Section 28: 20 Years On

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Yesterday marked 20 years since Section 28 was repealed whilst also celebrating Trans Awareness Week. There is a brilliant thread on X here breaking down the key information all educators should know about this piece of problematic legislation which weaponised an identity group.

20 years ago, I had joined the teaching profession as a NQT at a boys’ school in Kent.

Homophobia was an issue.

I cannot remember having any training on my PGCE or in my NQT year about prejudice-based behaviour.

I cannot remember Section 28 being mentioned in either training programmes either.

After a year, I moved to London for a Head of Year role at a boys’ school in Surrey.

Homophobia was an issue.

But I felt more empowered to tackle it and I delivered the ‘Some People Are Gay – Get Over It! assemblies from Stonewall.

After three years, I then moved to a co-ed school in Mitcham.

Homophobia was an issue.

But we had strong whole school behaviour systems and consistent accountability so we tried to keep on top of it.

I also leveraged my pastoral and my curriculum leadership responsibilities to educate and to challenge the attitudes of our students.

After six years, I moved to a co-ed school in Morden as a Senior Leader (still in the same trust).

Homophobia was an issue.

But we had zero tolerance to discrimination and robust behaviour systems in place so we chipped away at it.

Three years later I relocated to Oxfordshire to be a Headteacher of a secondary school and Executive Headteacher of a primary school.

Homophobia was an issue.

But as a Headteacher with a committed SLT and visible role models, we hit it head on.

One of my favourite assembly moments in my twenty years in education was Bennie’s coming out assembly at our school. The courage and vulnerability she embodied as she shared the personal impact of the harmful attitudes, language and behaviour humanised the problem. We braced ourselves for the fallout, for the criticisms, but she was instead enveloped with love and respect by our community instead.

20 years on… six schools later…

Thousands of students… thousands of staff… thousands of parents and carers…

Homophobia was an issue – in every context, in every community, to a lesser or greater extent we have had to tackle prejudice and discrimination directed explicitly at the LGBTQ+ community.

Since leaving headship I have run a PGCE, consulted for national organisations, trained staff in schools, colleges and trusts (in the UK and internationally), coached senior leaders.

I am not a LGBTQ+ trainer – we have experts with lived experience who train on that. I speak about DEI strategy, inclusive cultures, inclusive language, inclusive behaviours and belonging. Yet, in every training session the experience of the LGBQT+ community comes up. It comes up especially with educators who started their careers in schools pre-2003 who talk about the shadow it has cast over them. It comes up with those starting their careers in schools asking when at interview you can ask if it is okay to be out.

Section 28 may have been repealed, we may be 20 years on, but have we really made any progress when it comes to tackling homophobia in our schools, in our communities and in our society?

Homophobia was and still is an issue.

As a cisgender, heterosexual woman homophobia has not personally impacted me. I have never had to hide my sexuality. I have been able to talk openly about who I am in a relationship with. I have not had to navigate assumptions, bias nor prejudice when it comes to who I date, who I love and who I commit to. This is a privilege I am aware of, but that I have also taken for granted.

A ‘big gay assembly’ may have been one of my professional highlights, but one of my personal low points was going on a night out to a gay club in Brighton in my early thirties, and my gay male friend being beaten up in the toilets in a supposed safe space by a homophobic straight man.

This is the reality for a lot of people I care about. Family, friends and colleagues who do not feel safe in our society. Members of my network who often do not feel safe in our schools.

It is our duty to ensure that our schools, our system and our society are safe for people to just be.

To be themselves… to be accepted… to be out at work (should they wish to be)… to be in love… to be able to talk about their relationships and their families…

It is our duty to ensure that we see progress in the next 20 years – as we are seeing a scary global regression of LGBTQ+ rights.

It is our duty to counter the current rhetoric – especially when it comes from our politicians who are weaponizing the LGBQT+ community.

It is our duty to challenge the haters and the trolls – if we as educators do not tackle it, then who else will?

Our gay students, staff, parents and carers need us to be allies. They need us to stand up, to speak out and to say this is not okay, this is enough.

Some signposting for organisations and resources to support you and your school:


  • Schools Out UK – they run LGBT History month and we collaborate on activities.
  • Educate and Celebrate – they ran our LGBTQ+ training and school award for us.
  • LGBTed – we hosted their launch at our very first #DiverseEd event.
  • No Outsiders – we collaborate with them and celebrate their work.
  • Pride and Progress – we partner with them and support their work.
  • Just Like Us – we collaborate with them and amplify their Inclusion Week.
  • Diversity Role Models – we collaborate with them and amplify their great resources.
  • There are lots of other brilliant organisations and individuals working this space listed in our DEI Directory here.







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Why students should be taught the truth about Remembrance

Selena Carty portrait

Written by Selena Carty

Cultural and Ancestral Genealogist, Global War Heritage Specialist, Identity and Empowerment Consultant and Founder of BlackPoppyRose.

I was recently asked by the British Army to contribute to its new set of school resources on Remembrance. As the founder of BlackPoppyRose, I accepted the opportunity. My aims are to enlighten all people of the contributions of African, Black, West Indian, Caribbean Pacific Islands and Indigenous communities to history in wars/revolutions and rebellions.  

So, let me ask you a question: How do you mark Remembrance Day? For me, I remember Albert Carty who served in World War I in the No’2 Construction Battalion. After arriving in the UK, he travelled across England and Scotland as part of the lumberjack battalion. He returned home after the war and became a father to seven sons. Five went on to join the Royal Canadian Airforce and served in World War II. The remembrance of families doing their part in a world that had set so many apart.

