Racist Language within an SEMH Context

Sophie Tales portrait

Written by Sophie Tales

Associate Assistant Principal for the Mead Educational Trust in Leicester. Sophie leads on Social, Emotional Mental Health, SEND Support and Development, Transition, Oracy, Team Teach and is chair for SENCo and Family Support Worker Networks.

What does it mean when students with SEMH show prejudice within a state of crisis? How can this be managed? How should this be tackled?

Within an SEMH context there are high staff to student ratios. Therefore, in the best of settings, there is very little behavior that goes unnoticed. This means that as staff you have a very insightful position within the lives of the SEMH students that are in your care and, therefore, have an opportunity to support students within any ounce of behavior that has been shown; positive or negative. 

When it comes to times of crisis for students with SEMH, this can manifest in different ways. Behaviour that can be shown as an SEMH student reaches crisis: verbal abuse, physical abuse, controlling behavior, damage of property or self-harm.

Verbal abuse can often be part of an individual student’s behavior when they are in or reaching crisis. When an SEMH student is in crisis they are in ‘Fight, Flight. Freeze.’ Fight and flight are often seen within SEMH contexts. Verbal abuse is part of the ‘Fight’. Typically abuse that I personally get is “fat”, “bitch”, “slag”, “slut”; all very much to do with my body and being female. Within this state of crisis an SEMH student is in such a state of unrest that they are attempting to show you just how badly they are feeling; sometimes they want you to feel just as badly as they do – hence the abuse. What I, as a white woman, haven’t experienced is any abuse about the colour of my skin. However, what I wish to discuss within this piece of writing is that when working with students with SEMH, racist language may well be used as abuse towards anyone; regardless of the colour of their skin.

As with any SEMH context, the behavior policy of that setting is a fundamental part of the running of the school and provides a clear set of rules, as well as opportunities, for students to follow to be rewarded for positive behavior. Racism is a key part of the policy which outlines steps of action if a student shows racial prejudice. However, what I would argue is that all contexts, SEMH or not, alongside their behavior policy, equally need a defined focus within the setting’s curriculum where ‘racism’ is being taught; for SEMH students, especially those who are white, racism is a very hard concept to understand.

The importance of having a differentiated curriculum designed to discuss what race and racism is became increasingly apparent to me when dealing with a group of white students who were increasingly using racist language towards members of staff when they were reaching a state of crisis. It became increasingly apparent that this needed an individual approach as no form of sanction was helping them change their behavior. For instance, these students all hated working away from their main class group and this was the first part of the sanction for the racist words that they had used. In the past, working away from their main class group would help these particular students to understand what they had done wrong and to stop any repeat offenses. However, with this incident, it didn’t. The words these students were using became worse and, strangely, the targets of these racist words became more varied. These students started to use these words towards anyone who was around at their point of crisis. They were not directing these racist words towards any particular skin colour; they were saying them to anyone available – white or black. This change in word direction helped me to see the issue. These students were not showing their prejudice; they were using words that they knew offended and upset people, without having any real understanding of what they were talking about.

This is where I realised I had overlooked something. I had overlooked just how complex a social construct such as racism is for any child, let alone a student with SEMH. To be able to understand racism, you are not just having to teach how historically people of colour have been treated as inferior to white people – you have to help teach the impact of community, culture, religion and, above all else, empathy. This is not an easy endeavor for students who struggle with social understanding. Yet, once this has been identified, you can identify what needs to be broken down for those students to understand the impact of their words and behavior.

For the students I was working with they needed context. They needed to understand what the words they were using meant to the staff they were saying it to. This could not come from me. A white woman telling them how it made another person feel wasn’t enough context; they needed to hear it from the person they had said it to. Secondly, they needed to see what this meant in context. They needed to see the community of people that they were directly offending when using those words. Finally, they needed to be in that community, to see those faces, and to discuss, in front of the community they were offending, when out of crisis, and to feel the weight of the language they had used.

The above approach worked. These students no longer use racist language within a state of crisis; it has been put back into a box that they know is not to be touched; regardless of the level of distress they are feeling. This is not to say that I think they will never use these words in a state of crisis again; they most likely will. But what they have now is a foundation of understanding that can be used to remind them of who they are not to use such language. Most importantly, it helped everyone involved to see that these students were not prejudiced. They were not targeting race; they were seeing a way of hurting someone as a tool for communication, without an understanding of the historical and social weight of the words they were using.

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Diversification - More Than an Educational Token

Bhamika Bhudia portrait

Written by Bhamika Bhudia

English teacher and lead teacher in a mixed comprehensive secondary school in North-West London. She tweets as MissMika_Eng

Diversity is a bit of a buzzword lately and a loaded one. Everywhere you look, it is in company policies, featured in plots of television shows and floating around our classrooms and curricula. However, despite its crucial need for focus and acknowledgement, the form we see of it is connoted with guilt, shaming and ultra-wokeness: the next big thing everyone needs to be talking about and be seen giving a nod to.

