How we can bring LGBT+ families into primary school storytime with Grandad’s Camper

Dominic Arnall portrait

Written by Dominic Arnall

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

Diverse families, kindness and respecting difference are all key elements of the primary curriculum that we’re probably all familiar with, but the reality of making these conversations LGBT+ inclusive may not always be so obvious or seem immediately possible.

At Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, we know that growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough. LGBT+ school pupils are twice as likely to be bullied and the same anti-LGBT+ language and bullying also impacts pupils who aren’t LGBT+ but have LGBT+ families or are perceived to against the ‘norms’.

We often hear from primary school staff keen to make changes in their school so that pupils can better learn about the diversity of the world around them – including that some families have two mums or two dads.

So, we want to help all school staff on this journey. We know your time is limited and you may be nervous or unsure where to start with LGBT+ inclusion, so we produce ready-to-go, free resources for primary and secondary schools.

Ahead of School Diversity Week, Just Like Us is releasing a new series of primary storytime resources.

The first in our series is a video of award-winning author Harry Woodgate reading from their book Grandad’s Camper, that you can screen with your primary class. 

Grandad’s Camper won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Best Illustrated Book 2022 and is a wonderful book to start conversations with your pupils about families that aren’t heteronormative, or the ‘typical’ family set up.

The book follows the story of a girl and her grandad who takes them on a special campervan trip, sharing heartwarming stories of his adventures with the late Gramps, Grandad’s partner who passed away.

Alongside our storytime video resource, we have a reading guide with discussion prompts and ideas on how to use the book as a writing prompt – such as ‘How do you think Grandad and Gramps felt when they went on all their travels?’ and ‘How do you think Grandad feels now Gramps isn’t there any more?’

The resources are free to access for all UK primary school staff – simply sign up for School Diversity Week to download them.

We’re delighted to be working with Harry Woodgate and Andersen Press to open up much-needed conversations around diverse families in primary schools this School Diversity Week, and hope the resources are helpful to primary staff looking to celebrate diverse families.

We’ll also be giving away copies of Grandad’s Camper to UK primary school staff who sign up for School Diversity Week before the end of May 2022.

School Diversity Week is the UK-wide celebration of LGBT+ equality in primary and secondary schools run by charity Just Like Us and takes place 20-24 June this year.

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Myth Busting Our Curriculum

Meena Wood portrait

Written by Meena Wood

Meena Kumari Wood is a former HMI (Ofsted), LA Adviser, FE College Principal and Principal of a Secondary Academy, is now a consultant, trainer and leadership coach across the British and International Education sectors.

The island of Zanzibar where I was born was famous – or infamous – on two accounts: clove  plantations and slavery. From the 17th century until 1909, spice plantations were worked by  Black Africans sold into slavery by Black African tribes to Arab Traders. Zanzibar, East Africa’s  slave hub held slaves on Prison Island before transportation to other destinations (Frölich,  2019). The history of Black slavery is far more nuanced than one simply perpetuated by just  Whites on Black Africans. Seventeen million East Africans were sold into slavery by Arab  traders – a far higher number than those sold into transatlantic slavery. Yet it is usually  more common within the History curriculum for students to become familiar with Britain’s  involvement in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, than with the financial benefit Britain gained from the slave trade in the two centuries beforehand. 

The alienation of some Black Caribbean and Black African students may in part be attributed  to a curriculum, where the contributions and histories of Black people in Britain are not  incorporated or openly acknowledged in schools. A Values-Led History curriculum must  present a balanced view of colonisation, the British empire and its impact on peoples from  Africa, Asia and, nearer home, Ireland. The Windrush scandal report concluded that, in part,  it happened precisely because of society’s poor understanding of Britain’s colonial history  (Williams, 2018). 

The challenge we face as educators is to have a radical rethink of our curriculum. Teaching  history through source evidence is not a binary choice of good versus evil. Who chooses the  ‘source evidence’ will decide the values and the narrative we want all our students to learn.  Winston Churchill, while applauded for his second world war victory, also contributed to  atrocities in the empire. During the great Bengal famine (1943), millions died as rice was  exported to elsewhere in the empire (Tharoor, 2018). Churchill, however, blamed the  famine on Indians ‘breeding like rabbits’ (Safi, 2019). 