Remembrance means a connection to yesterday and the yesterdays before yesterday, which brings light the relevance of our actions today. When I think about Remembrance, I think of my mother, father, grandparents and great grandparents. I think about the legacies of family. I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the efforts made by those who made choices before I came into existence. 

There is a crucial need to improve how we explain the significance of Remembrance to young people, especially in the UK. We live in a cosmopolitan modern world where everything is moving a lot faster than I remember. Everything is now! (Like Amazon Prime deliveries, with no understanding of the framework, planning and years of innovation to make this happen.) 

The legacies that have built the worlds we see today are very often under-educated, misinterpreted or omitted. The more we do to encourage Remembrance will allow us to come together with our own unique stories and share the impacts that the changing worlds and legacies before us have had and will still have on us in the present and near future. 

To know that you are connected to something that has passed is significant to why we are here, why we speak the languages we do, why our names are what they are, why we can call more than one place our home or ancestral homes, and even the accessibility to the music that we listen to. All this enables each of us to have a unique perspective about Remembrance that we all benefit from. 

Where should children start to learn about their past? With their immediate families as well as their peers and friends’ parent are also potential sources of information teachers. Additionally, organisations like BlackPoppyRose can help point them in the right direction. We also encourage students to check their local libraries, bookshops, museums, galleries and archives as well as the internet by using key phrases or tags.

So, what more can schools do to teach pupils about Remembrance? Tell the truth about what you know. We all have a version of ‘truth’. Telling the truth resonates stronger than untruths as it allows us to identify with the world we currently live in and the legacies we have inherited from the past. It will help to understand the choices made by so many in uncertain times. We cannot change the past, but we can be open and honest about what has happened, allowing us all to work together to find improvements on things that are pre-existing and still affecting us all today.

The British Army has created a library of resources for secondary schools. To access its Remembrance resource, visit

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Proud 2 b Me!!

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Written by Matt Taylor-Roberts

Matt Taylor-Robert (He/Him) is the Founder and Managing Director of Proud 2 b Parents and with his husband, Matt is an adoptive parent to their amazing son. He feels privileged to work for a regional adoption agency as an independent panel member and has previously worked for an independent foster agency within the same role. However, he had to step away from this role due to becoming a foster carer for this agency. Matt has previously worked within Children's Services for a local authority. To find out more about Proud 2 b Parents please head over

As a proud parent of a young person attending Proud 2 b Me, the UK’s only youth group specifically for children with LGBT+ parents or carers, I am constantly amazed at the benefits of this service and why there isn’t more like it across the UK.

 Proud 2 b Me provides a safe space for young people aged eight and above to engage in various fun activities, such as kayaking, ice skating, and pizza making. However, the true essence of this youth group lies in allowing for discussions, offering support, and encouraging young people to navigate their unique family structures and be open about their identities. 

Proud 2 b Me acts as a safe place where children 8 years and up can openly discuss their family structures and experiences, allowing them to explore and understand their own thoughts and feelings. The group sessions facilitate meaningful conversations about topics like handling prejudice, telling others about their family (‘coming out’), and embracing individuality. Witnessing my child interact with their peers, hearing their stories, and exchanging insights has been an incredible journey of self-discovery for them. The support received from like-minded individuals who face similar challenges has been invaluable.

Having inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity in all its forms is essential for children to grow and thrive, as well as meeting others from various backgrounds and family dynamics, the youth group encourages acceptance and develops a sense of belonging. By engaging in activities like kayaking, placard making and ice skating young people can develop friendships that extend beyond their family situations. They learn to appreciate differences, respect one another’s experiences, and build a strong support network that can be relied upon in times of need.

Coming out about one’s family structure can be a sensitive and complex process for some young people. Proud 2 b Me offers a supportive environment where individuals can openly discuss their feelings and experiences. The group provides guidance on how to approach conversations about their family structure with friends, classmates, and teachers, equipping them with the tools to navigate potential challenges confidently. Through discussions, and sharing personal anecdotes, these young people gain the necessary skills to articulate their identities and advocate for themselves authentically. 

Peer support is the backbone of the community. Recognising the power of connecting with others who share similar experiences, the youth group facilitates friendships and support opportunities. The sense of camaraderie that emerges from these relationships is immeasurable. Young people can find comfort in knowing they are not alone and that others understand their journeys. The validation and encouragement received from peers empower them to embrace their identities proudly and combat any negativity they may encounter. 

Proud 2 b Me provides a nurturing and supportive environment where young people can freely express themselves. Through engaging activities and facilitated discussions, the youth group equips our children with the tools to navigate conversations about their family structure and embrace their connection to the LGBT+ community. 

Find out more by joining us at our free #DiverseEd webinar on Wed 8th Nov 4-5pm:

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Supporting Parental Engagement for EAL Students

Emma Sheppard portrait

Written by Emma Sheppard

Emma founded The MTPT Project, the UK's charity for parent teachers, in 2016 when on maternity leave with her first child. She has 12 years experience as an English teacher, Lead Practitioner and ITT Lead, and now runs The MTPT Project full time.

I’m now into my third year of immigrant living, having relocated to France with my family in 2021, and – amongst all the other rather enormous changes – one of the most insightful experiences has been navigating the French education system with two children now in infant and primary school.

For context, our move to France marked the first time in twelve years that I hadn’t started September as a teacher.  As a consequence, it was also the first time as a mother that I had been responsible for all the school runs, dropping my children off at their class, rather than breakfast club or handing over from an after school nanny.  My children are bilingual, thanks to my French husband, and my French is competent, but – oh my! – have I felt the panicked feeling of perpetual confusion, catch up and miscommunication over the last two years!

