"How do we decide when to teach the names of private parts in Primary School?"

Ian Timbrell portrait

Written by Ian Timbrell

Ian is an education consultant and trainer, supporting schools develop their provision for LGBT+ pupils and their RSE curriculum. He has worked in education for 15 years; including as a class teacher and a deputy head teacher.

Debating whether to teach the names of genitals in Foundation Phase/Stage education (ages 3-7) is a nuanced discussion that encompasses considerations of child development, cultural norms, parental preferences, and educational goals. Making this discussion more complex is that in most countries (England and Wales included), when to introduce the names of genitals in Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is not specified to a single age, but within a range (generally 3-11). In both England and Wales, schools are expected to teach the names of body parts, but which body parts, in which order and at what age, are not referenced. This is needed to provide schools flexibility to teach children at a stage appropriate to them, but has also resulted in a wide range of interpretations with some schools introducing the terms as young as 3, with other schools only teaching them when introducing lessons on puberty in upper KS2. I get regular questions about a particular RSE providers who provide lesson plans on the names of genitals in year 1. The rationale given by the organisation is not based in research, but in their own experience and through conversations with practitioners and so although a scheme has this lesson in, there are considerations that need to be made when deciding when to follow this guidance.

One of the reasons that it is difficult to make firm decisions about when to introduce terminology is the difficulty of finding peer-reviewed research in this area. For the most part, schools are led by either out of date research or guidance from organisations that is based on opinion and experience, rather than corroborated research. Introducing vocabulary in RSE and in areas of diversity is part of many studies and research projects and it is expected that in years to come, we’ll have more clarity in this area.

So with these difficulties in mind, what should schools do and how can we make decisions that is best for our pupils?

Arguments for Teaching Genital Names in the Foundation Phase/Stage:

  1. Promoting Body Positivity and Autonomy: Teaching children accurate anatomical terms for genitals fosters a healthy understanding and acceptance of their bodies. By using correct terminology, some believe that children develop a sense of body positivity and autonomy, enabling them to communicate effectively about their bodies and recognise inappropriate touch.
  2. Facilitating Safety and Awareness: Knowledge of proper anatomical names empowers children to articulate discomfort or instances of abuse more accurately. It is suggested that learning the correct names for genitals, like any other body part, have names helps break down taboos surrounding discussions of sexuality and promotes a culture of safety and awareness.
  3. Preventing Misinformation: Using euphemisms or avoiding discussions about genital names may lead to confusion and misinformation. Children are naturally curious and may seek answers from unreliable sources if not provided with accurate information in a safe and supportive environment.
  4. Normalizing Discussions about Sexuality: Introducing genital names in early education may usualise discussions about sexuality and reproductive health. When presented in an age-appropriate manner, such conversations may lay the foundation for future learning and promote healthy attitudes towards sexuality and relationships.

Arguments against Teaching Genital Names in the Foundation Phase/Stage:

  1. Cultural Sensitivities and Parental Preferences: Some parents may feel uncomfortable with the idea of their young children learning genital names in an educational setting. Cultural norms, religious beliefs, and personal values vary widely, influencing parental preferences regarding what and how topics related to sexuality are addressed in early education. Introducing the genital names without the support of parents and guardians could cause conflicts with and between home and school.
  2. Developmental Appropriateness: Critics argue that introducing genital names at too young an age may be developmentally inappropriate and potentially confusing for children. They suggest that focusing on broader concepts such as body boundaries, personal safety, and self-respect may be more suitable for early childhood education. There is also the risk that it may not be appropriate for pupils with certain ALN/SEND at a certain time, or that the resources don’t take into account their individual needs.
  3. Respecting Family Dynamics: Education systems must respect the diversity of family structures and dynamics. Some parents prefer to address topics related to sexuality and anatomy within the family unit, tailoring discussions to their child’s individual readiness and comfort level.
  4. Risk of Misinterpretation: Critics caution that discussing genital names in early education may inadvertently sensationalise or overemphasize the significance of genitals, potentially leading to misunderstandings or discomfort among children and parents.

Finding a Middle Ground:

In navigating this issue, finding a middle ground that respects diverse perspectives while prioritizing children’s well-being is essential. Educators and policymakers can consider the following approaches:

  • Consult with parents and experts: Engage parents, carers, and experts in child development, psychology, and education to gather insights and perspectives on the issue. Work with the community to develop an approach that works for your school, not because a scheme dictates it.
  • Plan for individuals: Do not take a blanket approach to teaching. Consider whether every pupil is ready and what reasonable adjustments need to be put into place for certain pupils.
  • Provide opt-out options: When permitted by the curriculum, offer parents the opportunity to opt their children out of specific lessons or discussions related to genital names, respecting their autonomy and preferences.
  • Emphasise sensitivity and inclusivity: Approach discussions about genital names with sensitivity, inclusivity, and cultural awareness, acknowledging diverse perspectives and beliefs within the community.

The debate over whether to teach genital names in early childhood education reflects the broader discourse surrounding sexuality education, child development, and cultural sensitivities. The review of RSE in England may provide additional transparency around this issue, but until then, we have to use our professional judgement and work with all stakeholders to ensure that our children get quality RSE and are safeguarded against harm.


