful change can be achieved, social work educators and employers must acknowledge the inherent and intrinsic nature of ‘whiteness’, ‘White fragility’, ‘White privilege’ and white supremacy as subconscious default positions in most (if not all) institutions, structures and organisational cultures.  Individual and organisational awareness is an imperative first step for social workers, social work employers and social work educators to address workplace racism effectively.  “In a [multifaceted] racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist.  We must be anti-racist.”

Broadly, there are 3 typical organisational responses when attempting to tackle racial inequality:

  1. Keep silent, keep things the same and “hope all this Black Lives Matter (BLM) ‘stuff’ just blows over”.  This kind of inaction and paralysis of fear correlates with and reinforces perceptions of ‘White fragility’, ‘White privilege’ and white supremacy for some POC.  This type of organisational response usually commends staff for being resilient and deflects attention away from the essential redesign of systems that routinely make people suffer.
  2. Publish lukewarm organisational statements that recycle and regurgitate previous rhetoric on workforce unity with predictable (and borderline offensive) platitudes – often proposing only superficial changes.  For example, publishing a sympathetic, but non-committal kneejerk brief statement; possibly delegating responsibilities to an already overworked Equalities Officer or proposing minor changes to already vague policies/procedures on ‘valuing diversity’ with little or no accountability.  Approaches at this level are usually well-intended, but tokenistic and overlook the nuanced obstacles and pitfalls POC face every day.  Unfortunately, this response is common.  
  3. Publish an authentic anti-racism action plan outlining significant reforms that commit to specific, measurable, achievable and realistic targets (suggestions below).  For example, publishing a strong mission/position statement condemning George Floyd’s murder and racism in all its forms and committing to BASW’s Code of Ethics, anti-oppressive, anti-discriminatory and anti-racist practice.  This approach interlinks with the ‘Anti-Racist commitment framework’.

The acid test is to share this article with your social work leaders and see what response you get.

Covert, entrenched and everyday racism in the workplace

If the recent news of police officers taking ‘selfies’ beside the bodies of 2 murdered Black sisters; the recent far-right violent protests in London or the racist comments by Suffolk councillors do not outrage you or alert you to the fact that racism is thriving in this country right now – then you really need to consider whether you have sleepwalked into being an opponent of anti-racism.  At the very least, we must be self-aware and honest (with ourselves and others) when our boredom threshold is reached.  This can be subliminal and counterproductive to anti-racism at every level.  Everyday micro-aggressions (including ‘banter’ in the workplace) can fuel violent racist incidents.

The covert, entrenched and everyday racism in the workplace sometimes indicates the lack of quality cultural diversity and multicultural education and training available (to all staff).  Surprisingly, it is rarely acknowledged in social work that race is simply a socially constructed idea with no scientific validity – invented and refined principally to oppress POC.  This has modern and everyday ramifications in the working environment.  Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, Black and ethnic minority practitioners have reported to the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has clearly been prioritised/withheld on occasions for their white colleagues.  Others explained they were made/ordered to visit service-users with suspected COVID-19 (with no PPE and no guidance/support), whilst white managers stayed at the office with ‘their’ supply of PPE and engaged in racist banter.  These perverse experiences can be impossible for victims of ‘naked and slippery’ everyday racism to articulate to others or reconcile internally themselves.  Furthermore, these incidents are normalised and subsumed in many workplace cultures, with limited opportunities to ‘professionally offload’.  In some cases, it’s really not hard to see who the direct descendants of slave-owners are.  With some people, it stands out like a beacon, regardless of what they say and do.

As outlined in my previous article, there is a long [history] of atrocities and brutalities endured by Black and ethnic minority people globally.  ‘Black lives matter’ is an acknowledgment that our lives need to matter more than they have, that society should apportion them equal weighting.  That is why the retort of ‘White’ or ‘All’ Lives Matter in response to BLM is not really comparable or relevant.  Would it be right to ask: “What about colon cancer?” during a discussion about breast cancer?  Or advise a bereaved mother that ‘all lives matter’ at her child’s funeral?  “Save the whales” does not mean other sea life is unimportant.  This is not complex stuff and just requires us to revitalise our basic human qualities – compassion, empathy and humanity.  Factually, unlike the lives of Black and ethnic minority people, white lives have always mattered.  So, to keep proclaiming ‘White lives matter’ adds excessive value to them, tilting us further towards white supremacy.  In hard times, surely it is right to protect and support certain groups – particularly vulnerable ones.  This does not devalue, disadvantage or discredit any other groups; it just raises general awareness and improves the support available to specific groups that require immediate attention.  BLM has its critics, but it is unclear why a movement that promotes equality is demonised by some people who vehemently claim they are not ‘a’ racist.

Anti-racism in social work must be fully considered and dismantled through collaboration with Black and ethnic minority social workers in roles as ‘experts with (personal and professional) lived experience’.  This is the only way that Black and ethnic minority social workers’ basic needs can be properly met and their wide-ranging expertise fully utilised.  Of course, this approach can only improve the experiences of black and ethnic minority service-users too.  It really is just a question of how much of a priority is anti-racism in social work?

So, how can social work employers implement ‘anti-racist practice’ in the workplace?

What might an anti-racist working environment look like?  What can social work employers do to promote anti-racism in the workplace?  What would the experience be like for Black and ethnic minority social workers?  Here is my vision of how this might work in reality:


Anti-racist recruitment targets are set to employ Black and ethnic minority senior leaders and educators to better reflect local communities and the workforce (where necessary/possible).

The ‘Rooney Rule’ is adopted, similar to senior recruitment in American National Football League.  This involves at least one POC candidate being interviewed for each senior leader vacancy. 


Anti-racism is: explicitly promoted in mission/position statements (good example here) along with other forms of anti-discrimination; included in relevant polices/procedures and forms part of employees’ employment contracts to underline its importance. 

The data on workforce diversity and ‘protected characteristics’ (ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality etc) informs the support available for minority groups; training for all staff and organisational policies and procedures.  The workforce is encouraged to self-declare their identity and individual/group wellbeing at work provisions are developed in partnership with them.  Creative wellbeing at work provisions are developed for those who have experienced workplace trauma associated with racism (and other types of discrimination).  This includes peer-led support groups for members to reflect fully on their personal and professional experiences.  Personal wellbeing is a mandatory agenda item for supervision meetings.  By using this ‘identity dashboard’ approach, organisational efforts are more focussed and genuine; progress is properly managed through a cycle of reviewing data output and periodic verbal/written feedback from the workforce.  

Safe and informal systems are introduced for Black and ethnic minority social workers in the workplace.  For example, discriminatory practices or constructive solutions are made anonymously in an ‘honesty box’ to empower POC without fear of reprisals.  Arising issues are then explored in supervision, team meetings or with senior leaders (if necessary).

Annual ethnicity pay audits ensure that any anomalies and discrepancies for Black and ethnic minority staff are properly reviewed and resolved.

The Covid-19 risk assessment is consistently used for all staff (particularly those from Black and ethnic minority groups). 


Anti-racist education is recognised as being at the heart of developing a more cultured and inclusive workforce and healthy workplace.  

Education providers ‘decolonialise’ social work training programmes with the input of black and ethnic minority academics, social workers and service-users integrated at all stages of programme development and delivery. 