Of course, having previously worked in schools with a high percentage of EAL, bilingual and multi-lingual students, and even managed our EAL department, it has been fascinating to be on the “other side”.  But this insight has pertained, not to my children’s experience (indeed, my daughter is arguably more comfortable in French than in English), but to how we can support the parents in our communities who may not be fluent English.

Here’s what’s been really helpful for me, as the “F(French)AL” parent at the school gate…

Information Evenings

A short information evening early on in the term where parents get the chance to see their children’s classroom, leaf through their books, visually take in which book is the planner, which is for reading, what homework might look like etc., is a great starting point.  It provides the opportunity for parents to demonstrate their level of English, and for teachers to take note of any families that might need additional support in clarity of communication.  It also introduces parents to each other so that families speaking the same language can find each other and build community, or get added to the class WhatsApp group so they don’t miss out on important reminders or get togethers.

I make a point of speaking up at these meetings, and talking to the teacher afterwards so that they can really hear the extent of my clumsiness in French, but some parents might not feel comfortable doing this.  Quietly engaging with parents as they come in, or leave the meeting with more than a “hello”, “good bye” can be a good way for teachers to get a better idea of how much English our families have.

Asking all parents in these meetings, their preferred means of communication – email, telephone, in-person, notes in planners – is a sensible way to secure clarity of communication from the start.  Some parents may be able to speak and understand English confidently, but their literacy skills may be weaker.  Some parents may be adept at using Google translate and balk at telephone conversations.  Equally, for our native or fluent English speakers, email may be far preferable in a busy working day, to the interruption of a telephone call.

At the School Gate

The relaxed, conversational moments at the school gate are a great opportunity to show with smiles and gestures that students have had a great day, or to point out an important piece of information in a letter going home, or even to tackle challenges.  This might be normal practice at primary level, but is particularly helpful for parents without much English who may otherwise have no means of knowing how school is going.  

The hovering time afforded to me by the physical presence of teaching and support staff at the gate of my children’s first school meant that I was able to get to grips with how school lunches worked, wraparound care, strike days, when to bring in packed lunches, what on earth the system of cover teachers was in France.  Remember that different countries have hugely different approaches to all aspects of education, and ways of doing things outside the classroom might be completely alien to some of our families – they were to me!

At secondary level, it might be trickier, especially beyond KS3 where students are more independent, but knowing which parents do collect their students, and swapping in a gate duty once in a while is a great opportunity for relationship building.

Inclusive Homework

Never have I had such thorough French lessons as when my son started CP, the equivalent of Year 2 when children learn to read in France.  Every evening, he was required to read through syllables and increasingly complex passages from his Taoki text book.  My pronunciation, vocabulary and understanding of French linguistics improved immeasurably over this year, even if I still can’t differentiate between the different ‘oo’ sounds.  I now have two miniature teachers, as well as the shadow of their teachers to support my progress in French.

Homework activities – and resourcing these effectively – that allow parents to learn alongside their children, even if they are doing this surreptitiously rather than pro-actively, are a great way to boost parents’ own language skills.

Celebrate Home Languages

Yes, yes, I’m an English teacher and will leap at any chance to read a story and perform in front of an audience, but the jokes from parents and teachers about helping them to improve their English have resulted in a termly story-time slot for three year groups in my children’s current school.  

As English speakers, we’re in the privileged position of speaking the global language of business, and as such, English is a valued language in most countries.  Unfortunately though, this means that we look down – as a general culture – on other languages or consider them irrelevant.  

This contempt is interlaced with prejudice, and I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of light-hearted mockery or messaging coming through my children and their friends, that indicates that these attitudes are also present in France.  It creates tension, wariness and defensiveness and I’m incredibly conscious of the parents and teachers who make room for me, and are generous with my language – allowing me to make mistakes and feeding me vocabulary when I stumble – and those who look at me with fear or discomfort when I begin talking.

Story time has provided an opportunity to celebrate English – I deliver with props and songs and emphasis, and follow-up worksheets – and the children love it and share this enthusiasm with their families.  Not all parents will be interested or available for a set up like this, but events like World Book Day, a Home Cultures or International Day, are great opportunities to invite primary school parents to come in and tell a story in their home language.  At secondary level, this could take the form of a drop down day or afternoon where parents, students and teachers set up a national market place stall of treats, games and language challenges for students to explore.

Offering community languages as an optional GCSE is also a hugely important signal that other languages are valued in your school.  Parents need to be informed of how their can support their children with this extra-curricular commitment, and the importance of speaking, reading and writing the home language.  Some parents might even be interested in supporting with language clubs, additional tuition, mock paper marking, or speaking exams.

Most importantly, remember that language limitations don’t make parents lesser, and it is definitely not our role as teachers to dictate how much English our students’ parents should speak, or the languages that should be spoken at home.  Bilingualism and multilingualism are a gift, and “Time and Place” bilingualism – where specific locations (e.g. home and school) – are delineated for one or other language is a tried and proven method for building native fluency in more than one language.

Parents’ English may improve over time, or they may be very content with the level of language they have.  This may be particularly true if they have secondary aged children and school is the only reason they need to understand or use their English.  With small adjustments – many of which are attitudinal – we can embrace the parents of our EAL students and facilitate inclusive environments where they can engage with their children’s education in a way that feels appropriate to them.