Empowering PSHE Leadership: Leading with DEI Principles

Malarvilie Krishnasamy portrait

Written by Malarvilie Krishnasamy

Malarvilie is a seasoned leadership consultant, coach, and trainer with over 20 years of experience in education. As a former history teacher and senior leader, she passionately advocates for coaching as a catalyst for transforming school cultures. Malarvilie offers accredited courses, endorsed by The Institute of Leadership, which develop emotional intelligence and assertive leadership skills. Her reflective and supportive programmes enhance staff morale and well-being, promoting humanity in leadership. A vocal proponent of equity, diversity, and inclusion, she actively engages as an ally through speaking engagements, workshops, and amplifying the work of others. Malarvilie is also deeply committed to promoting Personal, Social, Health, and Economic (PSHE) education, recognising its pivotal role in nurturing well-rounded individuals.

I’m excited to tackle a topic that’s not just important but essential in education: leading PSHE with a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) lens. As educators, we know that PSHE isn’t just about teaching facts; it’s about nurturing well-rounded individuals who are equipped to navigate the complexities of life. That’s why it’s crucial to infuse DEI principles into our PSHE curriculum, acknowledging and respecting the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences of our students. Join me as we explore how embracing DEI principles can transform PSHE education and create a more inclusive learning environment for all.

In many cultures, discussions about puberty, relationships, and sexual education may not happen at home. This leaves young people to rely solely on their friends or inaccurate information from the internet. This highlights the importance of PSHE education as a reliable source of accurate information. By providing comprehensive and inclusive PSHE/RSE in schools, we can ensure that all young people have access to the correct information, regardless of their background or cultural context.

Moreover, fostering an inclusive environment in PSHE lessons creates a safe space where students feel comfortable discussing their experiences and asking questions. This helps break down barriers and ensures that every student feels valued and supported in their journey through puberty and relationships, not just in terms of biological changes but also emotional and social aspects.

But leading PSHE isn’t just about delivering lessons; it’s about cultivating a whole-school approach to well-being and inclusivity. This involves considering staff values and providing them with comprehensive training sessions to navigate sensitive topics effectively, ensuring alignment with the values of the school, the curriculum, and the 2010 Equality Act. Staff members, while bringing their own values, must understand and adhere to the principles outlined in the Act, which mandates the promotion of equality and diversity within educational settings. 

Additionally, understanding local and national statistics regarding teenage health issues, such as drug use, alcohol misuse, underage sex, lack of condom use for teenagers, and teenage pregnancies, equips educators with evidence to emphasise the importance of PSHE education. By sharing this information and ensuring staff awareness of their duty as PSHE teachers within the British curriculum, we can empower them to confidently and effectively deliver PSHE education, thereby supporting the well-being of our students.

But PSHE leaders often get left out in the cold. Schools know PSHE is important, but they don’t always give leaders training to lead effectively. 

The challenges faced by PSHE leaders extend beyond traditional teaching roles. Effective communication with staff, parents, and students is paramount, but the support in developing these skills often falls through the cracks. PSHE is a whole school subject. Unlike other subjects, it’s rare to have dedicated PSHE teachers, and leaders must coordinate a diverse group of educators, each with their primary subject expertise. This aspect is often underappreciated, with a mere 1 management point failing to reflect the intricacies of PSHE leadership.

Additionally, the unique pedagogy required for PSHE is often overlooked in training programs, preventing the ability to deliver PSHE effectively. It’s time to invest in the professional development of our PSHE leaders.

That’s where the Level 5 Inclusive and Progressive Leadership of PSHE Course comes in—a comprehensive solution to bridge these gaps. This course equips PSHE leaders with the skills, knowledge, and awareness needed to excel in their roles. From diplomacy and communication to the unique pedagogy of PSHE, this program addresses every facet of effective PSHE leadership.

Conclusion

Leading PSHE with a DEI lens is not just a responsibility; it’s a commitment to creating a safe, inclusive, and empowering learning environment for all students. By incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into our approach to PSHE, we ensure that every young person receives the support and education they need to navigate the challenges of puberty, relationships, and well-being. 

Equipping staff with the necessary training and awareness of their duties under the 2010 Equality Act empowers them to deliver PSHE education effectively, promoting the health and well-being of our students. Let’s continue to champion a holistic approach to PSHE leadership, where every student feels valued, respected, and supported in their journey toward adulthood.

Click HERE to download your free PSHE DEI self-assessment!

Click HERE to download your free KS2 or KS3 Diverse Perspectives self-assessment!

Also for further resources have a look at the The Diverse Educators’ Inclusive RSHE Toolkit – Inclusive RSHE Toolkit | Diverse Educators We are collating a growing bank of resources to help you to review and develop how inclusive the RSHE provision is in your school. 

 

 


A Curriculum That Empowers Young People in Care

Anu Roy portrait

Written by Anu Roy

Anu is a TeachFirst leadership Alumni and digital trustee and teacher committee lead for charities in England and Scotland. She is currently a digital curriculum development manager and works in inclusive education projects incorporating tech.

This year is the first time I have developed and designed curriculum models for young people in the care system. Although students I have taught in previous roles come from a range of backgrounds, this role is the first time I have looked at curriculum specifically through the lens of an education that often forgets the difficulties faced by care experienced young people. 

Out of nearly 12 million children living in England, just over 400,000 are in the social care system at any one time. They face a lot of disruption in their learning journey due to personal circumstances, financial difficulties and challenging home circumstances. This means in comparison to their peers, care experienced young people fall behind in most education and health outcome indicators.