Generations of young people have been taught that Britain was an intrinsic force for ‘good’  against Nazi tyranny and, therefore, ‘saved the world’ from the forces of evil in the first and second world wars. They may now believe that the British empire was a force for only good.  Many children still believe that WW2 was ‘won’ by the British’, and not through a massive  world-wide coalition.  

Following the Brexit vote in 2016, I met with a class of predominantly White British  students; 13-year-olds jubilant about ‘leaving Europe’ and goading another student to ‘go  back home to Poland’-reducing him to tears. Their reasoning was that their grandparents  had died freeing Britain from the Europeans and now they wanted their freedom from  Europe! A mishmash of ignorance and distorted history viewed through their families’ lens  influenced these young students and, sadly, resulted in the racist taunts they meted out on  fellow East European students. 

How do these same children now view the Russia Ukraine war as this may not even be  discussed in schools? Don’t our children have the right to be taught that the multifaceted prism of history is a prime influencer on our present lives? 

Our students must learn in history and geography of the importance of the unity of the  European nations in fighting tyranny and fascism, alongside the role of the ANZAC, African  and Asian troops, and what finally led to establishing the European Union. Its continuing  relevance to Britain today, now outside of Europe, is key as we face yet another war in  Europe. 

In our schools we cannot simply continue ‘celebrating diversity’ through famous iconic  figures such as Mandela and Gandhi, or scheduling well-intentioned activities during Black  History month. Respecting ‘Heritage Matters’ through the curriculum means  opening all students’ horizons. Global cultural influences are best threaded through a school  curriculum that showcases prominent achievements of a diverse range of individuals  in every subject. There is no shortage of inspirational, credible role models. 

In science, we can refer to the first Black American African female astronaut Jemison in  space (1992). In mathematics, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi (773 AD) demonstrated  the zero in algebraic equations, and by the ninth century, the zero had entered the Arabic  numeral system, as we know it today. This example can sit alongside the German  mathematician Gottfried Leibniz’s invention of the Step Reckoner ( 1671); a calculus based  on the binary system, the genesis of the computer. What about Katherine Johnson, a Black American mathematician, referred to as a ‘computer’? Her calculations of orbital mechanics  ( armed with pencil, paper and slide rule), as a NASA employee was critical to the success of  the first U.S crewed space flight.

We must empower a nation of young people to be truly proud of their individual and  collective heritages. All German schoolchildren learn in history about the holocaust . If  knowledge is power then we must enable all our White, Black and Asian children to become  more knowledgeable and to learn of the myriad facets of their history.  In our classrooms, White British students need to know the contributions made by other  nations to the UK economy and society. For instance, if they learn of the British Empire, are  students aware of the lasting legacy of the East India Company’s employees in ‘acquiring’  riches, and investing these in Britain’s finest 18 century buildings, even ‘buying’ a seat in  Parliament? Thomas Pitt, famously founded the dynasty of two Prime ministers (William Pitt  and his son) through the purchase of a diamond, whilst he was Governor in India.  

Perpetuating a polarised view of Britain’s role in global history risks creating schisms in our  society and risks prejudice, racist attitudes and actions. These are counter to young people  developing global citizenship in 2022 and beyond; especially important at a time when the  world is shrinking its geo-political boundaries.  

To gain deeper understanding and apply the knowledge they learn, young people must  acquire critical literacy skills. Only through becoming critical thinkers and readers can they  interpret the nuances of history for themselves and come to realise that we are all united  more by our similarities than our differences. Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a  Mockingbird, sets this as a key life lesson when he tells his daughter, 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . .  until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” 

This is how we can hope to create future generations who aspire to change society for the  better. 


Tharoor, S. (2017) Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, 1st edn., London: C. Hurst & Co  Publishers.

Frölich, S. (2019, August 22). East Africa’s forgotten slave trade. Deutsche Welle [online].  Retrieved from Safi, M. (2019, March 29). Churchill’s policies contributed to 1943 Bengal famine – study. Guardian. Retrieved  from contributed-to-1943-bengal-famine-study 

Tharoor, S. (2017). Inglorious empire: What the British did to India. London: C. Hurst & Co  Publishers. 