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Navigating School Life

Matt Taylor-Roberts portrait

Written by Matt Taylor-Roberts

Matt Taylor-Robert (He/Him) is the Founder and Managing Director of Proud 2 b Parents and with his husband, Matt is an adoptive parent to their amazing son. He feels privileged to work for a regional adoption agency as an independent panel member and has previously worked for an independent foster agency within the same role. However, he had to step away from this role due to becoming a foster carer for this agency. Matt has previously worked within Children's Services for a local authority. To find out more about Proud 2 b Parents please head over

As a gay dad, I embarked on a remarkable journey when my child entered school. From the early days of reception to the transitions and milestones of Year 1, I’ve witnessed firsthand the joys, challenges, and triumphs of being an LGBTQ+ parent in the educational system. I therefore wanted to share my experiences, insights, and reflections, shedding light on the unique journey of a LGBT+ parent  navigating their child’s schooling.

From the first day of reception, I was determined to create an inclusive environment where my child would thrive. I approached the school teachers, emphasizing the importance of embracing diversity and promoting acceptance among all. I was pleasantly surprised by their open-mindedness and commitment to fostering an inclusive atmosphere. They then looked to me to answer their questions and point them in the right direction of equity and inclusion. 

Throughout the early years of schooling, I discovered the significance of building strong relationships with teachers, other parents, and school staff. By being open about my family’s structure, I paved the way for understanding and acceptance. I actively engaged in school activities, volunteering my time and participating in parent-teacher meetings to establish connections and develop a sense of community. I, myself, joined the board of governors, while my partner became the chair of the PTA, ensuring we echoed the ‘normality’ of our family. 

As my child progressed through reception and Year 1, I encountered occasional misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ+ parenting. I sometimes  took these opportunities to educate and enlighten, sharing our family’s story and dispelling any doubts or concerns. Other times I was exhausted from educating others in the playground and just wanted to stand quietly in the rain, waiting for my ‘baby’ to finish school for the weekend. 

Fortunately, my child has not faced overt bullying or bias but we have heard comments such as ‘why do you have two dads’, ‘are they your two dads’ and he has always been the child used for ‘every family is different’. 

In Reception and Year 1, schools often organise events and activities that celebrate families, we always ensured one of our son’s parents were there to represent his family and that he had a cheering face in the crowds. We went to ‘Mother day or special person day’ events and planted seeds and enjoyed afternoon tea, as well as engaging in ‘fathers day’ sports activities.

We always felt that collaborating with teachers was pivotal to ensuring my child’s educational experience was positive and affirming. Regular communication, sharing important milestones, and addressing any concerns or questions were key aspects of this partnership. By fostering a strong parent-teacher relationship, we ensured our child received the support they needed to flourish academically and emotionally. 

Looking back on the last two years of my child’s journey through school, I’ve witnessed the power of acceptance, education, and collaboration in creating an inclusive environment. While challenges may arise, embracing diversity, building relationships, challenging assumptions, and advocating for inclusivity have proven transformative.

By sharing my experiences, I hope to inspire other LGBT+ families to approach their child’s school journey with confidence, knowing that their unique perspectives and experiences contribute to a more accepting and inclusive educational environment for all.

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‘I’m so glad we have one of you here!’

Nabiha Mohamed portrait

Written by Nabiha Mohamed

I am a British born Muslim Pakistani Geography teacher, who loves rocks and the Marvel Universe. I have spent 13 years living in Abu Dhabi but have now returned to the UK and am living in Bristol. I have taught in both comprehensive and independent schools, both of which I have enjoyed very much. I am a creative being who overthinks everything! I love to learn, and I have recently woken up to the fact that I am one of the few teachers of colour in this country and am now feeling the responsibility of this weighing heavy on my shoulders. Keen to ‘make a difference’ in the schools, I would love to connect with other teachers of colour in the UK.

We have been hit with comments like these throughout our lives. We have become accustomed to these ‘microaggressions’ in every aspect of our daily routines, and by ‘we’, I mean, people of colour. 

As a British Asian Muslim woman (that’s a lot of labels already) born and raised in this country, I had never heard of the term ‘microaggressions’, until about 2 years ago in a CPD session at school. It was a turning point for me, in my career and my personal life. I have since been educating myself around the topics of unconscious bias, microaggressions and sense of belonging, particularly in schools. It’s been a rollercoaster ride since then, highs and lows in my teaching career, in my understanding of the issue and trying to work out how best to teach students to be assertive and staff to be ‘awake’. I am no professor in this area, I am not perfect, but I have grown to become passionate about this topic as one I can relate to and hopefully, an area I can help change in schools.

I have come to realise that many people who fire microaggressions at you, are often wonderful, kind, well-meaning people. They just don’t think about the gravity of their words; if you did have the courage to call them out on their inappropriate comments, they would be utterly devastated, which also makes us hold back on speaking up. Three recent examples I can think of (all said by adults):

  1. I can never learn the names of the girls who wear hijabs, they all look the same. 
  2. I’m so glad we have one of you here now at school, the kids really needed someone like you.
  3. I loved culture day; it was my favourite day of the year! I loved all the costumes students wore; they were beautiful. 

Costumes? I don’t wear my salwar kameez on Halloween, love.

I have delivered CPD sessions and assemblies on Unconscious Bias and Microaggressions to both staff and students recently, with the aim to give students of colour the confidence to speak up and say, ‘that’s not okay’ and to educate teachers on what many of their students go through daily as they go about their lives. 

The thing is… I said in my assembly that I promised myself, whenever anyone was to say anything inappropriate directed at me, I would speak up and tell them. If ‘we don’t do this’, I said, ‘things will never change.’ Did I speak up when the above microaggressions came my way? Shamefully, no I did not. WHY, oh WHY did I not say anything?! Because, they were all lovely people who didn’t mean any harm. Because I, aged 47, did not know how to handle the situation at that exact moment, and if I couldn’t, how could I expect a child to?