 

While terms like “diversity-hire” and “ticking boxes” are thrown around, what often goes amiss is the importance of representation and in more than just a tokenistic manner. Penguin recently published findings showing that, “Less than 1% of GCSE students in England study a book by a writer of colour, and only 7% study a book by a woman. This despite 34.4% of school age children identifying as Black, Asian and minority ethic.”

 

So many of our students do not see or hear themselves in the stories we tell them. So when “diversifying the curriculum” may be portrayed as the next big edu-fad, the damage of not doing this can last lifetimes. And with much of the media painting stereotypical and negative portrayals of anyone who is not white English, it is all the more damaging.

 

I am an Indian woman in my thirties; I spent my teens seeing most of the women from my genepool as submissive, perfectly poised opportunities for an arranged marriage plotline or a submissive daughter who just wanted some autonomy over her own life or career, should she have the audacity to want one. Who I am could not be further from this stereotype and having these very limited and hazy reflections of myself as a British-Indian woman, led me to experience conflict with a culture that I am in actual fact, incredibly proud of. But as much as this affected my youth and shaping of my identity, I can at least say that it has evolved. Archie Panjabi has gone from playing the daughter oppressed by her ethnic brand of  patriarchy in the noughties to a no-nonsense, lawyer or motorcycle-riding, pathologist; Priyanka Chopra from a Miss-World-winning, exotic Bollywood beauty to a conflicted, sexually-empowered, complicated FBI agent; and of course, we have Malala and everything that she is and has done.

 

While I’m not for a second saying all of the issues with the representation of the Asian females have been fixed, I am acknowledging that progress has been made as it has with many other minorities and women in general. However, this is not the case across the board.

 

A classic example is the South-Asian male. Everywhere we see him, the Asian man is an awkward, socially inept, sexually-repressed individual whose role is no more than to drive a taxi, serve behind a shop counter or be the butt of jokes at a “funny accent” or his inability to communicate with women! The criminalisation of the black man still stands prominent over any suave and sophisticated depictions we have of him – and please can we take a real look at the dangerous and discriminatory portrayal of muslims on our silver screens?!

 

These one-dimensional and offensive reflections of the very students we teach will take heed on how they see themselves. They are essentially telling whole demographics that they are sexually undesirable, expected to show no confidence and be laughed at; or mistrusted, feared and hated. And they will all lead to one of three things: abandonment or dilution of their own culture; appropriation of another culture or the complete marginalization of groups of people from the British values we are told to uphold professionally, as part of our teacher standards!

 

How we see ourselves in the world around us is important so while western society and the wider media may be failing, we as teachers have the opportunities to tell our kids that they are not invisible, they are real and they are important. So the next time you feel the term “diversification of the curriculum” is being treated as the next temporary fixture as so many things in education are, think about the stories that may be told about the kids in your classroom and the power they can have. We have the opportunity to change the narrative and give our kids a voice that truly resonates with them – an opportunity that should not be missed!

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Why MeToo Matters in International Schools

Charlotte Rodney portrait

Written by Charlotte Rodney

I am a 17-year-old mixed-raced student studying internationally in the middle east. I pride myself for my activism, and truly believe in having first-hand influence on the change that needs to be made in this world. I am currently the Head Girl of my school, and co-edit our school’s newspaper, as well as take on the role of Vice President for a global human rights committee.

Whether it be #metoo, #97percent, or even Sexual Assault Awareness Month, discussions about the female experience with assault and harassment have never been free from the demeaning scrutiny so forcefully placed on us by our male counterparts. 

As an active feminist, I find myself liberated when initiating discussions about women’s rights, internalised misogyny, sexual assault, and much more. Having these discussions is never the issue. What is an increasing concern is how this is received by a lot of boys and men. Time and time again, we see them immediately become defensive, adamantly insisting that these issues have nothing to do with them, and often witnessing them taking away from our experience by imposing stories of their own – arguably very different – struggles. 

In response to a recent surge in sexual assault awareness following Sarah Everard’s murder, the #notallmen campaign was started. Even though there are masses of credible statistics to be cited, including the recent United Nations publication which indicated that 97% of women in the UK, aged 18-24 have experienced some sort of sexual assault, men insist that it has nothing to do with them.

Sure, not all men, but enough men, and nearly all women.