Working with a team of educators, social workers, web developers and UX/UI designers, these are the ways we believe curriculum development can help experienced young people thrive: 

  1. Introduce context alongside technical concepts: technical concepts across all subjects can be difficult for CEYP to master in a short space of time so contextual information wedged on either side of a technical explanation will enable their understanding and grasp to learn and embed the technicality in their wider learning framework. 
  2. Champion peer learning– CEYP could have challenging interactions with direct instruction if it reminds them of unpleasant previous instructor situations therefore activities that use peer learning not only lowers the stakes for them to develop their self confidence and interactivity in a lesson but encourages building friendships within the classroom while learning key concepts together.
  3. Open ended ethos– instructors and teachers should veer away from specifying the outcome of a learning topic as ‘to achieve grade _’- instead the learning objectives should first be anchored to exploring the curiosity around the topic with prompts such as ‘what would happen if____?’ or ‘what could we learn if we explored how___’. Academic pressure to perform instantly can feel overwhelming for CEYP. While they should not be met with lowered expectations, instead the reframing helps to welcome them to first explore before learning the topic and moving on to an evaluative stage where they gain more agency. 
  4. Knowledge connection outside the classroom-Learning feels more relevant for CEYP when they are introduced to topics through the lens of real world use. Introducing a curriculum through a skills development framework linked to increased employment motivates them to understand the use of each topic, further strengthened by real world examples, work based scenarios and soft skill demonstrations. It helps them bridge the transition from education to active skill application and any learning based curriculum should also have opportunities through project work for practical applications related to public speaking, project management, team building and problem solving for CEYP to gain experience in these areas. 

Many educators are unaware of the students in their classrooms who come from a care experienced background. While this should not be the only aspect of their identity to focus on, a student centered approach to relationship building alongside these curriculum findings should enable educators to build strong relationships by understanding the story and journey many of their students have taken to make it to the classroom and learn each day. Aimed with this knowledge and bespoke approach, schools and their wider communities can foster a sense of belonging for care experienced young people, something they have been denied of for too long. 


Black History Month: Dismantling inequalities in education for better outcomes

Henry Derben portrait

Written by Henry Derben

Henry Derben is the Media, PR, and Policy Manager at Action Tutoring - an education charity that supports disadvantaged young people in primary and secondary to achieve academically and to enable them to progress in education, employment, or training by partnering high-quality volunteer tutors with pupils to increase their subject knowledge, confidence and study skills.

Before the pandemic disrupted education, students from Black ethnic backgrounds had the lowest pass rate among all major ethnic groups at the GCSE level. However, the 2022-23 GCSEs marked a notable shift from the pre-pandemic period, with Black students on average achieving similar English and maths pass rates comparable to students of other ethnic groups.

Black History Month is celebrated in October each year in the UK to recognise the historic achievements and contributions of the Black community. It is also a prime moment to reflect on the state of education and how it can be reshaped to create a more equitable and inclusive future.

As part of activities to mark Black History Month at Action Tutoring, we had an insightful conversation on how to ensure better outcomes and a more enabling environment for Black pupils in schools with Hannah Wilson, a co-founder of Diverse Educators, a coach, development consultant and trainer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practice. Hannah’s former roles in education include head of secondary teacher training, executive headteacher, and vice-chair of a trust board.

Below are some highlights of the conversation.

Re-examining Black history in the UK curriculum

Black History Month in the UK often focuses on the celebrated figures and events in mostly Black American history, such as the civil rights movement and famous Black personalities. However, Hannah highlights an important criticism – the lack of focus on UK Black identities.

“We want to move to the point where Black culture and identity are integrated throughout the curriculum,” Hannah explains, advocating for a more inclusive and comprehensive approach. The celebration of Black identity is that it’s often a lot of Black men being spoken about and not Black women, queer people, and disabled people. Thinking about that intersectionality and looking at the complexity and the hybridity of those different parts of identity often gets overlooked as well.”

A new Pupil Experience and Wellbeing survey by Edurio shows that pupils of Any Other Ethnic Group (48%) are 21% more likely to rarely or never feel that the curriculum reflects people like them than White British/Irish Students (27%). Additionally, Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups (16%) and Black/African/Caribbean/Black British students (18%) are the least likely to feel that the curriculum reflects them very or quite often.

Unpacking performance gaps

Data has shown that while a high percentage of Black students pursue higher education, they often struggle to obtain high grades, enter prestigious universities, secure highly skilled jobs, and experience career satisfaction. The journey to understanding the root causes of these educational disparities is a complex one.

Hannah recommended the need to rethink career education and the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies that often work in isolation.

“I don’t think all schools are carefully curating the visible role models they present. The adage about if you can’t see it can’t be it, and the awareness around the navigation into those different career pathways. I think that is saying that schools could do better. There’s a bridge there to be built around the pathways we are presenting as opportunities on the horizon for young people as well. Representation within the workforce is another key aspect. We need to address the lack of Black representation in leadership positions, not only in schools but also in higher education.”

The early years and disadvantage

Disadvantage often begins at an early age. Children from low-income backgrounds, including Black children, start school at a disadvantage. Hannah pointed out that the key to dismantling this cycle lies in reimagining the curriculum, the approach to teaching, and in valuing cultural consciousness.