Anti-discriminatory, anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice  

form a fundamental and mandatory requirement of social workers professional development and registration.  This includes a range of educational tools and training opportunities (for different learning styles) to ensure quality cultural diversity education is prioritised and valued.  Staff continuously learn and better understand microaggressions, stereotypes and how they can demonstrate anti-racist practice’

The expertise of specialist external trainers and consultants is instrumental in shaping effective anti-racist approaches – with no reliance on tokenistic online courses.  


  • Anti-racist allyship is understood by senior leaders, educators and practitioners to be vital in combating all manifestations of racism.  Educating, empowering and equipping allies to actively support colleagues from marginalised and minority groups is common practice.
  • Allyship actively promotes ways in which managers and staff can become allies or become better allies to support their Black and ethnic minority colleagues.  Social work employers and educators demonstrate they are willing to keep listening and learning from POC to instigate any meaningful change.

Reverse mentoring

  • Anti-racist ‘reverse-mentoring’ enables Black and ethnic minority social workers to mentor senior leaders and educators on anti-racism (especially those with identified ‘anti-racist needs’).  It is important reverse-mentoring allows mentors some autonomy in their approach.  Furthermore, mentoring agreements (considering confidentiality, power dynamics and conflict resolution) are agreed and signed by both parties at the outset.

Leadership programmes

  • To combat ‘glass ceiling racism’, various professional development opportunities are available designed to provide advice/support colleagues from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to enhance their career progression.
  • ‘Positive representation’ recognises the disadvantages and obstacles for POC and provides opportunities (mentoring, nominations, secondments, shadowing etc) to support them in reaching their full potential.  
  • Due to the representational imbalance, ring-fenced investment and operational resources to support leadership programmes is in place.  This addresses the lack of Black and ethnic minority social workers in senior roles and provides support for those who are.  
  • Unsurprisingly, I cannot be detailed or too prescriptive above due to limited space.  Also, the demographics/dynamics in each work setting will vary.  However, my suggestions can be cross-referenced with the ‘Anti-Racist commitment framework’.  The framework’ provides more detail on: accelerating diversity; educating, empowering and equipping people; leading by example and building transparency.  The framework is also compatible with BASW’s Code of Ethics, Working Conditions & Wellbeing Toolkit and mentoring scheme.  

Ok, so what needs to happen nationally?

The existing national frameworks and initiatives to support Black and ethnic minority social workers are fragmented and optional.  This can create confusion and dilution in their coherence and implementation in practice.  Social work has a long history of committing to anti-discriminatory practice, but less in the way of practical mandatory implementation or robust challenge on these issues.  Now is the time for the profession to properly address this.  I (and no doubt many others) would welcome the prioritisation of sector leaders (including the Chief Social Workers, Social Work England, Directors of Social Services and other key stakeholders) to meaningfully and purposefully move this agenda forward to establish a mandatory ‘anti-discriminatory national framework’ that is universal across social work – in collaboration with BASW.  

An important first step, would be to explicitly reintroduce anti-discriminatory, anti-oppressive practices and anti-racist values and ethics into the professional and qualifying education and training standards.  This new regime should involve partnership working between key stakeholders to enforce these values and ethics across the professional landscape.  Key aims/objectives would be to: ensure consistency, introduce mandatory requirements, emphasise ‘anti-racist’ values and be universally applicable to all social workers like the Professional Capabilities Framework and the professional standards.

We all know that organisations can sometimes be avoidant of anti-racism, but as social workers we must recognise that silence (or inaction) on racism is complicity with the oppressors.  Unfortunately, as a profession we have been complacent and have much more to do to cultivate equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and society.  

BASW England is able to provide advice/support; facilitate consultation and deliver training (where possible) to assist social work organisations in implementing the above approach and embedding the ‘Anti-Racist commitment framework’.  For social workers, there are various opportunities through BASW to develop your expertise in this area with our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group, events, branch meetings and training programmes.  Also, BASW England will be leading a Black and Ethnic Professionals Symposium (BPS) for BASW members from 23/07/20 and a forthcoming anthology, so do contact me at or @wayne_reid79 – if you are interested in any of these initiatives.  Many of you will also be aware of our campaign to change the imagery on the KCMG medal and our open letter to the Queen.  BASW will not remain silent on this issue and we implore you to do the same.    

I sincerely hope this article resonates with those with power and influence within social work to rigorously combat racism by integrating a mandatory ‘Anti-racist commitment framework’ (see below).  I am confident that this will embed anti-racist values and ethics into practice (not just theory).  Also, I also hope anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practice can be reaffirmed generally, as sadly, these have slid off the agenda significantly in recent years.

As a footnote, the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (Section 95), contains a section requiring the Home Office (changed to the Ministry for Justice) to annually publish the results of Criminal Courts in England and Wales.  This makes it unlawful for those employed in Criminal Justice System (social work educators and employers) to discriminate on the grounds of ‘ethnic background’.  This is a powerful tool, possibly under-used, by black and ethnic minority professionals and white officers (allies) who identify racism – particularly in social care generally.  This has the potential of legislative support for operational staff who raise the issue of racist practices (where perceived).

Let’s not forget, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”.  The only real enemy of progress is ignorance.  Social justice must prevail.

‘One world, one race… the human race!’

An Ethical Curriculum

Kate Smith portrait

Written by Kate Smith

Compassionate school leader (and former headteacher) with a passion for developing an #ethicalcurriculum.

2020 has been the year that teachers and leaders have faced a plethora of unthinkable challenges and demands. But, despite the pandemic, and the pressure of the current Edu climate, children’s social and emotional development has to remain of the utmost importance in schools. I think now is a pivotal time to be thinking about how well our curriculum is serving our young people.

I recently joined an awesome line up of educators for the third TMBuffet, hosted by the impeccable @Mr_Speighton, and organised alongside @JamesWJCain on GoBrunch. This was a new webinar platform to me, and despite my tech issues and the kids overflowing the hot tub in the garden to distract me, it was easy to navigate and I liked the visual representation of the theatre (although there wasn’t a lot of virtual social distancing going on!) so you could see who was sat in the audience, waving you on. The platform had a great chat function too, so it was easy to interact with your audience and respond to live questions. 

I spoke about why curriculum reform and evaluation is so pertinent right now; what sort of issues and themes are relevant to include when developing an #ethicalcurriculum and shared some practical steps you can use to start designing and implementing a holistic, values based curriculum in your school. We looked at the following steps as a starting point. 

We are navigating complicated times. The pandemic is now exaggerating issues that we still fighting to make headway on. Child poverty is on the rise, racism and discrimination are still rife, there’s been little movement on the gender pay gap and our planet is being neglected. Sounds stark? Well it is. And I’m an optimist! We have a responsibility to our young people to ensure they thrive both academically and holistically in their education and the time is now! 

It may not feel like it, but schools do have considerable freedom over how they deliver their curriculum. Academies, Free Schools and Independent Schools have even more than State Schools, so now more than ever, is a great time to think about whether your current curriculum is serving your children and your community. Curriculum development is a long haul task, but a beautiful one, and an ethically focused curriculum, carefully crafted with the whole team, will mean the children, and the staff and families, will reap the benefits for years to come. 