Unfortunately, the education system is not innocent. It still has a lot to answer for regarding the often toxic environment that is created in schools, resulting in young girls who are indoctrinated with ideas of repression. Now, that may sound extremely dystopian, but it’s the reality for schoolgirls all over the world including myself. As a 17-year-old, close to finishing my schooling career, I have often found myself in situations where I invalidated my own feelings in order to appeal to the male authority figure. It begins with snide comments from male classmates, escalates to abuse of power from male staff members in order to impose their threatening views, and yet, it only ever seems to be addressed in a manner that results in eventual suppression of the female voice. In turn of progressive discussions being encouraged, we are told not to talk about such “subjective matters”. Instead of our experiences with harassment being listened to, we are silenced and told to “park it and move on” and “move on”. When all we really want is to be acknowledged and approached on how men can do their part to make the world more comfortable for us, we are argued with and told to prove that there truly is a systemic bias against us. 

Schools are intended to be a nurturing environment in which students leave with formulated opinions, often influenced by the system. Thus, a considered approach needs to be implemented when addressing the reality of being a woman, and it starts with young female voices at the frontline. Girls need to be encouraged to speak up, supported by an environment that makes them feel safe to do so. Boys need to be taught how to approach such situations, with consideration, validation and knowledge. And the adults in positions of responsibility must mediate with comprehension and consideration; allowing personal viewpoints to be safely shared with the sole intent of educating. 

I have grown up in a world that has engineered a system, teaching girls from a young age that their voice doesn’t matter. Having had an interest in leadership roles ever since I was young, I have not been free from the titles of ‘bossy’ or ‘too big for your boots’, reinforcing this idea that, as a girl, I couldn’t take on high-power roles without their being a negative connotation to it. Yet my male classmates could pursue any role they saw fit without so much as a second glance from those around. 

The patriarchal lens in which the world views women put us under so much more scrutiny than our male counterparts. Unfortunately, this has created a toxic amount of competition which has turned women against each other. Having your gender be an identifying factor that frequently puts you at risk will never be the struggle of men. It’s time that we take the immensely progressive attitudes of the 21st century and use the surplus of information in the most productive way possible. Social media may be one of our greatest allies, providing a platform for avid discussion and spreading awareness. There is often a misconception that this abundance of information equates immediately to progress. While this isn’t the case, we are still at an advantageous point of being able to use our shared experiences for change. And I believe that is exactly what we need to do.  

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Five Steps For Starting A School Pride

Edel Cronin portrait

Written by Edel Cronin

Secondary school senior leader and co founder of Bristol Queer Educators, very Queer and very Irish.

Yesterday my school held its first in-person Pride.  The saying of – you can’t be it unless you can see it – very much worked in the reverse for me as I walked into our student Pride lunch club.  The room was awash with students celebrating Pride in a rainbow of flags, cakes and community. I never consciously knew what I wasn’t ‘seeing’ during my teenage years but something about walking into a classroom full of Pride colour made me reflect on how my life may have been different had this experience happened in my school.  No one was ‘risk assessing’ if it was safe to wear a flag or in some cases a crown! Everyone was fully embracing having a space to loudly celebrate themselves.

Creating a whole school event has not been high on the agenda of most school leaders in the last year and half.  I think we have all had 1 or 2 other things taking up our time.  However, I would argue that it is in a pandemic where the school year has been full of uncertainty, and at times isolation, we need events like Pride more than ever.  Pride gives us an opportunity to remind ourselves and others that our sexuality or gender is something to celebrate.  

  1. Ask for help – Our school’s first Pride took place in June 2020.  I sent an email out to staff asking if anyone was interested in organising a virtual school Pride.  Five or six staff volunteered, we set up a Teams’ call and got started. We chose to focus on 1 week, took a day each and made tutor resources for that day.    You don’t have to do everything from scratch – lots of organisations have free resources and doing even one thing in your school for the first time will make a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ students and staff.
  2. Make it intersectional – Each member of staff made a resource based on their own area of interest.  The only expectation we agreed on was that all resources had to be intersectional.  If all your resources are white, able-bodied people from the LG bit of LGBTQIA+ spend some time educating yourself and diversify your resources using organisations like Just Like Us.  Your students and staff may fall into one ‘category’ but LGBTQ+ people do not.  
  3. Ask for student input/feedback – If your in a position to ask for student in put in advance fantastic, if not don’t worry.  For my initial attempt at school Pride I wasn’t, so instead we did what we would have wanted as students and asked for students feedback to help us plan for future events. Those who fed back also created the base of our student group for the following academic year and led to a whole school LGBT+ History Month the following February.  
  4. Choose an ‘action’ for the month – Pride is celebration, it is also a chance for us to ensure the futures of LGBTQ+ people are less discriminatory. What would your school benefit from in Pride month but also every other month of the year? It could be putting a Pride flag up and keeping it up 24/7 or changing your behaviour policy.  Depending on your setting one of these might be more achievable than the other.  It is also important to consider student and staff feedback when deciding on your action. 
  5. Share – Share what you’ve done. Many LGBTQ+ educators are the only LGBTQ+ educators in their school.  A sense of community is not just important for our students but also ourselves.  