Williams, W. (2018). Windrush lessons learned, Independent review [HC 93 2020-21].  London: House of Comm 

Wood, M. and Haddon, N. ( 2021) Secondary Curriculum Transformed; Enabling All to  Achieve; ( Routledge)

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How East Stanley Primary School used Rainbow Laces to build a more inclusive environment for its pupils

Adam Walker portrait

Written by Adam Walker

Adam is a Primary Teacher at East Stanley Primary School in Durham and is a member and advocate of the LGBTQ+ community.

‘The number one thing is the inclusivity benefits of the resources. Not having pupils question who is playing football and building a much deeper level of respect for each other.’

Creating an inclusive environment for pupils is a top priority for many teachers and their schools. As we celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, Adam Walker, a teacher from East Stanley Primary school tells us about how using the Rainbow Laces resources, from Premier League Primary Stars, helped create a more inclusive environment for his pupils – increasing their understanding of gender stereotypes and the LGBTQ+ community. 

“We had an incident at a football match a few years ago where a pupil from our school called a player from another team a homophobic slur. It was at this point we realised that we needed a solution that we could use to support our pupils in understanding the importance of being inclusive. After a long search to find the right solution, we came across the Rainbow Laces resources from Premier League Primary Stars. A bank of free resources that could educate our pupils around the importance of inclusivity, challenging stereotypes and being a good ally – it was exactly what we were looking for.

At East Stanley we are seeing more girls wanting to get involved in sport. So it was great to see Premier League Primary Stars use male and female professionals in their resources to show balanced representation of real sport. Activities such as ‘Do it like a…’ and ‘Be an ally’ have been popular with the pupils. It has especially given the girls something to look up to and through challenging stereotypes we have mixed teams playing football with a deep level of respect for each other.”

East Stanley has used the Rainbow Laces resources in PSHE lessons at the school to create a more open environment: “The Rainbow Laces resource pack helped us in our PSHE lessons when talking about what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community or discussing gender stereotypes. Now all the pupils are aware of different types of representation; they know that it doesn’t matter if you are homosexual or heterosexual, a boy or a girl, your ethnic descent, or what your first language may be.”

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Adam appreciates the difference that resources like Rainbow Laces make: “Now that I have these resources I reflect and think that if material like this had been available when I was in school, it would have helped me to identify and feel more comfortable as a result of inclusive topics being spoken about openly. The more we use material like this in primary schools, the more we will create a better environment for everybody to live freely. It is only going to have a positive influence.”

Speaking about whether he would recommend the resources to fellow teachers, Adam said: “I would 100% recommend them. Knowing how the PSHE curriculum works, Rainbow Laces has been great for us. For other teachers who are looking to increase inclusivity at their school, we have loved the outcomes the resources have given us. Premier League Primary Stars has a wide variety of resources too and there is also the opportunity to build Rainbow Laces – and others resources – into additional lessons around Maths, English and PE. We have seen a real difference and our pupils are happier as a result.”

At the end of 2021 and during the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign, Premier League Primary Stars launched a new resource pack called ‘Rainbow Laces – This is everyone’s game’. The pack, perfect to build into PSHE lessons this LGTBTQ History Month, includes an educational film, and supporting resources, celebrating LGBTQ+ football fans and showcases the power of football to bring people together. The film tells the story of a young Sheffield United fan and member of the LGBTQ+ community, who talks about what football means to her and how it has played a part in helping her to feel proud of who she is. 

Premier League Primary Stars has a wealth of dedicated LGBTQ+ and Anti-Discrimination resources – all free – for teacher to use in the classroom linked to English, Maths, PE and PSHE here

About Premier League Primary Stars

Premier League Primary Stars is a national primary school programme that uses the appeal of the Premier League and professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills. Clubs provide in-school support to teachers, delivering educational sessions to schools in their communities. Free teaching materials ensure the rounded programme, which covers everything from PE and maths to resilience and teamwork, is available to every primary school in England and Wales. 