There are certain subjects in the curriculum that are naturally easier to use as a platform for teaching more ethical topics, such as teaching about climate change through geography, or LGBT relationships through RSE or PSHCE. However, because the themes that are most relevant to teach our children, in terms of enabling them to develop into compassionate, responsible global citizens, are not explicit in the National Curriculum, then it’s down to school leaders and teachers to be creative in interweaving these key themes in, to ensure our pupils are able to create a kinder and more sustainable world. 

I thank the stars the PSHCE is now a statutory subject, however, Global Citizenship is not a required NC subject until KS3. So, if you are interested in teaching global citizenship in primary, then you need to think carefully about how you can interweave themes into the subjects you already teach, or, how you can specifically carve out some time from your (already crammed) timetable. 

As often is the case, the best place to start is by using what you know about your children, your community and your context. What is it they need now, and also, what they are going to need in the future? How can you challenge and strengthen their attitudes, develop their self awareness and equip them with skills, knowledge and understanding to offer them the best life opportunities through your curriculum? 

Each school is contextually unique which I think is what is so special about curriculum development; it’s so bespoke and yet so diverse.

Why teach an #ethicalcurriculum? 

We want to ensure that we are teaching a diverse and colourful curriculum.

We want to ensure we are teaching to promote equity and inclusion for all under represented groups and all of those within the Protected Characteristics Groups

We want to be educating our young people on issues around sustainable living, and the importance of becoming globally minded citizens in order to make the world a kinder place. 

To what extent does your current curriculum amplify these themes, and therefore, how well is your curriculum serving your young people and your community?

Step 1 : Focusing on Relevant and Ethical issues

It’s important for children and young people to see the relevance of what they are being taught, otherwise, what does it all mean for them? Black Lives Matters, The Gender Pay Gap Issue and recent Australian Bushfire Crisis are all recent events to interweave into your curriculum. Teach the children about how the issues effect their families, friends and future. Be aware of what’s going on Globally, Nationally and Locally to inspire you to incorporate relevant and ethical themes into your subjects. Additionally, identify any areas that specifically relate to your context, or that you feel are valuable on a global level.

Start this by creating a list of themes that are of interest to your school’s context. If you don’t have ideas to begin with, take a look at Global Dimension’s website and use this as a starting point to research ethical themes. If you are looking to improve Diverse representation then I’d highly recommend Diverse Educators shiny new website as a one stop shop to signpost you to those who can support you with work around the 9 Protected Characteristics of the Equality Act 2010. Then, consider where these themes would fit into each subject of the curriculum. It’s important to consider the appropriateness of each theme with regards to age, or your school’s context. If you’re keen to teach about equality for example, why not start with exploring gender stereotypes in your Early Years classrooms?

Children are subjected to gender stereotypes very early on. Consider how detrimental this can be?

A basic starting point is to think about issues that are particularly relevant to the context that you are in. There can be two ways of thinking about this: firstly, looking any gaps that you need to fill to improve your ethical curriculum offer: So you might be in a school which has issues with, for example, homophobic attitudes and therefore you need to further develop the value of compassion or respect. Or, you might be in a a school with a large refugee community, therefore, you need to nourish the values of empathy and humanity. Perhaps you’re in a school which is lacking in diversity, and consequently, your values need to promote respect and equality. On the contrary, if you are a school which is doing great work on climate change, or celebrating diversity, then you might want to strengthen your #ethicalcurriculum accordingly through a focus on the values of Leadership or Service.

As a a quick example, just think about specifically teaching about Equity. There are several themes here to be addressed; gender pay gap, global inequality in education, stereotyping, rights for LGBTQI+, racism, social mobility, the justice system, poverty, ableism, the protected characteristics… there are so many imperative topics to be interwoven in the curriculum in this area. Learning about these themes develop the values of self respect, involvement, empathy and advocacy to name a few.

We can do this through the use of children’s literature; through using media and through using lived examples. If you haven’t already used or experienced LYFTA, then I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a beautiful and interactive online platform which support values and citizenship development through exploring lived experiences from all over the world. (Currently, you can access free CPD which enables a term’s subscription for your class, plus a British Council Level 2 CPD certificate upon completion of the webinar and review session.)

Step 2: Using Values to Guide you

Think specifically about which values you want to instill in your children, to allow them to create a kinder more sustainable world for themselves and future generations. The context of the school may influence this greatly and many MATS and Faith/C of E schools often hold their own set of collective values. Values are completely universal, however, the values you choose to focus on can still be specifically relevant to your school context too. So, the best place to start is using what you know about your children, your community. Consider what they need now, and for the future. A great place to start is by inviting your community to join you on your values journey. Share lists of values and ask them to send you the three that they think are most pertinent to them and the school. Many schools have a set of values that they focus on throughout the year; by week, month or even a term at a time. These are then creatively interwoven into assemblies, lessons, conversations, long terms plans etc. In the wise words of Mary Myatt however, ‘ Values must be lived – not laminated.’ So using your values within the curriculum authentically and deeply is the key.

There are hundreds of values to choose from. Which are relevant to you and your setting?

Consider: Which values do you need to nurture in your children, and how are you going to be active in doing that? How can we use our positive influence as teachers and leaders to nurture a school’s collective values and a set of core values for each pupil?

If you are looking to achieve a Quality Award for you work on developing values, then I would highly recommend that you contact The Values Based Education Network who can support you on this process. They also run INSET on how, as a whole school, you can develop your vision and align them with your values. This is such an empowering and enlightening process!

Reframing and Renaming

Renaming the titles of your topics or schemes of work can be incredibly powerful and help you shift your mindset and focus onto the ethical and moral aspect of a topic. You might use a KS1 Geography unit of work on the physical environment to look at the impact of say, Plastic Pollution. Then, reframe the title of your topic to reflect that focus. For example ‘The Blue Planet’ or ‘Saving our planet’, which gives real scope for exploring the effect of plastic pollution on our oceans and environment. If you’re looking at teaching a unit of work on design in DT in KS2, then why not reframe the focus onto the Effect of Fast Fashion and the impact on child labour, therefore developing the value of empathy and agency. If you are teaching about Nutrition in KS3 then can you focus your work on ethical farming, or food poverty, again promoting those values of accountability and collective responsibility.

This Banksy mural, which depicts a young boy toiling over a sewing machine making Union Jack textiles, could be a visual starting point for a lesson around child labor and humanity.

The 5 year-olds we teach now are going to be our future activists, our future humanitarians, our future engineers, our future environmentalists, our future policy makers. The curriculum we teach today is about ensuring that our children and young people thrive in five years, in ten years, in 30 years time. That’s why we have to teach children about physical and mental health, about looking after the environment, developing empathy for others and a desire for social change NOW. In doing so, we will all play our part in creating a kinder, more sustainable world.

Click here to download the slides shared at tm-buffet-2






Thank You Chadwick Boseman

Karl Pupe portrait

Written by Karl Pupé

Qualified classroom teacher with a decade's experience across the Primary, Secondary and Further Education sectors.

Before we returned to school in the midst of all this COVID madness, my partner & I planned a weekend trip to the seaside. Because our foreign holiday was cancelled due to the current crisis, this getaway was the only chance we would see some sun (maybe), sand & just have time to relax.

When I woke up that Saturday morning, looking at my beaten-up iPhone, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I checked my Whatsapp notifications & saw the first part of a message which said “This ain’t right… 2020 is too much.”