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Keep Chipping Away at Homophobia

David Lowbridge-Ellis portrait

Written by David Lowbridge-Ellis

Leader of school improvement for Matrix Academy Trust in the West Midlands. In addition to writing extensively on equality and diversity he has been published widely on topics ranging from curriculum and assessment to workload and well-being.

You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s a phrase bordering on cliché. But just because something is clichéd that doesn’t make it any less true. It rings so true that, at this point, we should probably consider it conventional wisdom. And sometimes, it just takes a glimpse to start making change happen.

 

Friday night after a long week: my husband and I are on the sofa, watching a football match – of all things! 

 

Now I don’t want to indulge in gay stereotypes but I’m not very into football. My husband is more keen, especially when it comes to an international competition. When the World Cup’s on, he goes gaga for it. It’s the whole ‘world coming together in harmony’ part that gets him going. He’ll also watch any match that Gerard Piqué happens to be playing in. My husband claims he’s a fan of Piqué by proxy: the Spanish footballer is married to Shakira, whose music my husband enjoys. But I know the truth.

 

Anyway…

 

The match we were watching was the England vs. Scotland match of the Euro 2020 (sic) competition. A pretty unremarkable feat of football as it turned out, with a 0-0 final score. What was arguably more significant was an advert from Nike played in the break. Calling it an advert is an understatement, although that was its purpose. The short film, entitled The Land of New Football, was a vision of how football could be. Starring Free School Meals-champion Marcus Rashford it might have been considered by some to be utopian, but nothing was outside the realm of possibility. It finishes with the ‘UK’s first hijab wearing referee’, a real person. And 20 seconds in it featured a gay footballer (Josh Day, of London Titans FC) celebrating a victory by kissing his partner on the pitch.

 

Let’s just pause (like I did, rewinding the brief footage seven times) and drink that in: millions of people just saw a gay footballer kissing his partner. There was no cutaway at the last minute. This wasn’t queer-baiting; we got the setup and the payoff. Yes, it only lasted a few seconds, but it was still around 400% longer than the lesbian kiss in the last Star Wars movie which was much heralded but was, ultimately, a crushing disappointment.

 

I know there are arguments that corporations are just jumping on the Pride bandwagon now it’s a commercially advantageous option. I get as frustrated at anyone about companies seeking out rainbow pounds/dollars/Euros without giving anything back to the LGBTQ+ community. But Nike has a better track record than most. Back in 2013, Nike actively sought gay athletes to be front and centre in their latest campaign. A little known fact is they also finance the queer-friendly animation studio Laika, famous for stop-motion movies Coraline, Paranorman and Kubo & The Two Strings (the studio head is the son of Nike’s co-founder).

 

One advert, no matter how well shot and well edited and well intended, is not going to change the world by itself. But things like this do chip away at the homophobia that sometimes seems like an immovable monolith, an ugly slab of uncut stone blocking out all the light, preventing mutual understanding from taking root.

 

When homophobia feels like this – and in my experience, it feels like this a lot of the time – we can get discouraged. We start to feel that it is an intractable problem: no matter what we do, we are just not going to shift it. But what I’ve learned over the years is this: anything you do, even if it’s chipping away, is enough to start something.

 

I’m reliably informed (thanks Wikipedia) that ‘chipping’ is also a term used in football for getting the ball where it needs to go by skilfully applying less than the usual force to the underside of the ball so it goes over opponents’ heads. Apparently, Lionel Messi (another of my husband’s reasons to watch certain matches) is very good at this. 

 

A footballer chipping in a ball is, of course, very different to someone trying to shift a big rock by hacking away tiny bits of it. It’s closer to a skilful sculptor chipping away carefully at a mass of marble. Less force; more impact. It highlights to me that while more forceful approaches to tackling the problem of homophobia are sometimes required, they aren’t the only options. Sometimes, something more subtle can be effective.

 

It may ‘just’ be an assembly; it may ‘just’ be a PSHE lesson; it may ‘just’ be an interaction in a corridor with a pupil who is putting more effort into disguising their true selves than their school work.

 

But…

 

It may ‘just’ be enough to change that pupil’s life; it may ‘just’ be enough to change the outlook of several members of a class; it may ‘just’ sow the seed of something which will grow as children move through our schools, flowering into something approaching – or exceeding – mutual understanding.

 

It’s well known that there are several gay players in the Premier League. What did they feel when they saw that Nike film played during halftime? Did they look at it with shame, retreating further back into the closet? Did they look at it with envy, wishing that they could be that jubilant player on the screen, unafraid to celebrate in front of spectators with his significant other?  Did they look at it with pride, knowing that they were represented? 