The Premier League currently funds 105 Premier League, English Football League and National League clubs in England and Wales to provide in-school support for teachers. 

For more information about Premier League Primary Stars or to register, visit:

You can also contact Ben Lewis-D’Anna on or 07590465455. 

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Geography: Righting the world?

Steve Brace portrait

Written by Steve Brace

Head of Education and Outdoor Learning at the Royal Geographical Society. He started his career as a geography teacher and had previously led the education programmes for ActionAid and the Commonwealth Institute.

Studying geography enables young people to better understand the world’s people, places and environments, the interactions between them – from the local to the global scale.  

As Ofsted notes, this requires teachers to critically reflect on the imagery, data and attitudes they portray to pupils, so that geography can accurately represents the nature of the world’s people, communities, economies, diversities and experiences (Ofsted 2021). And, as our world continues to change so must geography.  This makes the subject such a fascinating and challenging one to teach and why geography has an important role in supporting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Geography has one of the best gender balances of all subjects and over the last 10 years its GCSE cohort has become much more diverse.  Since 2010 its GCSE entries have increased by over 50% reaching a record high of 282,000 candidates last summer. It is welcome that this growth has come predominantly from those groups who were previously less likely to study geography: Black, Asia and minority ethnic pupils; pupils with lower prior attainment; those from low-income backgrounds; and/or pupils studying in comprehensive schools (RGS 2020)

However, the positive change at GCSE is not yet being seen at A Level and the narrowing of intake continues further at university. This is despite the positive outcomes that geography provides for its graduates, who experience above average rates of graduate employment and ‘top 10’ graduate salaries.  

It is recognised by the colleagues across the subject community that more work is needed to better support EDI in relation to the curriculum, resources, the teaching workforce and how the subject can support young peoples’ career aspirations.  Examples of current activities include: 

There are also opportunities to reduce the gap between geographical research and the classroom, such as through the RGS’s Ask the Geographer podcast which share the work of research geographer with teacher and their pupils. Schemes-of-work can also be updated through the incorporation of new research findings, such as the resources based on the Migrants on the Margins research programme which investigated the lives of migrants in Colombo, Dhaka, Harare and Hargeisa.  Such resources are further complemented by the wider contributions of many others including Worldmapper, Gapminder and Dollar Street.  

Consideration needs also to be given to not only to what is being taught, but also who is teaching geography.  This situation is explored in I didn’t have any teachers that looked like me which shares the perspectives of Black, Asian and minority ethnic trainee and early career geography teachers. And they recommend the need for EDI to be held as a responsibility for all geography teachers, as well as the wider subject community and its institutions. 

Geographers can also critically reflect on the subject’s development through Britain’s period of Empire and imperialism, how the subject helped create and share stereotypical views about the world and the continuing legacy of these.  For example, the very first volume of the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (1857) an author ascribes the Moroccan town of Sala’s decline to “ignorance, despotism and Mohammedanism”. However, dissenting voices – including those of African descent – can be found in geography’s history, such as the 19thC testimony of James Africanus Horton of Sierra Leone and Edward Blyden of Liberia.  Both were critics of Eurocentric stereotyping of African cultures and provide an early precursor to Chimamanda Adichie’s warning of a single story.  Now in the 21stC there an imperative to rediscover geography’s diverse voices some of which can be seen in the RGS’s Hidden Histories of Exploration which highlighting the important contributions of African, Asian and Inuit people

As the geographer Professor Chris Philo recently said – geography invites both ‘earth-writing’ – words to evoke worlds, and ‘earth-righting’ – actions to improve worlds. For this to be achieved geography needs to become more equal, diverse and inclusive.  Many within the subject have been setting a course to help achieve this, though this journey has still significant distance to travel. 

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The British Army’s Diverse Resources for the New Term

Eleanor Brown portrait

Written by Eleanor Brown

Head of Education Marketing at Capita

The British Army has developed new resources to help students aged 11-16 build their understanding of why it is important to commemorate significant groups in the history of the British Army. Focusing on diversifying the curriculum, This resource pack features Women in the Army, LGBTQ+ Voices and Black History resources with links to PSHE, History and Citizenship. 