“It’s important to start with the curriculum. The curriculum in the early years should be diverse and inclusive. The thought leaders within that provision or within that key stage are often quite white. That’s often the disconnect at a systemic level when it comes to policymaking around provision for the early years. Who is designing the policy for the early years? Who’s designing the curriculum for the early years? Are we being intentional about representation in the early years?”

“However, we need to move beyond simply adding diversity as a “bolt-on.” Their representation should be integral to the curriculum, not an afterthought. As young as our children join the education system, what can we do differently from the get-go to think about identity representation.”

Breaking the concrete ceiling

While tutoring is a viable method to help bridge the gap for underperforming students, Hannah stressed the need to change the system fundamentally. Rather than continually implementing interventions when problems arise, it’s best to revisit the structure of the school day, the diversity of teaching staff, and the core content of the curriculum.

“It has to start with the curriculum, surely tutoring and mentoring all of those interventions like mediation support mechanisms are so powerful, we know that make up the difference. But what are we actually doing to challenge the root cause? We have to stop softball. We’re often throwing money at the problem, but not actually fixing the problems or doing things differently. We need a big disruption and conscious commitment to change, but it needs to be collective.”

“We need to address the concrete ceiling that often prevents Black pupils from accessing leadership opportunities. Career guidance, sponsorship, and mentoring should be part of the solution to break these patterns. Collective action is essential to create lasting change.”

The power of engaged parents

Change should also start at home. Parents and guardians play a crucial role in a child’s education, particularly in the early years. Hannah suggests a shift in the dynamic between schools and parents.

“Thinking about how we work with parents and create a true partnership and collaboration. That to me, is what some schools perhaps need to revisit – their kind of plans, commitment, or the ways they work with different stakeholders. Engaging parents more closely is definitely a way of helping them get involved in schools so they’re part of that change cycle.”

The call to action for allies

In conclusion, Hannah’s powerful call to action focuses on allyship, encouraging non-Black people to actively support and contribute to the ongoing struggle for equity and inclusion in education.

I think for people who identify as being white, the reflection and awareness of your own experience with schooling, where your identity is constantly being affirmed and validated because you saw yourselves in the classroom, in the teachers, in the leaders, in the governors, and in the curriculum, that’s often taken for granted. It’s time for us to step back, see those gaps, and to appreciate how that affirms us, but how that could actually really erode someone’s sense of self when they don’t see themselves in all of those different spaces.”

There should be a conscious intention that educators make about what they teach, who they teach, and how they teach it, to really think about representation and the positive impact it has on young people. And being very mindful that we don’t then just perpetuate certain stereotypes and not doing pockets of representation and pockets of validation.”

Hannah’s insights underscore the urgency of addressing the disparities in our education system. As Black History Month wraps up, let’s heed the call to action and take collective steps toward a more inclusive and empowering education system that taps and nurtures the potential of all young Black students.


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  https://tinyurl.com/ye2928v7


Anti-racism in the Early Years

Rachna Joshi portrait

Written by Rachna Joshi

Rachna is a teacher and consultant. She works with under-threes, Nursery and Reception children, and holds an MA in Early Childhood Studies. Rachna writes and speaks at events sharing experience and knowledge, empowering practitioners and provoking questions to disrupt routine practice. She supports schools by guiding educators to implement inspiring practice that reflects their classes. She works as a freelance consultant and with the Froebel Trust as a travelling tutor.

Originally published for Early Education in 2020:

https://early-education.org.uk/guest-blog-from-rachna-joshi-anti-racism-in-the-early-years/ 

Introduction

Race and racism in society is as important as ever; I am writing not only as a British South Asian who has experienced racism, but as an ally against white supremacy and anti-Black sentiment that perpetuates our consciousness.

Structural racism is insidious, and we need to look at ourselves and think about the messages we perpetuate. The racism that comes through our thinking, language and gestures shows the undercurrent of white supremacy in the ways that we perceive the world.

Context

This was written to respond to the systemic racism in education as a profession.

It is great that some people are more aware and doing what they can to ‘be anti-racist’, but this needs to continue – it’s a movement, not a moment.

There are many problems with systemic racism in Early Childhood settings, and I hope to provide some suggestions and links for your own reflective practice –I can’t tell you what to do, it is your journey and up to you to educate yourself, but I hope this helps on that journey.

Reading articles on racism may be uncomfortable, as it is an upheaval of what we know, and what is normal, and this is because ‘normal’ is inherently racist. I want to ask questions that may not be answered here, because this is a point of introspection and individual responsibility when it comes to looking after our children and being ‘players’ in a wider world. You need to ask yourself questions, consider who you are and what your call to action is for change.

Classrooms

Often as Educators we are seen as though we are already doing “the good work”, yet this topic brings about a space for deep introspection. When you set up and manage your classrooms ensure representation is embedded and not an ‘add on’. White, cisgender heteronormativity cannot be the default.

Classroom changes need to look beyond book corners and skin colour paints. Colleagues shared with me the lack of thought behind some small world people resources as the shop only provided white people. The representative resources already exist, unfortunately it is not mainstream, but this needs to change. Audit your dressing up clothes, food items and hair related products for your role play areas – ask parents to donate items. Tune into and value the voices in the classroom that come from wider communities. Consider the characters and stories that are shared – what message is being shared around skin colour, femininity and hair when using Frozen characters for example?