 

Who knows how long it will take for a player in the Premier League to come out as gay. But when it does happen (and it will) I doubt they will be able to point to just one thing that led them to decide enough was enough and led them to take that very brave step. It will be the cumulative result of them chipping away at their own internal monoliths over several years, wearing away their fear about what others will think about them; whether they will still get sponsorship deals; if their dream career will turn its back on them. 

 

When we ask our pupils about their dream careers, we may sometimes have to resist rolling our eyes. You want to earn a living as a footballer, riiiiiight. As it happens, I have taught several pupils who have made it as top-flight footballers, so I know it is possible. I would never have wanted any of those to see who they are as an impediment to pursuing those dreams.

 

Similarly, I would never want the critical mass of pupils who follow football to grow up thinking there is no place in the national sport for queer people. Or, for that matter, any occupational field. And that includes teaching.

 

I’ve been out as gay for over a decade and I never bother to hide this part of myself in front of my pupils. I find it startling to remember that I was the first out teacher at the school I currently spend most of my time in. I’m far from the only queer teacher at my school currently. I’d go so far to say we are well above national average as far as proportion of queer teachers goes. And the same goes across our multi-academy trust. I would never claim sole credit for this but we have trained queer people to be teachers who were former pupils of mine. And several of them have told me that knowing I was gay meant they didn’t close down the possibility of being a teacher themselves.

 

Football and education may not seem especially comparable (and I’m far more qualified to comment on the latter than the former), but they’re both fields where homosexuality has been less tolerated than in other social spheres. On most football pitches and school playing fields we’re still far away from having the differences in who we love being universally celebrated. And, yes, I do get VERY frustrated at the agonisingly slow pace of change! But I calm myself by recalling that even little things can have a big impact over time. Let’s keep chipping away.

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Finding Your Voice to Challenge Broken Systems

Shuaib Khan portrait

Written by Shuaib Khan

Shuaib is a teacher, sociologist, poet and podcaster.

On Saturday June 12th, I had the honour to join Hannah Wilson and Bennie Kara at the Diverse Educators forum for #DiverseEd. The theme I was focusing on was the notion of finding your voice.

After gathering my reflections and then almost losing my train of thought at the realisation one of my heroes, Dr Jill Berry was on the same panel as me, a really powerful conversation began to take place. The protected characteristics I wished to speak about were four-fold; being a British-Pakistani, Muslim educator. The journey that I have been on to reclaim a greater sense of self-pride in each element of my identity is still on-going. A lot of learning and unlearning comes with reflections. Ultimately, I am still on a journey.

After the introductions acknowledging the incredible educators that shared their experiences, the notion of what Nikesh Shukla refers to as the, “good immigrant” was my prominent theme. Before I began my journey, I believed firmly in the notion of being a “good immigrant” and the idea of assimilation and acceptance. Throughout my time at school and career as a teacher, as well as my lived experiences away from education, I was expected to “know my place.” There was always a tacit cultural tolerance that as a Muslim, and particularly as a Pakistani Muslim, raising my head too far above the parapet was frowned upon. Both society at large, and my own community seemed to foster this view. However, against the backdrop of the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement, I began to realise that despite how much assimilation takes place and to whatever extent I suppressed by race, ethnicity or religion, the “good immigrant” was no longer the label for me.

Why suppress your own identity?

A lot of this is born out of fear. As noted, my identity is four-fold and if I add gender in there, possibly even five-fold. In public spaces I always felt the need to abbreviate my name. I was ‘SK’ to many and I never dared to correct someone for mispronouncing my name. The shame and even fragility of identity politics was ingrained into by society and its structures. When we do a Google search for British-Pakistanis, we are met with a barrage of crass stereotypes. The exact same can be said about Muslims and these derogatory views often made me feel ashamed of where I came from. The media played a huge role in all of this. Whenever a global event involving Muslims occurred, as a child I felt at fault and as an educator, in various establishments, I felt a real sense of shame. However, these are broken systems and this cognitive dissonance I was feeling needed to be challenged.

The turning point really began when I looked through photos of my late Grandfather. He was so fiercely proud of his Kashmiri roots but was unable to articulate his feelings in written to spoken word. Some 60 plus years since he arrived in this country, his vision of social mobility lives on through us. I found my voice to honour my grandfather. I found my voice to elevate the concerns of the community that I live and work in. Ultimately, with finding my voice has come the tremendous responsibility of occupying a platform to help others find their voice. 

Hannah and Bennie enabled me to begin an important conversation. Many people out there are confused, disillusioned and apathetic about their identity. There is no magic wand approach. Yet, allowing others to speak on your behalf, without the lived experiences you have, this does your story no justice. For far too long I would wait my turn or relinquish my seat at the table because I felt like I had nothing worthy to say or offer. With organisations like DiverseED and Teacher Hug Radio amongst others, there is both a need and a desire for educators from all backgrounds to pull up a chair and begin to voice their concerns. 