Each of the resources are available for key awareness days in the school calendar and include ready-to-use lesson plans, assembly presentations, case studies and films to help students understand the changing roles of service people in the British Army throughout history, reflect on who we remember as a society or individuals and explore what it’s like to serve in the Army today. The resources are part of the British Army’s dedication to addressing the inequalities within the organisation and raising awareness of the contributions of service people both historically and now.

Women in the Army Resources

An excellent resource for International Women’s Day on March 8th, the Women in the Army resources have curriculum links to PSHE / Health and Wellbeing, Citizenship and History. The lesson plan offers interactive tasks to help young people to recognise and challenge harmful stereotypes and prejudice both at work and in society as a whole. Showcasing the significant roles women have played from the 1800s to today, the resources explore key terms such as feminism, gender and intersectionality, encouraging students to consider the evolving roles of women in the Army in the context of wider society. 

The assembly slides and the film builds on these key themes, showcasing the contributions and accomplishments of women in the Army and reflecting on the stories we remember. The assembly brings a specific focus to the history of women in wartime and features empowering women including Captain Flora Sandes, who was the only woman to fight on the front line of WWI, and Adelaide Hall, a jazz singer who entertained troops in WWII and was the first Black performer to be given a long-term contract with the BBC. 

LGBTQ+ Resources

Perfect for LGBT History Month 2020 in February, The LGBTQ+ Voices lesson resources show the progress made within the Army and in wider society with activities that celebrate the contributions of historical and current LGBTQ+ Army personnel, including WWI soldier Edward Brittain and Deborah Penny, the first trans soldier in the British Army. Students can also learn how they can be supportive of all LGBTQ+ people, and other groups and communities, through the allyship video resource.

By profiling six historical LGBTQ+ figures, such as the mathematician Alan Turing and poet Wilfred Owen, the assembly resource asks students to reflect on their contributions. This is followed by a film featuring current LGBTQ+ soldiers, addressing the significance of LGBTQ+ history to them and the progress that has been made by the Army to ensure everyone feels welcome.

Black History Resources  

These Black History digital resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 include an assembly and lesson plan to help students understand the stories of Black British, African and Caribbean service people who have often been unfairly excluded from the history books and help students consider some of the reasons for and effects of these omissions.

The assembly resource profiles service people from throughout history, while the interactive lesson resources offer source materials to help students build core historical skills and explore the contributions and stories of Black Britons, West and East Africans and Caribbean service people during World War One. The resources also offer examples of the impact of the war on different Black women, documenting case studies of a Trinidadian, British and an East African (from the Tanzania-Malawi border region) woman.

Questions at the end of each resource help facilitate discussions that address the significance of Black History Month and studying Black History more broadly and how this relates to modern discussions on race and diversity, including reflections from current Black soldiers to help build student’s discussions.

All the British Army resources can be downloaded for free online at: 

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New Research: LYFTA Storyworlds Help Reduce Anxiety Around Meeting People From Different Backgrounds

Dr Harriet Marshall portrait

Written by Dr Harriet Marshall

Head of Educational Research at Lyfta and has been a global education advocate for over 20 years, as a teacher, researcher, consultant and education project leader.

A University of Tampere study found that virtual immersive environments that contain interactive human stories can help reduce learners’ social anxiety around meeting people from different cultural backgrounds.

A study using  teaching resources from Lyfta has found that the multi-sensory and participatory nature of immersive 360° experiences led to a decrease in learners’ sense of social anxiety about meeting people from different cultural backgrounds. Engaging with new people in an immersive virtual setting gives students the opportunity to identify common interests and, as a result, develop more positive feelings towards them. Although the study was completed with undergraduate students, we are excited about the implications for engaging school-aged students with digital immersive storytelling.

The study has been published in the International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning. Its findings show that the reduction in social anxiety was especially significant among those who had high levels of social anxiety before the learning experience, adding to our growing understanding that immersive digital storytelling can be of particular benefit to students who get little or no opportunity to interact with those from different cultural backgrounds.