Development Matters and the EYFS People and Communities ELG explicitly reference “similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions” if we decipher the curriculum through this lens we may see that we should already be exposing children to a variety of cultures to provide opportunity for discussion with children. Presumably these statements are based on the research that expressions of racial prejudice peak by age 4 or 5 (Aboud, 2008). However, often we only hear about wider cultures and practices through celebrations: Eid, Diwali, Hannukah, Chinese New Year, this ‘add-on’ doesn’t provide the deeper discussion of cultures and values that encompass the everyday for the children that celebrate these festivals. What are you doing to ensure that all communities are represented and respected? And how do you incorporate these communities into your usual practice and provision? How do you ensure that your practice provides a wider perspective?

Curricula

There needs to be deeper consideration of how curricula can be decolonised, ensuring key figures are discussed and explored. It is not enough to teach the history of enslavement and civil rights (which are important stories that represent the struggle so many marginalised communities have experienced) it is about countering the narrative that to be non-white is not normal.

“Cultural capital” needs to include key public figures, artists and musicians, but also everyday heroes that children may see in the community. We want our children to have a foundation of curiosity, knowledge, and respect for differences, so that they don’t absorb the idea that the lives of black, and other people of colour are only about struggle.

Acknowledging cultural capital means noticing, celebrating, and valuing difference. Most schools celebrate white men- Samuel Pepys when learning about the Great Fire of London, Pablo Picasso, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in the recent Moon Landings celebrations. Where are the Black people? Are we giving an accurate representation of history if the only figures we see are white men? What about Mary Seacole, Steve McQueen, Katharine Johnson, Ai WeiWei, Anish Kapoor?

To question my own biases when planning curriculum drivers, I have begun to ensure a set of questions are on the top of every curriculum document:

  • Have you addressed sustainability?
  • Have you shown a variety of families/gender roles?
  • Have you included characters and perspective from a variety of backgrounds, especially those who are under-represented?
  • Have you included stories that show a range of emotions for discussion?
  • Is there an opportunity for cultural capital?

Cultural practices are often forgotten and seen as an ‘add on’. An example might be a discussion of eating with hands vs. eating with knives and forks – some things that might be seen as a norm in one culture is the opposite in another. Have you made space for this in your classroom and your own understanding of your children and their cultures?

Reflection and Response

Are you prepared to discuss race, or answer a question on race when it occurs in the classroom and ensure you have done best for that child?

Ensure you are prepared to talk about skin colour, culture, religion so you’re not scrambling for words when a child asks a direct question about these things. Have you spoken to families to ask them how they have approached discussing skin colour? How are you ensuring families feel confident to discuss race?

Ultimately as practitioners we are familiar with constant reflection, but it takes more to look closely at the implicit bias that we perpetuate. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, but make sure you research and read up – educate yourself. Make lifestyle changes that involve taking on these wider perspectives beyond your early education practice.

Leadership

What do your leadership teams look like? In predominantly white areas there may be little diversity, but is there diversity in the content that is taught to children? Are staff aware of the wider world and implications of their bias? Are staff considering the possibility of providing only a white view of the world to children? Is there a consideration from leadership teams to reflect on systemic racism in schools and settings, and how could this be tackled? Could your schools consider mandatory staff training on Black history, global non-white-led history and open discussion of unlearning of implicit bias (by consultants who specialise in this area)?

Are you questioning decisions that perpetuate anti-blackness and racism in your school? If you are white, do you stand up for your underrepresented colleagues, who may not have the privilege to stand up for themselves?

Institutions

When Early Childhood Education institutions are questioned, the inherent tokenistic nature of BAME representation is revealed. When representation is conceived through a lens of empty diversity that leads to tokenistic representation in chairs and boards, then what message does this send, and what actual intervention does this make in challenging implicit bias and institutional racism?

The government response to including Black History and minority ethnic representation into the curriculum was that it is up to teachers to do this (see petition response). Where in Initial Teacher Training is there a discussion of systemic racism and bias and how practitioners can support BAME families appropriately? In Early Childhood academia, a privileged position to be in, majority of academics are white and therefore research continues to remain whitewashed.

A large part of the wider work to tackle racism is to look at our institutions and policies. Our institutions are built upon racist ideologies and anti-blackness. There are petitions to change how our curriculum looks at a wider policy level but these are often rejected. There needs to be a whole government strategy, that needs to be continually lobbied by all Early Education influencers and those in positions of power who are allies in this movement.