However, I want to break the cycle. I want to have the confidence to say ‘errmmm, no’, and I want to teach students to be able to do the same in a respectful way, but I don’t know how to. We have school policies on explicit racism but there is nothing in means of reporting the implicit microaggressions from students or staff. Should there be? Is there a need? Do we ask our EDI Leader to speak to the guilty ones or should we have the guts to do it ourselves? But the interesting, or annoying thing amongst these questions in my head is, why am I struggling to speak up like I am the guilty one? I haven’t done anything wrong. 

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An Exploration of the Persisting Legacy of Imperial Rhetoric in Modern Education through a Case Study on ‘Eugenics, Race, and Psychiatry in the Cape Colony, 1890-1908: Dr Thomas Duncan Greenlees’

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Written by Rosa Legeno-Bell

Rosa is co-founder and Director of Diverse History UK (DHUK); an LGBTQ+ and female-owned business. DHUK provides educational consultancy to address diversification of educational curricula. Rosa has worked in the education sector for over a decade, mainly in inner-city London comprehensives; as a History Teacher, Head of History and Associate Assistant Principal. Rosa graduated with distinction from the University of East Anglia with a Master’s Degree in Modern History.

This blog examines imperial rhetoric around race and eugenics through a case study of colonial psychiatrist Dr Duncan T Greenlees and explores how the legacy of imperialism lives on in the education sector.

Greenlees was the medical superintendent of Grahamstown Asylum in the Cape Colony from 1890–1907, regarded by his peers as an authority on race and eugenics (T. Duncan Greenlees M.D., 1930).

Greenlees’ Theories on the Native Mind

‘[African natives’]… wants are simple and their habits primitive; they are… willing servants, and naturally look up to white people…’ (Greenlees, 1882)

Greenlees maintained that biological and cultural differences between Africans and Europeans explained native mindsets. He attributed native ‘insanity’ to the exposure of ‘savage’ minds to Western civilisation (Swartz, 1995). The myth of primitive natives was key to the justification of British paternalism in the colonies as well as the confinement of natives who refused to conform to their prescribed roles in colonial society (Summers, 2010). In A Statistical Contribution to the Pathology of Insanity (1902), Greenlees declared that:

‘…[if] brought under the artificial influences of civilisation…[the native] …is particularly liable to chest troubles.’

 And also claimed:

‘While mania is considered a disease of undeveloped [native]  brains, melancholia may be regarded as one of developed [European] brains’

 (Greenlees 1902, p. 12).

 The falsity that non-whites were incapable of melancholia was supported by later colonial psychiatrists and is still echoed in practice today (Rosenberg, 2019). Greenlees also appealed to the common myth of the unhygienic native, stating they are ‘extremely filthy in habits,’ (Greenlees, 1902. p. 17) a stereotype commonly used to underpin dehumanising imperial rhetoric.

The influence on Greenlees of Victorian hegemony, such as Darwin’s theory of natural selection, is discernible. Darwin’s theory was commonly misapplied by imperialists to claim racial superiority and, under the guise of Social Darwinism, to justify imperial actions (Dafler, 2005). In Insanity Among the Natives of South Africa Greenlees warns:

‘The time will soon come when civilisation will overshadow [native tribes] with its baneful pall, bringing innumerable diseases in its train and ultimately exterminating all races that oppose its progress.’

(Greenlees, 1895, p. 75)

Greenlees’ Principles of Eugenics

‘…how much suffering might be avoided if…men were allowed to exercise the same care in the selection of their mates as they do when breeding their cattle’ 

(Greenlees, 1892, p. 302). 

During the Nineteenth Century, white-working class British people were also dehumanised and infantalised by the British state. The white working classes were integral to imperial rule as they powered the industrial revolution on home soil through cheap labour and terrible working conditions.

Greenlees  worked in the Cape Colony after the emancipation of Transatlantic slaves and during the Second Boer War (Facing History and Ourselves, 2018). At this time, it was believed that many South African whites, particularly Afrikaans, were becoming less civilised, mirroring British stereotypes of native peoples (Klausen, 1997). For Greenlees it was paramount that the white race maintained an air of  supremacy. (Burdett, 2014), He argued that the breeding of ‘lunatics,’ ‘imbeciles’ and ‘drunks,’ constituted a grave threat to imperial rule (Klausen, 1997).

Greenlees’ also theorised about ‘coloured’ (mixed-raced) people, referring to them  as ‘the bastard.’ Highlighting his fears regarding race and degeneracy, he contended:

 ‘a mixture of white and black blood… seems to present the worst characteristics of both races.’ (Greenlees,1892, p. 71)

Greenlees opined that, mixed-race communities were degenerates and threatened British dominance (Kolsky, 2013), a view mirrored by segregationists in the southern states of America around the same time.

So, Greenlees advocated for people to make genetically ‘wise’ choices over their marriage partners and proclaimed that it is:

‘…absurd… that we should devote more…consideration to the mating of our horses and pigs than we do that of our sons and daughters’ (Greenlees, 1903, p. 11). 

The Impact of Colonial Rhetoric around race and class on the Current Education System

‘… decolonising and detoxifying the education regime are a sine qua non for… academics, especially those who are cognisant of the true meaning of education.’