The researchers were influenced by our own school-based research (summed up in the video here), where students were shown photos of six people featured in our storyworlds, and asked how much they felt they had in common with each person, before and after exploring their stories. We found that experiencing the storyworlds led to a significant positive difference in students’ attitudes towards the people they ‘met’ there. 

Our vision at Lyfta is that by the time a child leaves school, they would have had the chance to experience, and emotionally connect with, human stories from every country in the world. Lyfta stories give students the opportunity to see how interconnected and interdependent we all are. The findings of this study provide exciting evidence that Lyfta’s powerful and immersive resources have real impact in helping to nurture empathetic global citizens.

Read the University of Tampere study in full now

If you are looking to foster global citizenship and empathy in your classroom, you can Register now for free trial access to two immersive Lyfta storyworlds.

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The Words We Choose, the Words We Use

Chris Richards portrait

Written by Chris Richards

MEd in Applied Linguistics and currently works as a Teacher Mentor in Madrid

This year, the blogs I’ve written as part of the #MonthlyWritingChallenge have often explored the etymology of the theme chosen. Language and linguistics is my field and I suppose I am interested in exploring where the words we use come from and how they change. 

Although my pedagogical roots lie in a (now demolished) secondary school classroom in Birmingham, I now teach English as a foreign language in Madrid. Appropriacy is a key concept in language teaching. Appropriacy is about ‘whether a word is suitable for the context it is being used in. It is an important aspect of language but an extremely complex one, as decisions about how to say things depend on understanding exactly what is right for the context and the culture’ (British Council). Just knowing the spelling, pronunciation, meaning and morphology (how the word changes according to tense or person) isn’t enough; you need to know the context(s) in which you can use the word. Think about the contexts in which you might use the following range of greetings: ‘Good morning’, ‘Hello’, ‘Hi’, ‘Hey’, ‘Alright?’ and perhaps you use a few more. They’re not interchangeable and this is appropriacy. New speakers of a language have to learn more than the vocabulary and the grammar, they also have to learn when and where and with whom words can be used. What does this mean for native speakers, though? The challenge for us is that like every other aspect of language (spelling, pronunciation, meaning, to name but three), appropriacy is always changing. And we need to keep up. Complaints about language change are commonplace: common across historical time and across languages. “Why can’t we say X anymore?”or “I hate that people say Y now, that word always sounds hateful to me”. Such comments make me think about the story of King Canute commanding that the tide stop. Language change is normal.

Conceptual baggage is another important concept to consider. Conceptual baggage is the associations we have with words and such baggage varies from person to person. As a result, effective communication takes account of these potential associations and when we are speaking formally, or with strangers, we probably avoid potentially problematic, colloquial terms in order to reduce the chance of causing offence. A perfect example is the word “queer”. To some people, it’s an inclusive term that they embrace; for others, especially those who have been on the receiving end of its use as a derogatory term, it retains its power to hurt. The words we choose to use depend on context. Appropriate words in a situation vary across historical time (common words becoming slurs, slurs being reclaimed and embraced) and they vary according to the audience (the words you use with your mum are different to the words you use with your friends, your boss, your students, and so on). 

It’s often said that all teachers are teachers of literacy and it follows that all of us are teachers of language. We all have a role to play in showing our students that language is not fixed, but shifting, and its use is contextual. This is not about being Orwellian language police, proscribing terms without explanation. This is about providing an explanation and explaining the importance of context. Take the example of swear words: there are adults who don’t use them, but many do and children hear them being used. Simply telling children that they shouldn’t swear is likely to be ineffective. However, explaining that adults do swear in certain contexts but not in others is more likely to have the desired effect. If we want young people to use language effectively and with empathy, they need to be taught the rules. The rules of appropriacy are as important as spelling and grammar: why one word is considered offensive and why another is considered a more polite and appropriate alternative.

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Sustainable Wellbeing and Lifelong Learning: Education as if People and Planet Matter

Dr Harriet Marshall portrait

Written by Dr Harriet Marshall

Head of Educational Research at Lyfta and has been a global education advocate for over 20 years, as a teacher, researcher, consultant and education project leader.