Curious, I opened up the message & saw the soulful face of Chadwick Boseman staring at me with a heartbreak emoji next to it.

King T’Challa was dead.

Our superhero was gone.

My chest felt like an invisible hand was pressing firmly against it, like a bouncer denying me entry into a club. That bouncer’s hand didn’t leave until later in the day. I felt like I lost a friend. 

In the midst of getting my child ready, while she was determined to paint her face with her jam-on-toast & my partner forcefully cajoling me with the energy of Jurgen Klopp out the door, the news feeds drip-fed me more information about his passing.

As we know now, the 43-year-old actor was diagnosed with stage 3 colon-cancer BEFORE he took up his legendary role as King T’Challa and silently battled this scourge of a disease for 4 YEARS while filming numerous pictures – how on Earth did he manage that?

As we drove down to the seaside, I just couldn’t shake my sadness… I lightly admonished myself that I didn’t know him personally & I shouldn’t his death so much to heart, but that familiar but unwelcome character called Sadness wouldn’t allow me to drop it. Sadness stood patiently at the door of my heart, waiting for me to talk to him. 

It’s time to break bread.

His Roles Gave Black People A Sense of Pride & Hope

If you have been knocking around my blog for a while, you will realise that:

  1. I am a Black man
  2. I am a fierce believer in Equality, Diversity & Inclusion for ALL people.

While this year has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us, ethnic minorities have taken extra blows to the face in this brawl. Where do we even start?

We could look at COVID19 and how it is 3 times more likely to kill ethnic minorities compared to our European counterparts.

We could look at the murder of George Floyd & the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that spread around the world in the wake of the baked-in institutional racism that blights the whole of modern society. 

Images of black people being brutalised & harassed are never far off our television screens and it doesn’t seem to stop.

We could look at the recent A-Level results fiasco that saw a ‘mutant algorithm’ downgrade BAME & working-class students & until very recently, threatened to destroy the lives of our young people based on their gender, race and UK postcode. We can look at the rise of the Far-Right who in light of ‘Brexit’ have taken it on themselves to hunt the ‘foreigners’ & tell them to ‘leave Engerland alone because we are ful’ up.’

It’s knackering. It’s traumatic. And doesn’t stop.

The images of the Black community that are portrayed in the media are incredibly negative on the whole. We are commonly depicted as downtrodden, poor, aggressive, unintelligent and hypersexualised. Not the people that you want to be around.

Chadwick Boseman’s roles, especially that of King T’Challa was different.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Boseman’s T’Challa leads the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a nation untouched by the claws of slavery & colonisation & the most technologically advanced country on the planet. 

In King T’Challa, they had a leader who was soulful, noble, shrewd, brave & when ready, a fierce warrior who would be willing to do whatever it took to protect his people. T’Challa was also open to admitting his wrongs & actually at the end of Black Panther managed to reconcile the radical views of Erik Killmonger with his own, to create a progressive pathway to uplift all the black communities on the planet.

T’Challa, unlike Killmonger, did not hate other races. He was open to others & willing to learn. Wakanda was a progressive society as the second most powerful character in Wakanda, General Okoye was a woman who could fight with the best of the Avengers. Women were not depicted as mere damsels in distress but smart, intelligent and having agency. 

T’Challa was not subservient to the Avengers, making it clear to Iron Man & Captain America that he was not a man to be trifled with & was determined to walk his own path. 

In an era saturated with black masculine images of gangsters, pimps and hustlers, Boseman presented a black image that, especially our children, had never seen before.

The Black Panther film, no matter how fantastic, was an image of what Africa could be – it was a picture of the potential that we, the Black community, could become. It was a groundbreaking film in so many ways. It gave ethnic minority kids a superhero that looked & sounded like them, proudly and confidently. 

Black Panther made being an African cool. I grew up at the height of Live Aid and Comic Relief, and their condescending images of Africa filled with poverty, malnourished children with flies feasting on their heads and crazy despots in military uniform. 

I remember other kids I grew up with saying “shut-up you African” as an insult. But Chadwick & those that worked on Black Panther changed the zeitgeist bringing African colour, music & culture to billions on the planet.

And fittingly, Chadwick seemed as heroic as the fictional King himself, spearheading & fighting for the film’s integrity and pushing back the biggest film studio on the planet to make sure that Wakanda was represented authentically & respectfully. 

Black Panther director Ryan Coogler recently confirmed that Boseman was a powerful force driving the film & even when the director had doubts about whether the film would work, Boseman’s positivity and confidence encouraged them to keep going, calling the film the Black community’s Star Wars. And that’s how it felt.

Despite being diagnosed with a debilitating and fatal illness, Boseman regularly contacted cancer-stricken kids and visited them in hospital, making them smile & was visibly shaken when they faltered. He knew how much this role inspired ALL children & saw it as a duty to use his image to uplift others. Having seen my own loved ones succumb to the grip of cancer, my mind boggles on how he kept going in the face of such unimaginable pain. That’s honestly superhuman & we can only applaud his strength.

‘We Reminisce Over You’

As I write this, I realise that I am not alone in my feelings. From the Twitter tribe, all the way up to former Presidents, sports giants and movers and shakers of society, Chadwick’s death has sparked mourning and introspection.

Reflecting on his impact on the world, Chadwick represented a possibility that the Black community never had. He helped to bring to life a world where people of colour are not limited by their skin and made us believe that somehow we had that same power within us too.

The drawing above was given to me by one of my year 12’s, a very talented young man called Yusef before he left to chase his dreams to become a comic book illustrator. He gave this to me as he knew from my lessons how passionate I was about how T’Challa should be depicted on-screen. This is now one of my most valued possessions.

We grieve for what he could of went on to achieve & how far he could have gone. Many saw him as our generation’s Denzel Washington or Sidney Poitier. We grieve because we wanted to see what more he could have done & what his artistry could have reflected about us. We all wanted to visit Wakanda with him one more time…

But it wasn’t to be.

Now, I look on that illustration with fondness, knowing that Chadwick Boseman, made this black-and-white image come alive on the big screen, giving joy to millions and still retaining his humility, grace and dignity until the very end.

Boseman is not a god – he was very much human with flaws and character quirks. But with his talent and belief, he made the world a slightly better place – and we need that energy now more than ever.

For all the teachers out there, children cannot be what they cannot see. They have to see heroes that live the virtues that we are trying to teach them. We may not be superheroes ourselves, but in our own little ways, we can shine a light of possibility into their worldviews. That’s a sacred trust that we must use wisely.

Representation matters. And Chadwick represented us to the fullest.

May GOD bless you & keep you Chadwick.

Rest in Power, King and thank you for your service.


Originally published on on 31st August 2020.


Race & Equality – 5 Questions for Every Headteacher

Viv Grant portrait

Written by Viv Grant

Director of Integrity Coaching

Like many, following the death of George Floyd, I was swamped by almost daily waves of emotion. I heard someone the other day that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. It was how I felt too. It was as though my whole nervous system experienced some kind of historical trauma.

The flagrant disregard for the life of a black person brought up many painful memories from my past, of times when I was made to feel “less than” simply because of the colour of my skin. 

Swallowing the pain of racism

As a young black woman growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, incidents of racism were peppered throughout my life. When I was 15, I was told by my careers teacher that my aspiration of becoming a nursery nurse was too high and I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket instead.