(Nkwazi Nkuzi Mhango, 2018) 

Elhinnawy (2022) maintains that a diverse book collection does not suffice and that educators need to honestly explore their own internal prejudices and their origins. While Bentrovato (2018)  contends that colonialism is a ‘hallmark of modern world history.’ whose legacies survive because of modern institutions such as education.

But,  decolonisation has been controversial. Seemingly concerned, The Department for Education (2022), introduced a guidance on impartiality in schools in 2022 on the back of the growing call to decolonise education.But decolonisation is possible still, as the guidance does not include any additional statutory requirements, and there is still room to decolonise if a range of historical evidence is engaged with and views are not taught as objective fact. The dichotomy between a government and its institutions can cause friction. Leading governmental leadership posts are filled disproportionately by privately educated people (predominantly white and male) who attended Oxbridge colleges. In 2019, 57% of the government’s cabinet and 36% of those who work in the media had attended an Oxbridge university (The Sutton Trust, 2019). Notably, private schools and Oxbridge universities were avid mouthpieces for colonial rhetoric.

Despite the controversy over decolonisation, it is a no-brainer. As diversity increases, decolonisation becomes more urgent  –with 43% of young Black people saying that:

‘A lack of curriculum diversity was one of the biggest barriers to…achieving in schools,’(Anna Freud, 2021).

Yet many schools still pursue whitewashed curricula and old-fashioned pedagogies. Critics of decolonisation have argued against it on the basis that we should not eradicate history, but true decolonisation does not entail deleting history, it encourages adding to existing narratives and amplifying historically silenced  voices. Another criticism is that decolonisation only considers marginalised black voices, but that is too literal an understanding. Decolonisation believes in amplifying all marginalised voices such as the white working classes who too were  downtrodden and exploited for the empire.  One compelling reason for decolonisation is that the amplification of many voices and celebration of shared histories may also repair relationships between marginalised communities, too often pitted against each other.

Greenlees provides a significant insight into the ideologies that propped up the British empire, and serve as a shocking reminder of the philosophies on which modern Britain was founded. If educators work together to build a fairer education for our students, then we are playing a part in creating a kinder and more compassionate society for our students and our children.

Read more and find the references here: 

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AI: Ethics, Equity and Education

Gemma Clare portrait

Written by Gemma Clare

Gemma is an experienced writer, specialising in education and child development. With a background as a former Inclusion Leader, Teacher, and SENCo, she is dedicated to sharing ideas that make a positive impact on the lives of children.

Maya sits down to do their homework. Instead of reaching for their textbooks, they turn to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to complete their research. Aiko sits down to assess their students. Instead of relying purely on their teacher-judgement and observation, he uses an AI-powered assessment tool. 

AI provides an exciting opportunity for students and teachers to work in different ways and it’s becoming more established as a helpful tool in education. You can read numerous articles celebrating the benefits of AI for schools and colleges – as a tool for planning, assessment, personalised learning and more. 

However, AI is presenting us with a new set of ethical issues. With concerns over bias, misinformation and unreliable sources, it’s become more important than ever for the education system to effectively teach pupils how to be critical of information. 

The Bias Problem

Machine learning algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on, which means that they can perpetuate and even amplify biases in society. There are numerous examples of where AI bias has caused both small and large-scale discriminatory practices. 

Take for example COMPAS, a tool used to predict whether criminals will re-offend, which wrongly predicted that black defendants were nearly twice as likely to do so as white defendants.

There’s also Tay, the Twitter bot from Microsoft that quickly became a sexist, racist and xenophobic holocaust denier after engaging with the public. 

There are countless other examples, across healthcare, education, recruitment and more where machine-based bias has had a damaging effect on those with protected characteristics. 

Think about how unchecked bias in AI technologies could impact the pupils in your school, and the wider influence this might have on society. For example, what would happen if an algorithm designed to predict student performance wrongly predicted that the black pupils in your class wouldn’t achieve as well as their white peers? 


Another significant concern with AI is the prevalence of misinformation and false narratives. For example, despite scientific knowledge being used to train Galactica AI, ‘​​It spat out alarmingly plausible nonsense‘ such as incorrect summaries of research. 

The increasingly popular ChatGPT-3 collates information from across the web, much of which is not factually accurate despite how assured it sounds in its delivery. It also seems to churn out multiple ‘sources’ which, when you look for them, simply don’t exist. 

It’s now simple to create a very convincing narrative which is either partially or completely fabricated. This can be particularly problematic in the era of social media, where content can spread rapidly and without verification (either intentionally, or not). 

Combine this with the flaws in bias and you can see how quickly AI can be at the forefront of disastrous consequences for equality and equity.

Take for example the case of ChatGPT-4 reinforcing sexist gender stereotypes when prompted to describe the education and career choices of a boy and a girl. In this example, the boy says “I don’t think I could handle all the creativity and emotion in the fine arts program.” and the girl replies that she can’t handle “all the technicalities and numbers in the engineering program”. Imagine your pupils using these tools to study and taking the answers as fact – reinforcing harmful narratives.  

So, What Does This Mean for Educators?

You may be thinking, ‘these are problems for the developers of AI to solve, what have I got to do with this?’ and of course, developers need to be actively addressing these concerns. However, until every piece of AI technology is held accountable against rigorous ethical standards, these damaging flaws will remain, and we need to be aware of our own role within this.

Many of our pupils will be users of AI technology, both at home and in school. They’ll be accessing information and learning in a completely different way to previous generations. Educators play a vital role in preparing pupils for their future – and their future now includes AI technology. 