In summary #MyDiverseEdPledge was to carry on learning and unlearning and to carry on challenging broken systems. The systems the panellists spoke of; hetro-normativity, unconscious bias, racism and systemic silence, they all must be challenged. Thank you once again to Hannah and Bennie. Please join my journey and I also look forward to hearing all about yours. 

You can watch Shuaib’s input at the #DiverseEd event here: https://youtu.be/wnanDncf6Xc 

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An Anti-Racist Approach to Physical Education

Mo Jafar portrait

Written by Mo Jafar

I am currently Head of PE at an all boys school in East London. I have been appointed Subject Lead for PE at the Havering Teacher Training Partnership.

It can be difficult to recognise how your practice can have a detrimental effect on Black people if you are unaware of the issues Black people face. It could be argued that a lack of Black people in middle leader positions in Physical Education can have a profound effect on the experience young Black people have in PE and this lack of representation is one reason why organisations such as BAME PE are so important. 

There are the classic stereotypes with regards to athleticism and power that are associated with Black people in sport and physical activity but what if you do not fit this model? If you are a Black girl in PE and not athletic what does PE offer you? Conversely, if you are athletic and Black how does this narrow your opportunities or change the way you are treated in PE? 

These are important questions and unfortunately may never be addressed if we don’t bring them to the table. As stated by Clark (2020) “People in power are pragmatic when working on behalf of those that don’t have it”. Clark’s comments are from a paper he wrote last year based on applying a critical race theory pedagogy towards Physical Education. 

Below I have highlighted some examples of how we might break through this pragmatism and actively adopt an anti-racist approach to Physical Education. I discussed this back in April on the PEPRN podcast by Dr Ash Casey which can be found here.

#1 The Changing Room

If you understand the black body you will know that moisturising is a religious art. How does this relate to PE I hear you say? 

The changing room is rife for ridicule and if someone has forgotten to moisturise their legs then they are now a target for verbal abuse from peers. 

If I noticed this happening over a number of weeks I would raise this with my designated safeguard lead as to me it’s not as simple as they have just forgotten. It might be the start of a thread that unravels later down the line.

As a Black person this type of issue is in my immediate attention but I’m not sure that it would be for others. Furthermore, the people in charge of designing and delivering safeguarding training are predominantly white and may not have this knowledge. 

Including insights such as this in safeguarding training would not solve all the problems of racism but it may well be a start.

#2 Swimming and golf: limited opportunities 

According to Swim England, the sport’s governing body, 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England do not swim, and only 2% of regular swimmers are black. See Guardian article here and also the short documentary film by Ed Accura “Black’s Can’t Swim” on YouTube. 

Having an acute awareness of the impact race has on an activity like swimming could encourage PE subject leads to be creative and ensure swimming for black pupils is a necessity and not a luxury. These statistics show there is a huge gap that PE can and should attempt to fill. 

Another example came from a recent parents evening as one parent made me promise to offer opportunities for black boys in sports like golf. 

Not all places feel accessible for black people or are experienced the same way as their white counterparts and for a long time I wouldn’t have felt it was my place to explore golf as a black man let alone a young black boy from East London. 

We can change this by committing to offering young black people the opportunity to explore environments like golf and break down the idea that it is not their place to be.

Storytelling…As a tool for change

As PE teachers, the challenge now is to ensure that young black people (and all young people really) have the opportunity to experience a range of activities that historically and for a variety of reasons may never cross their radar.

It’s about knowing the people in front of you. Trying to understand all of their complexities as individuals, whilst appreciating their socio-cultural constraints and the role racism can play on a day to day basis.

Lastly, listening to the stories of Black people without judgement and acknowledging that you may not fully appreciate the world they experience could go a long way to enriching the PE experience. For a more in depth reading on this topic and other PE related posts please visit my blog site teaching2move.wordpress.com

References

Langston Clark (2020) Toward a critical race pedagogy of physical education, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 25:4, 439-450, DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2020.1720633

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Supporting Women into a Career in Banking

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Written by DbGO

Written by dbGO, the Deutsche Bank gender inclusion network: db.com/diversity

At Deutsche Bank, we believe that diverse teams perform better. Different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds of our employees support better decision making. Gender plays a key role in this. But many companies still have a long way to go to achieve gender balance. Statistics show that women are underrepresented at senior levels in organisations across all 20 sectors of the economy. 