Education is stuck between 6th extinction predictions and talk of a 2nd renaissance in human capabilities resulting from the 4th industrial, technological revolution. Though there are obvious contradictions between these two trajectories, there are also areas of overlap – both can seem immensely overwhelming and both are frequently accompanied by calls for a change in mindset. The problem I have observed here links to how often the ‘mindset change’ strategies work with a very narrow definition of education. Whenever there is talk of ‘educational solutions’ it is usually in reference to formal schooling and the education of young people, as if this is the only educational space that is of any importance.

Formal schooling (e.g. primary, secondary or SEN providers for 4 to 18 year olds) can no longer be considered in isolation from, or as any more significant than, other educational spaces in life. Especially not if we are to have any chance at all of meeting key climate and energy targets or the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

It is easy to understand why formal school has been historically targeted for humanity’s medicinal or instrumentalist agendas. It is a neatly bounded space with relatively clear systems and structures, and crucially it is a space which the majority of us actually understand (mostly because we experienced it – let’s be honest, everyone has an opinion of how the education system should or should not be that is mostly derived from their own experiences of schools). And so, we’ve had the following kind of thinking… Quick, we don’t have enough people with the right skills, let’s change the school curriculum. Quick, there’s a growing gap between rich and poor, let’s change the school curriculum. Quick, we need to act differently or we’ll all boil or drown because of climate change, let’s change the school curriculum.

Our learning does not stop when we leave formal schooling, in fact this sort of thinking is incredibly damaging.

Let us therefore start by emphasising the need for an all-inclusive, lifelong learning definition of educational and learning spaces. UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning has been doing exactly this and have demonstrated how vital it is for all educational sectors and spaces to work more effectively together if we are to have any hope of creating a more sustainable and socially just world. To this end, we need to better understand and incorporate intergenerational learning and participation, especially in country contexts like the UK where age-divides have never been so wide. Related to this is the need to better demonstrate the equal importance of non-formal schooling learning spaces for all ages, from the after-school club for children to the day centre for older people.

Following on from a broader and more inclusive understanding of education – we then need to re-examine the idea of a curriculum for life both in terms of content and pedagogy. Sociologists of education have illustrated for decades the importance of examining educational policy and practice through a lens of power and control. The need to be aware of how core knowledge is constructed, selected, prioritised and recontextualised (and by who) in educational spaces has never been so urgent. Recognising the historical power of ‘traditional’ knowledge disciplines and their corresponding linear models of knowledge acquisition is crucial because sometimes they are in opposition to the sort of interdisciplinary knowledge and systems-thinking also required for innovation and action for a more sustainable world. An illustration of the legacy of this power dynamic can be seen in formal schooling today. Take two minutes to reflect upon (a) which subjects are deemed the most important and why, and (b) when new curricula like ‘citizenship’, ‘environmental studies’ or ‘social and emotional learning’ are added, what status do they really have in relation to those subjects that have a clear line of ‘progress’ towards an exam (to be used as a form of credit to exchange for future employment)? 

Of course, we no longer know what ‘employment’ is going to look like in the next few years as jobs and industries shift at breakneck speed. This fact alone requires any ‘curriculum for life’ to be something that can adapt to external shifts and needs, where the ability to ‘unlearn’ and ‘relearn’ will be all part and parcel of general learning how to learn and where progress will be measured in a whole range of ways.

One of the most powerful curricular and pedagogical concepts I believe around today is the idea of ‘sustainable wellbeing’. When we are reconsidering the purpose of education or learning in the current #NoGoingBack context, this is one of the best answers anyone can give. Policy makers and educators in Finland have certainly thought so, where sustainable wellbeing has been made one of the six guiding principles of the education system (others include equity and equality; inclusiveness and life-long learning). A growing body of thinking around this concept makes for exciting reading in the way, for example, it brings together the fields of positive psychology, ecology and environmental science (to name just a few). 