Further Reading

Blogs and Articles

Laura Henry-Allain’s article in Nursery World

Kate Moxley’s podcast discusses blackness in Early Years with Liz Pemberton and “The Early Years Orchestra” episode with Jamal Carly

An Abolitionist Coalition Grassroots Movement in Education

US based article writing about racism in preschool

Nursery practitioner David Cahn writes about allyship and racism in Early Years

Decolonising curriculums

Practitioner’s roles in decolonising curriculums

Reflection on anti-racism in schools

Making changes to the curriculum

Parliament response to Decolonisation of curriculum petition

Talking race with children and families

How to respond to children when they ask race related questions

Parents guide to Black Lives Matter

Social Media Accounts to Follow

Black Nursery Manager Instagram @theblacknurserymanager
The Conscious Kid Instagram @theconsciouskid
Jamal Carly Instagram @Jamal.Carly
JossyCare Instagram @JossyCare
Laura Henry-Allain Twitter @IamLauraHenry

Resources

National Literacy Trust Book list
Spud and Yam Irish and Jamaican musicians
Black History Resources for UK schools

References

Aboud, F. E. (2008). A social-cognitive developmental theory of prejudice. In S. M. Quintana & C.
McKown (Eds.), Handbook of race, racism, and the developing child (p. 55–71). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Empowering Through Education: The Rastafarian Scheme of Work

Johnoi Josephs portrait

Written by Johnoi Josephs

Johnoi Josephs is the Associate Assistant Principal at a school in West London where he specialises in Behaviour, Attendance and Pastoral Programmes. He also teaches RE, Citizenship and Sociology. As well as teaching he is the co-founder of Black Men Teach which aims to build a space where Black Males and Boys can thrive in education. For him, BMT is important because representation matters in all sense and so we need to illustrate presence in every industry/profession. Johnoi aims to live a life of servitude where he is able to make as much impact as possible when it comes to education.

In the pursuit of a more inclusive and culturally diverse education system, it’s essential to recognise the power of representation. As a black male teacher from Jamaica, my journey in creating the Rastafarian Scheme of Work was fuelled by a desire to pay homage to my roots and provide students with a curriculum that embraces their own cultural identities. This endeavour was not only a personal passion, but a fundamental step towards decolonising the curriculum.

The Inspiration

The spark for this project ignited during a conversation with a friend. We delved into the complexities of decolonising the curriculum, particularly within Religious Studies. It was clear that this endeavour required a nuanced approach. Armed with this newfound determination, I set out to create a curriculum that would bridge the gap between mainstream education and the rich tapestry of Rastafarianism.

A Journey of Dedication

Crafting the Rastafarian Scheme of Work was no small feat. Balancing it with my other responsibilities was a challenge, but I knew this endeavour was a crucial step towards a more inclusive educational experience. I dedicated days of my summer holidays to ensure that this curriculum would be comprehensive, engaging, and transformative for students.

Empowering Through Knowledge

The Rastafarian Scheme of Work is a meticulously designed curriculum that empowers KS3 students with deep understanding of Rastafarianism. This comprehensive course comprises:

  • Seven Detailed Lessons: Each lesson is designed to provide students with a holistic view of Rastafarianism, encompassing its origins, beliefs, practices, and cultural significance.
  • Medium Term Plan (MTP) Breakdown: This plan outlines the progression of the curriculum, ensuring a seamless and immersive learning experience.
  • Knowledge Organiser: A valuable resource that condenses essential information, allowing students to review and reinforce their understanding.
  • Assessment: A tool to evaluate students’ grasp of the material, providing valuable feedback for both educators and learners.
  • Extra Resources: Supplementary materials enrich the learning journey, offering a well-rounded exploration of Rastafarianism.

The Power of Representation

Incorporating diverse perspectives and cultural awareness in education is not merely a matter of political correctness, but a fundamental necessity for the holistic development of students. Research consistently demonstrates the profound impact of representation on learning outcomes, social integration, and well-being.

  • Enhancing Learning Outcomes: Inclusive curricula positively affect student motivation and achievement levels, leading to higher academic performance.
  • Fostering Inclusivity and Belonging: Representation in education helps foster a sense of inclusivity and belonging, leading to increased participation, improved social integration, and a stronger sense of community within the school.
  • Cultivating Empathy and Global Awareness: Exposure to diverse perspectives cultivates empathy and a broader understanding of the world, a critical skill in an increasingly interconnected and globalised society.
  • Mitigating Stereotypes and Biases: Inclusive education challenges harmful stereotypes and biases, fostering a more accurate and nuanced understanding of different cultures and identities.

Transforming Schools: A Call to Action

Given the wealth of research supporting the importance of representation and cultural awareness in education, educators must take proactive steps towards decolonising the curriculum. The Rastafarian Scheme of Work is a prime example of how a curriculum rooted in cultural authenticity can drive positive learning outcomes and empower students to embrace their identities.

By embracing diverse perspectives, we not only enrich the educational experience, but also prepare students to navigate an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. Through inclusive education, we can truly empower the next generation to become compassionate, culturally aware global citizens.

Incorporating the Rastafarian Scheme of Work into your curriculum is a significant step towards creating an environment where every student from certain backgrounds can feel valued, seen, and heard. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable education system that prepares students for a future marked by understanding, empathy, and respect.


No time to say “we don’t have time” when it comes to diversity in literature

Jessica Tacon portrait

Written by Jessica Tacon

Jessica Tacon is second in charge of the English Department at City of London Academy Highgate Hill and is a member of NATE’s (National Association for the Teaching of English) ‘Reviewing Literature’ working group. She created The Right Writing campaign which aims to improve racial diversity in English Education.

Knee-jerk: “a quick reaction that does not allow you time to consider something carefully

When a topic or issue becomes present in the public eye (often despite having always been of paramount importance, as is the case with diversity and inclusion in education) or it begins to feel more urgent, there can be pressure to actively resist or even just to react. 

The pressure that I am referring to here comes from the expectation that education should be diverse and inclusive, something which has failed to be considered over decades. The pressure point is the realisation of this failing; the need to respond becomes pressurising as organisations need to be seen as doing the ‘right’ thing. 