As educators, we can empower our pupils to make informed decisions based on what they read and listen to. We have the opportunity to teach them to evaluate the credibility of sources and question information. Pupils can be explicitly taught to recognise and challenge biases when they encounter them and to understand the signs of unreliable sources, such as an over-reliance on anecdotal evidence.

Of course, teaching pupils to be critical of all information available to them is important, not just AI-generated content. With the prevalence of targeted advertising and propaganda circling the internet, it’s also important to teach pupils how to recognise the agendas of the content they encounter. This includes being able to identify political or commercial interests that may influence the information presented to them.

One way to achieve this is to teach pupils to identify language techniques, such as loaded language or euphemisms, that may reveal a hidden agenda. This can be particularly useful when analysing news articles or opinion pieces, where the author’s bias can be subtle but powerfully influential. By understanding how language can be used to manipulate readers, pupils can become more critical and discerning consumers of digital content. 

This is an important conversation to be having in the education space right now. The ability to critically analyse the trustworthiness of content and separate fact from fiction is becoming an increasingly essential skill. If we’re not preparing the next generation of young people for this, we risk further aggregation of societal polarisation and inequality.

Educators have a unique opportunity and power to help young people to navigate the problems generated by new AI technology. 

The next question is, are we adequately equipped to meet this challenge?

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Hair Equality in UK schools: Why Hair Is More Than “Just Hair”?

Tori Sprott portrait

Written by Tori Sprott

Tori has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Policy Studies in Education. She has a particular interest in Sociology of Race and Education and exploring counternarratives from a racial perspective.

Introduction: Equality in Schools

School is a place where young people spend most of their lives. Schools should be safe spaces for young people to learn and develop their values, self-esteem and life skills. It should be a space where equality is championed and held high as a core value, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. This blog will focus on a specific type of inequality that Black and mixed-raced people are often faced with in school, hair discrimination, and will provide schools with some tools for navigating this issue.

In this blog, I will introduce the concept of hair discrimination with a brief outlook on Afro hair and its significance. I will also be referring to real examples of young Black and mixed-race people who have been punished by schools for wearing natural hairstyles. In this blog, I will be using the terms ‘natural hair’ and ‘Afro hair’ interchangeably, referring to the natural kinky texture of Black people’s hair. It is worth mentioning here that in acknowledging Afro hair, we must also acknowledge the diversity within this term, as there is no single natural hair texture. 

Hair discrimination: a brief history

On the surface, many may assume that hair is just that: hair. Why the big fuss over something so trivial? The history attached to Afro hair is vast but also a huge identity marker for Black and mixed-race people that many aren’t aware or conscious of. Historically, Afro hair has been a symbol of background and status, a site of oppression, something that required alteration, particularly post-transatlantic slave trade, and a symbol of Black power (Jahangir, 2015). This indicates that the perception of Afro hair has changed throughout history – once being seen as beautiful and powerful, then being seen as the opposite during the transatlantic slave trade where many Black people had their hair shaved off. This led to many people with Afro hair (chemically) straightening their hair to avoid the abuse and stigma post-transatlantic slave trade, and also led to a period of time where people with Afro hair reclaimed power and pride over their natural hair as a response to racism and hair discrimination. The impacts of these ever-changing perceptions are wide-spread and still exist in present day. 

The impact of the transatlantic slave trade on how society perceives Afro hair is still present today, resulting in Black and mixed-race people feeling as though they need to straighten their hair to “fit in”, with concepts of ‘good’ [looser curls, softer texture] and ‘bad’ [kinkier more dense hair textures] hair formulating ideas about the acceptable appearance of Black people’s hair (Robinson, 2011).

Hair discrimination in schools: UK context

Research from World Afro Day Hair Equality Report (2019) showed that 82.9% of young people had experienced having their hair touched without consent, and 58% experienced being on the receiving end of uncomfortable questions. These are troubling statistics. These occurrences can be offensive because it points out that there is this sense of difference that inclines those without Afro hair to touch it or ask questions that could leave people feeling alienated. If there were more education on Afro hair, perhaps the occurrence of these uncomfortable encounters would reduce, and overall comfortability for those with Afro-textured hair would increase.

I can remember various occasions as a young Black person being told, “you should straighten your hair”, typically by people who did not have Afro-textured hair. This is quite offensive as it suggests that your Afro-textured hair is perhaps incomplete or undone. It is unfortunate that hair discrimination exists, and we see such incidents occurring in UK schools with Black and mixed-race pupils facing exclusions due to culturally dismissive uniform policies. 

Ruby Williams is a young person who faced hair discrimination at school in London. She was told that her hair was a distraction and “too big”, and as a result was sent home on multiple occasions, disrupting her learning. She also speaks on the pressures to straighten her hair in her younger years as natural hair was never represented around her. The problems started when she decided to stop straightening her hair, and she was routinely targeted by the uniform policies that the school had in place, which have since been removed. Ruby’s family took legal action against the school, however, it ended with an out of court settlement (Virk, 2020). In March 2021, students at Pimlico Academy staged a walk out due to uniform policies banning hairstyles that “block the view” of other students (BBC, 2021). In this context, students are having to take matters into their own hands in order to be heard, but this commitment to equality needs to be taken further by those who have authority in policy-making processes.

Jewellery Quarter Academy in Birmingham recently adopted the Halo Code – coined by the Halo Collective as a means of committing to hair equality in workplaces and schools (Newsround, 2020) – stating that “all students should be able to come to school being themselves and feel proud of their identity. That is why we are proud to sign up to the Halo Code” (Chamberlain, 2021). 

So, where do we go from here? What can schools do to prevent this from occurring in the future?

Recommendations for school policy – how can we tackle hair discrimination in schools?