Deutsche Bank is on a mission to help change this. With a new target of having women in 35% of leadership roles by 2025, the bank wants to attract more female talent into banking to help improve gender balance and close the gender pay gap. ithin Deutsche Bank, dbGO is the gender inclusion network, run entirely by a team of volunteers who come together to support women across the bank. Their mission is to promote gender diversity to build better business and strengthen inclusion at the bank.

dbGO has created a film as part of an outreach initiative for schools targeting 13 to 18 year old female students. In collaboration with Diverse Educators and the bank’s youth engagement programme, Born to Be, the film will be distributed to schools across the UK to help demystify banking and open the eyes of female students to the opportunities available.

Hoping to inspire the future generation, six female Deutsche Bank employees with different personal and educational backgrounds have shared their career stories in the film. They share their journeys from education to their first job, what they wanted to be when they left school and how they ended up in banking – spoiler alert – it wasn’t on anyone’s grand plan! The women, who are at different seniority levels at the bank, tell the audience candidly, what it’s like to be a woman in banking, the mentoring and support they have received and the opportunities available to progress your career. 

The film showcases the different types of roles available inside a bank – including roles that you wouldn’t typically expect. From trading, marketing, technology, legal to risk management, there really is something for everyone, as one participant reveals.

The film can be previewed at a webinar for school teachers with a live Q&A on Monday 5th July – book to join us here or to stay in touch about the campaign here.  Participants will be able to hear more from Deutsche Bank at the session about why they have created the film and why they feel it is important to be shown to female students in particular as they start to make decisions that can affect their future careers.

In October, as part of International Day of the Girl, the film will be streamed to schools across the UK for students to learn more about banking careers and have the chance to ask questions to female Deutsche Bank employees about their careers and career journeys.  

For more information about getting involved with this careers resource please contact: hannah@diverseeducators.co.uk 

For more information follow:

Twitter @dbCitizenship @DeutscheBank

Facebook/DeutscheBank

Facebook/DeutscheBankCareers

Facebook/dbCitizenship

LinkedIn: Deutsche-Bank

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Young People on the Margins – GRT Young People

Abi Angus portrait

Written by Abi Angus

Abi is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Education and Youth. She joined the CfEY team after spending over ten years working with marginalised groups of young people and their families in a range of youth and community settings.

Last month, an article in The Times argued that Irish Travellers should no longer be recognised as an ethnic group in the UK, and that Traveller families who attempt to maintain traditional customs should have to assimilate into mainstream British culture. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are ethnic groups recognised by UK law, each with distinct languages, traditions and cultural practices. Denying that they are ethnic groups not only erases these communities’ rich histories but downplays the racism they face.

In this blog, I argue that support for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) pupils must start with recognition of the racism that they experience day to day. I’ll explain why I believe the discrimination that GRT communities face is relevant to education, and then finish with three key things schools and colleges can do to ensure that pupils are able to spend their time in education learning, rather than dealing with the effects of racism.

Before I joined the team at the Centre for Education and Youth, I ran an education advocacy project for GRT families across England. The discrimination that families I worked alongside faced was shocking, and was a factor in most of the difficult situations families encountered. Sometimes this was explicit, like the young person who was excluded for lashing out after being called racial slurs for weeks, and sometimes this was built into systems, like the family who couldn’t access transport to school, despite living on a site cut off from the local school by a motorway.

More recently, my colleague Ellie Mulcahy and I co-authored a chapter focussing on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils’ experiences for CfEY’s recently published book  ‘Young People on the Margins’. In our chapter we point out that while many GRT pupils excel in education, there are barriers to success that GRT families have little control over. 

Mainstream society is often unfriendly towards GRT people; attitudes towards nomadic families are usually hostile, and families who have settled in ‘bricks and mortar’ housing also face offensive stereotypes and social exclusion. In 2017, a YouGov/The Traveller Movement poll found that:

  • Just a third (34%) of UK adults consider Gypsies and Travellers to be ethnic groups.
  • Less than half (41%) of UK parents would be happy for their child to go to a playdate at the home of a child who is a Gypsy or a Traveller.

Children are affected by these attitudes in the education system too. 

Many families avoid officially identifying as GRT in order to reduce the likelihood of discrimination, and the current categories (Gypsy/Roma or Irish Traveller) used by the DfE do not match how some families identify, so it’s hard to gain a full picture of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils’ outcomes. However, we do know that:

  • Attainment for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils is lower than other groups. In 2019/20, the average Attainment 8 score for Gypsy/Roma pupils was 23, and for Traveller pupils it was 32, in comparison to an average of 50 across all pupils.
  • Exclusion rates are higher for these groups of pupils, with 21.26% of Gypsy and Roma pupils and 14.63% of Traveller pupils receiving fixed-period exclusions in 2018/19, compared to 5.36% of all pupils.

For some people, these statistics confirm racist beliefs that there is an inherent educational deficit in GRT communities. This is something we strongly reject. Decades of research show that it is racism, prejudice and a lack of inclusion that cause poor outcomes for GRT pupils. 