But the bottom line is that schools absolutely must not be exhibiting knee-jerk or quick-fix solutions to improving the diversity and inclusion of education. We need to make it a priority to find that beautiful balance between speed and solutions; remember, the first organisation to make changes in the way of diversity and inclusion is not necessarily the organisation doing the work most properly. 

Making time, not taking time

Showing support for a cause without taking action at first can be a good thing.  Note I said “can”Far too many organisations, schools included, have used the excuse of wanting to ‘take their time’ as a guise for the fact that, actually, diversity and inclusion isn’t their priority. To this aim, time must be carved out at a systemic level to plan, implement and maintain changes in the education sector. 

What can this look like? In reality there isn’t a one size fits all approach, it can look like many things. For specific questions to help schools to approach changes or to reflect on whether their current approach(es) are purposeful in the ways that truly matter, please see the full version of this article on the Pearson website.

With so many pressures on our time and headspace, tokenism, virtue-signalling and ‘quick’ fixes (which usually fix very little) can be tempting. But when we look at the absolutely unarguable benefits of a truly diverse and inclusive education, we cannot afford to not consider every single aspect of the above questions in everything that we do. 

Evaluating English

Let’s look at the subject of English as an example. English A Level uptake has been declining for some time; research is still being done as to why but initial findings show that students do not feel that English is relevant for them or offers them career pathways. In 2018/19, only 19% of students who took English Literature at A Level were Black, Asian or of a Minority Ethnicity (Source: GOV.uk available on request). 

Where does this lack of students studying English at A Level come from? In 2018 The Runnymede Trust found that nearly 92% of teachers in state funded schools were White, in 2020 Publishing Perspectives found that only 13% of people working in the publishing industry were Black, Asian or of a Minority Ethnicity and it is not unusual for a pupil to leave school having never studied a book by a Black author, as shown in research carried out by Penguin Random House. It does not take too much evaluation to see the vicious cycle that has been created: everywhere that young people turn they do not see themselves. This forms one example of why all the aforementioned changes need to happen, if it even needed to be pointed out in the first place. 

A real reflection

As the writer Junot Díaz puts it:

“You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror…It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all.”

What Díaz describes here about representation is one facet of these changes; schools must look beyond “representation, and the pitfalls of tokenism, to thinking about how schools can be proactive in tackling racism” as The Runnymede Trust puts it. 

Ultimately, what we are offering in educational settings is not truly an education until every aspect of education has changed to represent, include and celebrate every child. We are already behind, now we must come together and push forward diversity. There is no other option.


“But is it age-appropriate?”

Gerlinde Achenbach portrait

Written by Gerlinde Achenbach

Gerlinde Achenbach is a senior education consultant and former primary headteacher. Her career spans more than 35 years, with over 30 years teaching in schools. Since 2021 she has been supporting schools across the UK with Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, specifically LGBTQ+ inclusion. Her expertise is in leadership and changing school culture.

It’s now 20 years since Section 28 was repealed in England yet in primary schools we’re still, it seems, reluctant to talk with young people about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or more. Some of us can’t get past the LGBT+ acronym, never actually defining what each letter stands for. 

“Can I say ‘gay’ in Year 2?” one lead teacher for EDI was asked recently. We were talking during a recent 1:1 coaching session on developing best LGBT+ inclusive practice across the school. Deeply frustrated, the teacher bemoaned her experience with colleagues: “Some of them won’t include it beyond PSHE. Others never get round to it, telling me they’ve run out of time.”

Many primary class teachers are fearful of parental backlash in front of groups of other parents and their children. Some know that their senior leader colleagues are just as wary. And it’s true, this is one area where some parents and carers often feel emboldened to speak their mind. It’s embarrassing to be on the receiving end and, if you’re not confident about why we’re including LGBT+ themes in our learning and our environments, it’s easier to put your head in the sand. But let’s not forget that it’s statistically very likely that every family will have someone – parent, uncle or aunt, sibling, cousin or grandparent – who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or more.

“We want to make sure it’s age appropriate…”, say primary schools.  

The DfE’s compulsory guidance on RSE came into force in September 2020, stating, ‘Primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it appropriate to do so.’

With an independent review currently in progress to advise the Secretary of State for Education on what is appropriate to teach in relationships and sex education and health education, and at what age’ , the stakes for ‘age-appropriate’ are high.

Of course, it’s important that the curriculum is appropriate for the age and experience of the children in each year group. But let’s not forget that when we talk about equity, diversity and  inclusion, we’re moving beyond curriculum into the realm of whole school culture. The reservations we may have about being LGBT+ inclusive in younger year groups do not sit well with a culture of inclusivity and belonging. As a Primary Headteacher, I know that the majority of primary schools now include at least a handful of same-sex parented families, and often at least one child questioning their gender. That’s not forgetting the afore-mentioned LGBT+ relatives and friends. Surely we owe it to all the children living in LGBT+ families to see their own lived experience validated by our practice and provision? At the very least, our culture and curriculum should reflect and represent our LGBT+ children, both those who know it already and those who will know it soon enough. It’s our moral duty.