On another occasion, I was reprimanded for talking in class and told to “go outside and swing on the trees, like my friends and relatives the monkeys do”. Complaining or expressing my hurt was never an option, so I simply learned to swallow the pain.

Despite my school experiences, in 1988 I decided to train as a teacher. 

In my first year, I was introduced to the work of Bernard Coard, and his research on “How the West-Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School Education System.

It was not the lecturer’s intention, but as the only black student in my year, I felt a deep shame and discomfort when she read excerpts from his book that matched so closely with my own experiences of the British education system. For the majority of the white trainee teachers, Coard’s work was simply an academic treatise. For me it was personal. 

I come from a black, working-class family. Social and economic deprivation and racial inequality were the backdrop for my childhood years. No one in the lecture hall shared my story. 

As the lecturer read how the structure and design of the British education system had led to many black children underachieving and living with a hidden, yet deep, sense of inferiority, it felt as though she was shining a light on my own hurt, leaving my bruised and conflicted inner world for all to see.

I wanted to get up and leave the lecture hall. I didn’t, but I spent four years at teacher training college wanting to escape. I was tired of being in the minority, tired of being on the outside, tired of fearing that I could never truly achieve in a system that had only ever seen black children as a problem. 

Low expectations for black pupils

When I eventually qualified as a teacher, I taught at schools in Brixton and Stockwell. One of them was on the border of a road that had been a flashpoint for the Brixton riots in the late 1980s.

It was a time when, just as we have seen in recent weeks, black people protested against the level of police brutality exhibited towards them. And it was here, at this school, where I faced some of the worst levels of racism.

It was a one-form entry Church of England primary school, where the majority-white teachers believed they were there to save the black children. Expectations for them were incredibly low. 

In the early days, children spoke down to me. Why? Because the only other black staff were cleaners, and, on a daily basis, pupils witnessed the derogatory ways their white teachers spoke to them (and to me) and so it perhaps seemed inconceivable that I could be there to teach them.

There were times when I cried in the staff toilets because teachers referred to black boys as “gorillas” and I found my own voice stifled by staffroom hostility when I tried to counter these abhorrent views.

Despite all of this, within six years I rose to the position of headteacher at this school. I used my position to bring about change and ensure that high expectations, a sense of pride and achievement were a reality for every black child at the school.

Quest for change

If ever there was a time for education leaders of all hues to seize the moment and do the same, it is now. Bernard Coard’s conclusions still reverberate around our education system today. 

It has not been easy for me to process the emotional pain that has arisen as a result of recent events. But I am continuing to lean into the pain because I know that if I don’t, I limit my own capacity for change; not only for myself, but also for my children and my children’s children.

School leaders have to go on a similar quest. It is perhaps the most difficult quest a leader can take because it will require them to explore issues of identity and integrity and what they truly mean in the context of their own school settings.

It will require them to have difficult conversations and face uncomfortable truths about themselves and their schools. Yet it is these sorts of conversations that truly define leadership and are fundamental to growth and positive change.

Furthermore, it’s only by leaning into the uncomfortable spaces and finding help and support that something new, something better, can be brought to life.

This is what true moral and ethical leadership is about. And it is only by going on this journey that school leaders can effectively model what leadership for racial equality and social justice really look like.

In order to navigate this journey, perhaps for the first time, leaders will have to ask themselves:

  1. Am I willing to listen to the black communities’ stories of pain, discrimination and hurt?
  2. Am I prepared to let down my defences and look at my own unconscious biases?
  3. Am I willing to engage with the weighty feelings and emotions that are a necessary part of this terrain?
  4. Am I willing to shine a light on every single aspect of my school and our education system and call out all the policies and practices that have limited the progress of black children and black educational professionals?
  5. In this struggle for racial equality and social justice, what is mineto do?

In my 30-plus years in education, I have seen how an unwillingness to truthfully engage with these questions has hampered progress for all. However, this time I hope things will be different.

In the months and years ahead, black parents will be looking at their children’s schools and wondering whether school leaders have truly heard the deep, searing cry that has shot through the black community for racism to be eradicated.

They will be looking for evidence that their child’s experience of school will be different and that the dreams they hold dear for their children are also held by those who teach them.

We can do better and we must do better. This is a defining moment for our education system; for our black children and black teachers to see that their lives really do matter.

Inclusive Allyship

Yamina Bibi portrait

Written by Yamina Bibi

English Teacher and Assistant Headteacher

This is my speech from the virtual @DiverseEd conversation on 17th October 2020. 


Whenever I want to go ‘out out’, I think about my outfit, which colour scarf will match the outfit and the perfect handbag that will enhance that outfit. The handbag might be a large or a small bag. It might have many compartments or just have the one for my phone and purse. My handbags change according to whatever it is I’ve decided to wear that day. 


Sometimes, it feels to me like some organisations treat diversity and inclusion like it’s a handbag, picking and choosing the one that enhances their ‘outfit’ for that occasion.
 Do we just pick the protected characteristic that suits us or are we inclusive allies for every community that we say we represent? Are we committed to anti-discriminatory work in order to be the inclusive allies that we say we are? If so, how is this evident in every sphere of our organisation?


As a visibly muslim female leader, I have experienced workplaces where I have been one of a few Muslim women being represented at a middle and senior leadership level. I have known organisations where SLT are made up of male and or female white heterosexual leaders who claim to be inclusive allies but each time there’s a senior leadership role, it’s the same type of person that gets the job.


Can we truly call ourselves inclusive allies if our leadership teams do not reflect the staff and students we lead and represent? Can we be allies if we do not stand shoulder to shoulder with all marginalised groups and communities and actively ensure their voices are represented and heard? Can we call ourselves inclusive allies if we only stand and advocate for the rights of one community over the rights of other communities? 


A few years ago I realised the importance of inclusive allyship in the workplace when I had wonderful white allies advocating for my voice to be heard as a visibly Muslim British woman. I noticed its power when I had colleagues from different communities such as LGTBQ+ community standing shoulder to shoulder with me and others from my community. I particularly noticed how important was for me that, when I spoke about the islamophobia I faced and the way I felt as a Brisih Muslim woman in the workplace, I was listened to and supported by white allies. 


I also noticed the power of inclusive allyship when I stood and spoke to my students at an assembly for LGBT week alongside my colleague, Nick Bentley, about the power of intersectional and inclusive allyship. When a BAME student came to me to disclose that they identified as non-binary and they came to tell me because of an assembly I led on gender identity, I realised the power of representation and inclusive allyship. 


We cannot underestimate the power of representation and the power of being allies because in so doing, students and staff are taught that who they are matters. They know that they bring their authentic selves to school and work and there is someone who will be recognise them and advocate for them regardless of whether they are from the same community or not.


 I am very aware that my current workplace, where my Headteacher is a Muslim woman and where the Senior Leadership Team include BAME leaders, LGBTQ+ leaders and mothers, is different but it shouldn’t be. It should be the norm if we are truly dedicated to diversity and inclusion.


As a result of the diversity of my school, I am longer afraid to show up as my authentic self because I have allies who support me and advocate for me. 
I also look to actively and positively promote others from diverse backgrounds as a leader to ensure that diversity, inclusion and representation are not just words on our school walls or our School Development Plans but are lived by us all. 