One of the largest barriers to educational success for GRT young people is other people’s attitudes. In a 2019 report from Friends, Families and Travellers, 86% of GRT young people said that bullying was the biggest challenge for them in school.  It is no wonder that engaging in education can be difficult for students in a society where two thirds of adults deny their identity, and over a third of people in their local community would avoid spending time with them, just because of their ethnicity.

Broader problems such as lack of access to quality housing and poor health can make working with schools even harder for parents. When families’ experiences are understood and discrimination is tackled, more pupils are able to leave school with an education that adequately prepares them for the future. Listening to the stories of success we share in our book chapter, we can see that effective support relies on:

  • Tackling racism and discrimination in schools and colleges
  • Building strong relationships between staff and families
  • Allowing flexibility in school and college systems and processes where possible.

These themes are echoed throughout our book, in chapters on the experiences of young people with SEND, who are care experienced and who are homeless. The approaches that make education more accessible for GRT pupils can help bring all young people in from the margins. 

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LGBT+ inclusive education helps all young people, whether they are LGBT+ or not

Dominic Arnall portrait

Written by Dominic Arnall

Chief Executive of Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity.

When Pride comes around, it can be easy to convince ourselves that so much has changed in terms of marriage and parental rights for adults, that it must be far easier growing up LGBT+ in 2021. Sadly, this is a common misconception and the research paints a much darker picture.

Just Like Us decided to commission independent research, conducted by Cibyl, to get a clear picture of how LGBT+ young people have been impacted, what is happening in terms of LGBT+ inclusive education, and how educators feel about implementing it. 

When the pandemic began we expected that LGBT+ pupils may struggle more – perhaps stuck at home with unaccepting families, cut off from their usual support networks and struggling to find acceptance at school. What the independent research found was horrifying – LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to have contemplated suicide, and Black LGBT+ young people are three times more likely.

Our report, ‘Growing Up LGBT+’, surveyed almost 3,000 school pupils aged 11-18 (over 1,000 of whom were LGBT+) as well as more than 500 school staff. The results are very clear: LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to be worrying daily about their mental health and feeling lonely on a daily basis during lockdowns.

While the pandemic has of course been tough for everyone, including immense pressure on educators, it is devastating to see that LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing on so many fronts – from depression to anxiety and panic attacks, there remains much work to be done. 

LGBT+ school pupils are also twice as likely to have been bullied and just 21% told a teacher at school. Only 33% of LGBT+ pupils say there is a clear process for reporting anti-LGBT+ bullying in their school.

So what can we do? The good news is that the independent research found that pupils in schools where there is positive messaging about being LGBT+, pupils are less likely to have had suicidal thoughts and feelings – whether they are LGBT+ or not. The statistics are clear: all pupils benefit from a LGBT+ inclusion in schools.

74% of LGBT+ pupils who have never had positive messaging from their school about being LGBT+ have contemplated suicide but this drops to 65% when their school provides strong positive messaging about being LGBT+.

Non-LGBT+ pupils also benefit from LGBT+ inclusion in school – 33% of non-LGBT+ pupils who have never had positive messaging at school have contemplated suicide but this drops to 28% when there is strong positive messaging in their school.

A perhaps surprising finding from the independent research was also that the majority of all young people are very pro-trans. 84% of 11 to 18 year olds say they would proudly support a friend if they came out as transgender. 57% say they already have a friend who is trans. This really shows how important it is that we listen to young people’s voices and enable them to pave the way for positive change when it comes to LGBT+ equality.

Lastly, we are very concerned by the high proportion of LGBT+ educators who are facing challenges and fears about coming out at work and implementing LGBT+ inclusion in their schools. 40% of LGBT+ primary and secondary school staff are not out to their pupils.

Some might say that there’s no need to come out to pupils and there certainly should never be pressure on anyone to come out, but we are deeply worried about school staff who feel afraid to be themselves at work. No one should feel the need to hide who they are married to, who their families are or simply who they are in their jobs. 

We also found that 31% of LGBT+ school staff say their colleagues or school board are a barrier to implementing LGBT+ inclusion in their school. The findings show there are still huge challenges that educators face in trying to bring about positive change and simply letting pupils know that: LGBT+ people exist and that’s OK.

As always, Just Like Us is here to support all educators – LGBT+ or not – with making schools safer and happier places for their pupils. You do not need to be an expert, it just takes a willingness to want to support LGBT+ young people who are so disproportionately struggling right now. 

School Diversity Week is happening 21-25 June and it’s not too late to get involved. If you work in a primary school, secondary school or college, please sign up for free and we’ll send you a digital toolkit of resources for all key stages to help you celebrate. 

Let’s create a world where LGBT+ young people can thrive.

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