So, what could be more appropriate, for EYFS up, than talking about how families are made up differently, and that they have love for each other in common? Quite simply it is appropriate to have a curriculum where we share stories with young children about families and individuals who may dress, speak, identify or love differently from those they know, whilst talking about kindness and respect. We must also surely help children try to understand the injustice of being discriminated against, or harmed, simply for loving someone of the same gender. 

We know that learning about sexual orientations other than heterosexuality does not ‘make you gay’, any more than learning that some people question the gender assigned them at birth ‘makes you trans’. Young people are discerning and knowledge is power. If any of the above applies to them, they will learn about it in a safe, accepting space. If it doesn’t apply, they have learned respect and compassion for others. Is it then morally acceptable to put our heads in the sand when we know that through educating our children, we educate our families and our communities? 

Put simply, LGBT+ inclusion is about showing respect and compassion for all LGBT+ people as equal members of our diverse school and wider communities. It’s about being included in every aspect of school life and knowing you belong. 

It’s always appropriate, at every age.


10 Engaging Diversity Books for Children: Promoting Inclusion and Understanding

Rachelle Carter portrait

Written by Rachelle Carter

Rachelle Carter is co-director of Madeleine Lindley Ltd, a key children’s book supplier based in Chadderton, Oldham. Its staff are experienced and well-equipped to help primary schools rejuvenate and refresh their class libraries with the latest and most engaging books. The business has played a vital role in supplying many of the UK's primary school libraries for over 35 years.

Reading across a range of cultures and experiences not only broadens children’s worldviews but also nurtures an appreciation of the wider world. Being exposed to a range of books that cover different representations allows children to feel connected and included, and allowing a child to explore various narratives through books through a multitude of narratives is a cornerstone in exposing a child to inclusion and understanding.

Here, children’s literacy specialist Madeleine Lindley Ltd explores ten notable books that celebrate diversity, promote inclusivity, and stimulate the imagination. For primary school teachers, this list can serve as a great starting point from which to build a classroom library or wider school library with books that promote inclusion. It is important to remember that the representation of diversity will differ from classroom to classroom. Use this list to explore the types of books you can consider for your classroom, and explore the broad range of diversity and inclusion books yourself to find the perfect books for your children.

1. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding takes a delicate approach to introduce the concept of same-sex marriages. As the story unfolds, young readers journey alongside Chloe, the protagonist who initially fears she will lose her beloved Uncle Bobby when he announces his wedding. The story’s gentle narrative helps children understand that love transcends all boundaries and that families come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, it instils the idea that a change does not equate to loss, a valuable lesson for children.

2. The Best Me! by Marvyn Harrison

In The Best Me!, Marvyn Harrison promotes the importance of self-esteem and individuality, focusing on the central character’s journey, Nia. Nia learns to embrace her unique identity and sees the beauty in everyone’s differences, breaking away from societal expectations. The book delivers the fundamental message that everyone should feel empowered to be their true selves.

3. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali

The story revolves around Asiya’s first day of school, with her wearing a bright blue hijab. Her younger sister, Faizah, sees Asiya’s hijab as a symbol of pride and strength. The Proudest Blue introduces children to the concept of faith in oneself and the richness of cultural diversity, helping them recognise and respect religious practices that might differ from their own.

4. Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

Grandad’s Camper presents a loving relationship between Grandad and Gramps. Following Gramps’s passing, Grandad ceases his adventuring until his granddaughter reignites his passion. The book addresses LGBTQ+ relationships and loss sensitively, fostering understanding that love is universal, extending beyond conventional family setups.

5. Speak Up! by Nathan Bryon

Speak Up! is a compelling narrative about using one’s voice to champion what’s right. The protagonist, Rocket, inspires children with her bravery, as she stands up for her community’s park. This story encourages children to be courageous, fostering a sense of responsibility, and motivating them to stand up for what they believe in.

6. Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Just Like Me is a collection of poetic narratives, celebrating diversity, self-love, and acceptance. Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s character-driven poems encourage children to explore and celebrate their identities, recognising that everyone’s story is unique and equally important.

7. The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster

The Bubble Boy introduces the character of Joe, a boy with severe combined immunodeficiency who lives in a sterile environment. This narrative fosters empathy, giving children a glimpse into the lives of those living with health conditions, ultimately encouraging them to be understanding and respectful.

8. Jamie: A Joyful Story of Friendship, Bravery and Acceptance by L. D. Lapinski

Jamie paints a picture of an inclusive world where each individual is unique and cherished. The story explores themes of friendship, bravery, and acceptance, helping children appreciate the diverse characteristics that make us all human.

9. Fight Back by A. M. Dassu

Fight Back explores the resilience of a young refugee, teaching children about the realities of displacement and courage. This book encourages understanding of global issues and empathy towards individuals who’ve experienced adversities beyond their control.

10. No Ballet Shoes In Syria by Catherine Bruton

This book captures the experiences of Aya, a refugee girl in Syria who finds solace in the world of ballet. No Ballet Shoes In Syria allows children to empathise with the struggles of refugees and appreciate the power of passion, dedication, and the arts.

Find diversity books for your library

Cultivating an environment that values diversity is an important part of fostering an enriching, inspiring, and inclusive environment for your children. To help you in doing this, Madeleine Lindley Ltd helps curate an inclusive, engaging, and ever-evolving reading environment for your primary school. By filling your library with books that celebrate differences, you are not just introducing children to a multitude of perspectives, but also instilling a lifelong love for reading.