At my school, we are aware that there is still work to be done in ensuring that we are truly representative of our staff body. 
We must actively promote and be held accountable for our anti discriminatory work if we are to call ourselves allies. 


So what can we do to ensure that allyship is not just another handbag we pick up when it matches our outfit?


Schools should provide coaching for members of marginalised groups and communities to help them develop professionally and to ensure they have someone whose key role includes eliciting the brilliance from within them

  • Actively partake in anti-discriminatory work and provide unconscious bias training for all staff regularly so we can recognise our own biases and challenge ourselves and each other to check our biases 
Provide opportunities for people from under presented groups to be seen and heard through in all spaces

  • Ensure the curriculum celebrates diversity and inclusion and is embedded in all we do. I am done with seeing curriculums where marginalised communities are always victims, enslaved or need rescuing by someone with privilege and power such as a white heterosexual man. While it is important to remember the hurt and horrors of past experiences, we need to also show our students and staff that diversity and inclusion is a part of any successful society. We must usualise this. We need to celebrate excellence within all communities and we need to scrutinise our curriculum and our organisational values and be held accountable for the narratives we are advocating through our curriculum.
Organise assemblies and events where colleagues stand shoulder to shoulder to show that inclusive allyship is the way forward in creating a society where everyone is welcome, represented and encouraged to thrive.


Let’s stop picking up D&I like it’s a handbag and ensure it’s a staple item in every organisation by standing with all communities in our words but most importantly, in our actions!



Emotional Intelligence - A Dichotomous Variable?

Pen line drawing

Written by Aini Butt

‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.’


John Dewey wrote this distress signal over 100 years ago. Although it is more relevant now than it has ever been, once again it is being ignored.


As media brands students ‘The Lost Generation’ who will be ‘scarred for life’, The Sun’s leader column adds how ongoing school closures are a ‘scandal’, which ‘shames this nation’ because children continue to be deprived of an education while left to ‘flounder at home’. As refreshing it may be that The Sun has taken it upon itself to fight our students’ corner, fighting for a return to education as we know it, may not be in their best interest.


Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced on 3rd July 2020 that schools have been asked ‘to resume a broad and ambitious curriculum’, which was followed up in the same sentence with the expectation that exams are to go ahead as ‘normal’ in the summer of 2021. Furthermore, formal OFSTED inspections are to resume from January 2021 with no clarity regarding performance tables. How are schools to facilitate a ‘broad and ambitious curriculum’ when there is an unrealistic expectation to return to normal; whatever this ‘normal’ might mean in a (post-)pandemic educational context. To add to the irony, new government advice published on 2nd July states that schools should be using ‘existing flexibilities’ and ‘cover the most important missed content’ while advising that it may be ‘appropriate to suspend some subjects’ if students can ‘achieve significantly better in their remaining subjects…especially in GCSE English and mathematics.’ This was interpreted by the media as ‘Schools can ditch art and drama’ and ‘focus on Maths & English’, which isn’t far from what Dewey described as reducing ‘the material of education so largely to a diet of predigested materials.’ 


Once again, we are being directed towards an ‘industrial model of education’ to ensure that students are prepared for their exams in 2021 and the values reinforced through these decisions display a total disregard for the students’ needs regarding their long-term education. If Covid-19 has taught us anything at all, it is the fact that we do not know what the future holds; therefore, this relentless emphasis on academic achievements and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) should be shifted towards the development of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and resilience to equip students with the skills to recognise emotions and use this knowledge to tackle daily challenges. 


In society, and particularly educational and professional settings, IQ has been extensively researched and used in reference to mathematical and verbal ability to reproduce the deep-rooted belief that IQ determines academic success. However, Daniel Goleman brought the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) to educators’ attention and argued that IQ only contributes 20% to an individual’s success, while the remaining 80% is down to self-management and interpersonal skills, which are key components of EI. Although the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ has not been exempt from criticism, it cannot be denied that developing its key facets is beneficial for all students.

Goleman argues that the five components of EI (self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation) are all capabilities that can be developed. Self-awareness and self-regulation are two components that go hand in hand with each other. Recognising and understanding one’s emotions and those of others while regulating them in an appropriate manner enables students to manage conflict and prevent the ‘emotional hijacking’ of the brain, which is our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. It is these emotional reactions that are drawn upon to argue that the term EI is a dichotomous variable in terms of intellectual capacity. However, schools can and should actively teach students how to recognise their emotions and those of others and support the development of their appropriate expression. 

As students return to schools, it is crucial that we foster an empathetic environment to allow expression of and reflection upon their lived experiences – their realities- of lockdown. Such an environment can be facilitated through a philosophical approach.

Philosophy is a tool to reflect and analyse various perspectives; therefore, engaging students in a philosophical inquiry will promote a classroom culture where individuals’ diversity of thought is acknowledged and reflected upon. Philosophy for Children (P4C) was founded in 1960s by Professor Matthew Lipman to facilitate opportunities for independent thinking and reflection as he believed that the educational system was not teaching students how to think.


Jana Mohr Lone- director and founder of the University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children also found that children as young as four were able to hold philosophical thoughts but their ability to think was being underestimated and their natural curiosity was not drawn upon to extend their questioning.


Philosophy for Children (P4C) creates opportunities for students to understand that things can be perceived in various ways while also exploring the values, thought and beliefs underpinning these views through questioning and reasoning. Students are encouraged to assess their perspectives and reaffirm or alter their views upon critical self-reflection. Educators need to equip themselves with the tools to facilitate safe spaces for students to share their lived realities. P4C is one of the many evidence-based pedagogical strategies to promote EI in the classroom as the teacher becomes the facilitator and allows critical thinking and individuality to flourish through tension-filled learning dialogues. Research published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in 2015 found that P4C has a positive impact on pupils’ confidence to speak, their listening skills, self-esteem and attainment of 7 to 11year olds, particularly those of disadvantaged backgrounds. 


In the latest ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’, the words ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘vulnerable’ (in context of pupils rather than medical) have been used up to twenty times. 


If the government has a desire to address the ever-widening attainment gap, it needs to promote ‘an education system that enables them to thrive, a democracy that gives them voice, an economic system that rewards their skills and talents and a welfare system that supports them during a time of need (Khan, S.,2020). We need to ensure that our students are equipped with the right balance between academic skills and emotional intelligence, which will not be attained by reverting to a narrow curriculum where core subjects are prioritised. Therefore, as Sir Ken Robinson says, ‘The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it,’ and ‘recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process.’


As we try to envision what a post-Covid19 future may look like, we need to pay heed to Dewey’s words and question the emphasis we put on IQ while downplaying the role of EQ. This notion of ‘preparing our students for the future’ fails to recognise their emotional state in response to their daily lived experiences of harsh realities, such as: poverty, abuse, racism, sexism, bullying etc. Oxfam’s Teaching Controversial Issues’ guide for teachers recommends the use of P4C as it provides ‘an ideal framework for teaching controversial issues.’ Through P4C, we need to create safe spaces within our classrooms to ensure that we allow students to articulate these difficult truths and support the development of self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy to enable them to respond appropriately to a competitive and harsh society. 


We need to ‘cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life.’  

Growing Up Autistic and Undiagnoses

Teona Studemire portrait

Written by Teona Studemire

Writer and college student majoring in Library Sciences.