  • Schools must ensure that their uniform policies surrounding hair styling do not have a disproportionate impact on Black children. Avoid exclusions or any kind of behaviour punishments that would further marginalise that child. Thinking about uniform policies, the language used in such policies (for example, ‘professional’ – what is being suggested if Afro hair isn’t deemed professional, and what impact does this have?), why they have been implemented, and whether they can be adapted for inclusivity. Schools can consult with stakeholders in order to better understand the implications of language used within a policy.
  • Schools must create an environment of inclusion and commit to embedding understanding of diversity in the school ethos. Understanding how certain language and descriptions about Afro hair can be problematic. Actively challenging stereotypes and assumptions about Afro hair[styles] that reinforce racist ideas about groups of people. Members of staff should be aware of discriminatory language [amongst pupils and staff] regarding Afro hair and ensure that this is not tolerated or acceptable. For example, the idea that Afro hair is ‘messy’ or ‘not done’; the idea that straighter hair is more ‘professional’ than Afro hair; asking a Black or mixed-race student/staff member if their hair is a wig if it is long or straight. 
  • Make a pledge – As mentioned earlier, The Halo Collective are a group of campaigners who advocate for hair equality in schools and workplaces. Adopting their Black Hair Code shows commitment to rejecting hair discrimination. A number of schools in the UK have adopted this code. Schools can also make their own pledges about how they will tackle the issue of hair discrimination within their setting and embed this in the school rules.


BBC (2021) Pimlico Academy pupils stage protest over ‘racist’ uniform policy, BBC, 

Chamberlain, Z. (2021) School’s bid to end hair discrimination after shocking number of black students face name-calling, Birmingham Mail, 

GOV.UK, Discrimination: your rights 

Jahangir, R. (2015) How does black hair reflect black history? BBC. 

Newsround (2020) Halo Code: What is it and how does it protect afro hair? BBC,

Robinson, C. L. (2011) Hair as Race: Why “Good Hair” May Be Bad for Black Females, Howard Journal of Communications, 22:4, 358-376.

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Are the Equality Laws fit for purpose?

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Written by Shola Adewale Sandy

Shola is the proud author of the debut novel called ‘ICE, the trilogy’ which stands for I Can Explain, it’s her memoirs that follows her journey in the educational system as a black women professional and the importance of stopping systematic discrimination, unfortunately she has experienced and witnessed over the years in inner London schools.

When I first walked into a secondary school in inner London, as a black member of staff, I didn’t think anything of it, after all there were others there and they seemed to be doing fine on the surface… I rolled up my sleeves, I was committed, prepared and ready. To the best of my ability, I would do good by those students. I felt this was my calling in life…

I looked at the decorated reception and walked around the massive assembly hall. It was early in the morning, I was enjoying the silence, but excited at what was to come… this is where dreams and aspirations are developed for those young minds and maybe for me too…

Fast forward and they soon sprout up in Year 11, leaving to go out into the big wide world. Having gone through the school system knowing what equality, fairness and hard work really looks like. This is what we teach them, isn’t it?

So what happens, if you find yourself in a situation where you were not being paid the same as your white counterpart or given the same opportunities, despite being a dedicated and a hard working member of staff?

That was me! Can you imagine? I initially thought nothing more of it, after all we have laws to protect people like me in a work environment. I was not even in a union because I was so confident that fairness and common sense would prevail!

“This must be a minor mistake; it will get cleared up in no time!” I said to myself over and over again, as the years went by.

Before you all go for me, I am not generalising, but if you happen to be in a situation and the odds were against you like I was, being in front of such a cantankerous headteacher, what would be your choices? 

Remember, you are reminded daily by the micro aggressions towards you, grating away at your skin, getting right to the very core of you.  You are nothing more than a mere irritable speck on their shoe, that they can’t seem to get rid of. So where do you go from there, if you please…

Ignore and march on, hoping and praying things would improve – check

Informal discussion with line managers – check

Discussions with other school leaders – check

Union rep – check

Informal discussions and meetings with headteacher –check

Human Resources – check

Union rep again – check

School Governors – check

Formal meetings with headteacher – check

Headteacher’s Peers and other leaders in the community – check

Local Authority – check

Tribunal system – I can’t disclose everything here folks, you will have to read my memoir….

And all you can think of to do in-between!

What do I have to do to be treated fairly, was the question I kept asking myself? As I made my way through the above list. 

For most people, their response probably would be:

” I can’t deal with this; I would have been straight out the door!”

Yeah right, I wish it was as easy as that! I was invested in those students for better or for worse! (It’s an unwritten contract when you work in those types of inner city schools)

“No way! I would have to be dragged away in chains screaming and protesting, I would not leave those students by choice!” 

Anyway, it was the principle of the whole damn thing! After all, why did our forefathers sacrifice and suffer for, all those years ago, surely so we wouldn’t have too now!

Yes, leaving and getting a job in another school would have been an option, but that’s another conversation to be had. In reality, it is much harder to successfully achieve this, as we need that all important, crucial reference from your former headteacher! Could they be trusted to give you a glowing reference despite your differences, hmm, a lot of people might hesitate at leaving that in the hands of such a person! I know I certainly would!

When I look back, I realise that it is also the system to blame. Giving permission for gross misconduct to take place within Education, allowed that specific headteacher to have the confidence to treat me that way. Knowing profoundly, that they had the power and would ultimately get away with their treatment of me, especially with the support of their loyal allies. 

Thankfully, not all headteachers are like this, but you only have to come across one in your lifetime as a black person and trust me you will never forget the experience in a hurry!

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