Trigger Warning: This post will discuss trauma around bullying and the ableist slurs “dumb,” “slow,” and “stupid.” These words will not be censored and may be repeated throughout as well as contain references to other ableist insults.


The summer before 7th grade, I was moved to South Georgia. I would only end up staying there for all of three and a half years but that short period of time made a huge mark on my life and who I was as a person.


For years prior to this move, I was severely bullied from the second I started Pre-Kindergarten through every single year of public school afterward. I thought that this move would mean things would change and that I could “reinvent” myself so to speak. I mean, no one seemed to ever like me and I only had a handful of friends (who weren’t very good ones by the way). The year before my move, I was going to this siditty “school of the arts” downtown. The population was pretty white and I felt like the token black friend amongst all of my peers. Moving, although jarring and painful, at first seemed like a nice silver-lining.


When I got there, I soon realized nothing had changed except the people and the scenery. The same bullying that took place in Florida started up again when I stepped foot in the marshland city I would reside for three years. People just… didn’t like me. I tried so hard to appeal to others but no one ever really properly understood me. I’d say things that came out all wrong even though my brain knew exactly what I meant but my mouth wasn’t on the same page. I had other girls wanting to fight me just because they could and everyone thought it was funny. I didn’t want to fight. I didn’t even understand how I ended up in a position to fight anyways. One second I’m on the bus and the next I’m in a field surrounded by other students egging another girl on to pull my hair out.


I just wanted to go home.


I thought going home would be a reprieve from the bullying I constantly had to deal with at school. How do you get away from bullying when you just seem to find it behind the front doors of your home?


I used to deal with constantly being picked on by my mom’s ex husband. When I would forget things or misunderstand something he was always quick to call me dumb and tell me that I was having a dumb blonde moment. I constantly had to hear “duh!” several times a day every day when I asked something that he deemed a “stupid” question. Since the answer wasn’t obvious to me, I had to be the problem. He insulted my intelligence often and laughed about it like it was some funny joke.


I didn’t get the punch line.


I remember he used to throw my trauma in my face and act like my suicidal ideations or threats to run away were all for attention. He never paused to actually ask me about it. No one did.


It was just assumed that none of it was real. That I wasn’t struggling to find reasons to live everyday even if it were small ones. I would have walked out into the woods in the middle of the night and never came back because that at least seemed like what everyone would have wanted from me. I mean, everyone made me feel unwanted and like I shouldn’t exist.


I was struggling to feel my place in a world that didn’t seem like there was a spot for me because I was dumb and I was stupid and I didn’t fit in anywhere.


I didn’t realize I was autistic or had adhd until a year or so ago. I never really connected the dots between my neurodivergent brain symptoms and my lack of true connection and understanding with neurotypical people. I thought I was just weird and extremely misunderstood. I was always being picked on and bothered for things that were out of my control. I thought I was just walking around with a huge target on my forehead that said “pick on me!!!”


When I started making friends with more autistic and/or adhd folks, suddenly I felt my place. I felt understood like this entire time I was speaking a different language and I finally found others who could understand what I was saying. It started out simple, seeing different memes about ADHD and ASD symptoms and relating to… almost all of them. Then I started seeing more people talking about their symptoms and it was like a million light bulbs started going off in my brain and endless repetitions of “that’s me!” every single day.


I wasn’t dumb or stupid or whatever. I was just constantly being held to a neurotypical standard my brain couldn’t function at and I didn’t see it because my brain couldn’t even tell that there was something different about itself. I mean, I knew I was different but not in the “your brain functions differently” way.


I realized I’ve been stimming my whole life and I regularly go nonverbal, sometimes as a trauma response and other times because talking is too overwhelming and exhausting. I’ve had so many hyperfixations that lasted an uncomfortable amount of times and my brain is a chaotic mess filled with swirling thoughts and intervals of emptiness.


Even knowing what I know now and feeling the comfort and safety that comes with at least knowing that it wasn’t my fault for walking around so misunderstood, it doesn’t erase or begin to help with unpacking the trauma that comes with being neurodivergent in a world that expects everyone to be neurotypical and held to neurotypical standards.


I will never get back the years of my life I spent being torn down and brutalized. The scars on my self esteem and self confidence are six feet deep. I often find myself beating myself up for not getting something or for forgetting something or for my brain wandering off. For hyperfixating and stimming and infodumping…


All the things that make me autistic and adhd were things I’ve been called dumb for for so long that sometimes I can’t help but think that maybe I am and have been this whole time but you know what?


I don’t owe anyone some extreme amount of intelligence and talent. I don’t owe anyone the autistic savant trope. I don’t owe shit to anyone so even if I were all of those horrible slurs and more, it wouldn’t diminish my worth, right to respect and basic human decency.


#DiverseEd Virtual Conference - Reflections

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Yesterday, Bennie Kara and I, the co-founders of #DiverseEd hosted our latest virtual event. Bennie is a Deputy Headteacher in the Midlands, and soon to be published author. I am a former Headteacher – we founded a values-based school with Diversity as a core value.

If you missed the event you can view the broadcast via Twitter here or Youtube here.

Panel 1: Diverse Children

Amanda Jane Carter-Philpott – a campaigner for inclusivity – shared her work with refugee children – encouraging us to consider the labels we use and the approaches we need to take to be both inclusive and trauma-informed.

Anton Chisholm – a Maths teacher – reflected on his experience as a black student and now black male teacher, sharing some of the stark workforce statistics. He shared a letter sent by a group of students asking their high-performing school to become actively anti-racist.

David Hermitt – a MAT CEO – shared his trust-wide approach to responding to the impact of COVID-19 on the children with protected characteristics his schools serve. He also suggested how trusts can deploy their diverse staff to enable more children to see visible role models.

Lisa Stephenson – the Founder of the Storymakers Company, one of our partners – encouraged us to consider how we can diversify storytelling to amplify pupil voices. Sharing the pupils’ feedback on their experience of co-creating their own stories emphasised the powerful impact the process had had on them.

Nic Ponsford – the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of our latest partner, GEC, challenged us to think about representation and how our biases are formed. The GEC app and #SmashingStereotypes campaign are some of the practical steps schools can take.

The threads, for me, from part 1 were the need for visibility of diversity, how we can increase and amplify diverse role models and who has voice in our school system.

Part 2: Diverse Curriculum

Amardeep Panesar – a Headteacher – shared her leadership of cultural competency in her school to develop her pupils’ ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures by being aware of one’s own world view.

Christopher Richards – an international teacher in Spain – addressed the lack of diversity in textbooks and encouraged us to identify the gaps of who is invisible. He urged us to consider the voices being silenced through their absence.

Laila El-Metoui – a consultant and Stonewall Champion – shared her vision for a compassionate and trauma-informed curriculum. She reminded us that visibility and representation are needed every day, all year long. Moreover, that ESOL funding + provision of digital devices are important to ensure all children are supported to access the curriculum.

Sufian Sadiq – a Teaching School Director – emphasised that inclusivity needs to be part of the ethos and culture of the school, not just another box to tick, and it needs to be done in a way that adds value. He urged us to reflect on the micro and macro pictures of diversity and inclusion in the local context and to use the dominant characteristic in your setting as a catalyst for exploring other ones.

Penny Rabiger – our partner speaker for Lyfta – spoke poetically about the power of human storytelling. She invited us to get curious about each other and ask us to share our stories with each other. She is also introduced us to a new word: ‘Firgun (פירגון)’ an informal modern Hebrew term & concept in Israeli culture: genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of the other person.

The threads, for me, from part 2 were for us to consider our perspective, to explore human storytelling and to create opportunities for all stakeholder groups to be catalysts for change.

Part 3: Diverse Staff

Abena Akuffo-Kelly – a Head of Computing/ ICT and Councillor – unpacked her intersectional identity. As she peeled back each layer, she shared the challenges and conflicts of each circle she sits in.

Javay Jeff Welter – a MFL teacher – addressed the lack of diverse males in teaching and asked us to challenge the lack of visible role models. Reflecting on the lack of representation at every layer of the education system he challenged us to consider how we can meaningfully diversify the school workforce.

Lily Bande – a PSHE lead teacher and Councillor – encouraged us all to challenge inequality and discrimination as we see and hear it, by being upstanders and not bystanders, by being consistent in our commitment to making a difference.

Yamina Bibi – an Assistant Headteacher – shared the analogy of diversity not being a handbag that we pick and choose. She spoke passionately about inclusive allyship and how we each need to consider our power and our privilege to address inequities in our workplaces to give voice to those who are marginalised.

Tasha Fletcher – an international teacher – was our partner speaker for Teaglo. Joining us from Uzbekistan, she shared a A-Ha moment during lockdown. Tash was a central voice in the #DailyWritingChallenge and joined me at an #IamRemarkable workshop where we unpack our relationship with self-promotion. Her call to action was there is no better time than now for us to stand up and be counted.

The threads, for me, from part 3 provoked reflections on authenticity, allyship and the call to be upstanders.

Part 4: Diverse Schools

Andrew Moffat – a trust Personal Development Lead and the founder of the ‘No Outsiders’ campaign – reminded us that diversity is not a single issue (one protected characteristic) work but the need for true equality in context – the desired outcome of everyone being equal, everyone being welcome in our schools.

Ebanie Xavier-Cope – a Year 6 teacher and KS2 lead – shared her sobering story of dealing with racism as a teacher. Her distressing experience highlights the need for systemic change – she emphasised that schools need to address these incidents, not the individual who is the victim. The racism she has experienced has galvanised her passion for change and she is leading on projects to re-educate her school community.

Jared Cawley – an international teacher in The Netherlands – talked about the importance of feeling safe in your school, how diverse people can be celebrated not just tolerated. Being given opportunities to thrive, include creating cultures where diverse people can bring their whole selves to work.

Sajid Gulzar – a MAT CEO and OBE recipient – shared his thoughts on talent management and how we need to create open cultures and transparent conversations to have the difficult conversations. From recruitment, to retention to talent-spotting he shared some of the thinking and conversations his team have been having about how to commit to a system wide strategy.

Professor Vini Lander – our partner speaker from the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality, encouraged us to create a safe space for all of our children as racism is a safeguarding issue. Race and racism has to matter to all educational leaders because our CYP are demanding that their teachers are conversant in and cognisant of all matters related to race. Her call to arms was for “courageous leadership” to move beyond the status quo and to commit to being ”Racially literate”.

The threads, for me, from part 4 centred around safety and the need to create safe spaces where everyone in our schools can be themselves, where our commitment to inclusion is for our staff as well as our children, and the call for us to be courageous leaders in our commitment to this work.

A massive thank you to everyone who contributed to the event, your contributions were phenomenal. Thank you also to our partners for supporting the event, to my co-host Bennie and wingman (behind the scenes) Richard and to the audience for joining us – your engagement, reflections and questions brought the virtual event to life.

At the end of the event we invited everyone to revisit their #MyDiverseEdPledge from June and to make a new one – please do make a commitment for something you can actively make happen in our collective responsibility to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in schools.

If you have not yet visited our #DiverseEd website the quick link is here.

You can sign up for our monthly #DiverseEd newsletter here.

You can submit a blog for us to publish here.

We will let you know the details for how you can contribute to the Diverse Educators book and will update on the Diversity in Governance series once they are live.

Finally, Bennie and I are hosting Diversity Masterclasses during half-term on October 29th for Teachers, Leaders and Governors if you would like to join us.


Student leadership programmes and celebrating diversity: students as drivers of change

Sadie Hollins portrait

Written by Sadie Hollins

Students are drivers of change. As educators I’m sure we can all think of times when students have been the key stakeholder that affected positive change in our schools, whether that be at the classroom level or at a schoolwide level. I have felt fortunate to witness a number of our students make a stand, whether it be fighting for the rights of the student body as a whole, or coming together to support a member of their peer group facing a particular challenge, such as ‘coming out’. This is student leadership.


I have been in awe of what our Student Council has been able to achieve in terms of the quality of events they plan and host, and the fundraising projects they have created. As well as how the Student Executive Board works together along with class and year group representatives for the Student Council to discuss ideas and how they might be implemented in the school. This is student leadership.


Students drive change.


It struck me recently that often this instinct to drive change comes intuitively to students. School is such an important and informing experience for young people to learn about leadership, and for some may be the only ‘organisation’ they experience being a part of until they reach university or work. How we define leadership, and how we lead as staff, will indirectly inform students how leadership works. For better or worse. 


Schools offer many leadership opportunities for students to be a part of, including captaining sports teams, editing school magazines, holding positions such as prefects, student mentors, peer tutors, Student Council members, and many more. However, a lot of these opportunities tend to be most readily undertaken by students that excel in some form, whether that be academically, socially, or physically. A lot of the time students that take on these roles are the ‘good’ students. This in turn can send a message to other students about what leadership is. Leadership is for ‘good’ students. 


A lot of these roles don’t come with any ‘Leadership’ training for the role, so it’s often implied that you learn by doing. Whilst I think there is a lot of merit to this approach, I feel that if we work with students to help them define what Leadership means to them and help them (all of them) develop their skills, perhaps we can empower a bigger portion of our student body to drive change.


Last year we started 2 different Student Leadership programmes (Level 2 and 3 Leadership programmes from Sports Leaders UK) in our school. We’ve just begun the Level 2 course with our new Year 11 cohort, and this week we got students to rate themselves according to the different Leadership skills outlined in their course booklets (communication, teamwork, organisation, problem-solving, etc). One of the areas that they had to rate themselves on, and explain a little more why they had given themselves their score, was ‘self-belief’. When going around and looking at their work I was struck by how many students had rated themselves so lowly in this area (scoring themselves less than 5 out of 10) which made me feel a little sad. How can students drive change or lead (or push themselves forward in whatever they choose) if they don’t believe in themselves? We can’t ‘magic’ ourselves into developing a greater sense of self-belief, but we can gain it through experiencing challenges and getting through them (imperfectly). I also wonder if this lack of self-belief sometimes comes from comparing ourselves to the narrow view of what a successful student (or adult) is – normally the best of the best.


The hope for our leadership course is that we can challenge students to redefine what a good leader is, and for them to realise their own leadership potential. We all need and want different types of leaders for all types of situations – we just need to empower students to believe that they could be the leader that someone else needs. 


In order to create a school (and organisation) that appreciates and celebrates diversity, we need to empower students to feel confident in who they are and drive the change they wish to see. Our job as teachers is also to be genuine and open about who we are, and model to our students that we all have the ability and power to affect positive change.