The beauty of sustainable wellbeing as a guiding principle for a curriculum for life is that it speaks to our needs as individuals simultaneously separate from and in relation to wider societal and planetary needs. Sustainable wellbeing recognises the interconnections between our own health, wellbeing and that of others. If we properly recognise the interdependent nature of all of the goals, it is also at the heart of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (see previous piece on education for/about the SDGs here). Our futures will not be ‘sustainable’ unless others feel the same way. Sustainable wellbeing helps us understand purpose and the wider systems at work, in so doing, it can support resilience building. The guiding principle of sustainable wellbeing suggests a curriculum that supports the development of: empathy skills and interbeing understanding; an associated set of values related to equity and global social justice; and knowledge that is sensitive to indigenous as well as more dominant knowledge forms required for addressing the world’s increasingly complex ‘wicked’ problems.

For education to be powerful, relevant and guided by the principle of sustainable wellbeing we have to stop thinking in age, space, time and knowledge silos – however this may not necessarily require the radical systemic changes some are calling for. Could we instead begin reimagining and empowering all learning spaces through a better demonstration of their impact and value? Could we emphasise the importance of intergenerational methodologies and spaces through the sharing of the growing numbers of amazing examples of practice (for example, local cross-generational sustainable living projects)? Could we raise the profile of social and emotional learning, social justice education or ecological literacy by better showing how it is also a crucial variable for achieving academic success and/or health and wellbeing? Those of us in the bubble of sustainable development or environmental education also need to remember that not everyone shares our assumptions or values – in so doing we are less likely to judge those who, for example, want to adapt systems in an ‘evolution not revolution’ way.

We must also remember that there are forces at play that will continue to shift educational systems and spaces whether we like it or not. These forces are frequently outside of the control of educationalists and policy makers and have the potential to render any radical plans for system reform redundant. For example, if we decide that the current emphasis on performance in examinations is the root cause of our problems and set about enacting reform, it could be that progress measurement is forced to change soon anyway (think about the impact of Covid-19 when formal exams went out the window and imagine how we are going to police examination performance when mobile technology is no longer ‘external’ to a learner’s body and therefore invisible to an examiner’s eye). If we are serious about creating education systems where ‘people and planet matter’ then we need to start with what is in our control and is ambitiously achievable – my favourite contender is our collective power to change our perceptions. We can change our perceptions of what we consider important learning spaces (ie not just formal educational institutions) and we can talk more about learning opportunities throughout life. We can work towards a loosely agreed set of values, skills and knowledge forms required for individual and planetary resilience and sustainable wellbeing. We can strengthen or create the interdisciplinary and intergenerational learning spaces needed if humanity is to adapt, innovate, survive and thrive. 

People and planet will matter more to all of us when we better recognise that all education and learning spaces matter, regardless of how old we are or what stage of life we are at. Unless we do this, we run the major risk of implying that saving the future of the planet, humanity and biodiversity is solely the responsibility of the young. Just because we are 65 does not mean that we are too old to change our behaviours or unlearn old knowledge, but an over-emphasis on 4-18 schooling gives us the excuse to say that it is so. 

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Diversifying the Curriculum, A Perspective

Diana Ohene-Darko portrait

Written by Diana Ohene-Darko

Assistant Head, Pinner Park Primary School; Interim Deputy Headteacher, Holy Trinity Primary School, Finchley; Senior Consultant, Educating for Equality.

Currently, I work in a large London primary school as an Assistant Headteacher. I  am a champion for, and have worked extensively on, equality education and  children’s rights. We are in a great time of momentum in advocating for racial justice  in education. I want to see a curriculum that reflects all the children and families we  serve so that there is an inherent sense of identity and belonging. 


This article aims to shed light on the current situation with regard to race relations in  education and diversifying the curriculum. Is diversifying it enough? Considering key  documents and events, the article outlines what can be done in order for  diversification of the curriculum to take place, or even before it takes place. I offer a  perspective on celebrating and appreciating the pupils and staff we serve, rather  than ‘tolerating’ each other. In essence, diversity needs to go mainstream. 

In May 2020, George Floyd was brutally murdered, and the world was watching. His  death sparked a global movement for change, not just for equality but also for equity  of outcomes for Black people and people of colour—the global majority1

In the UK, over 92% of Headteachers are White (DfE, 2021) serving a nationally  diverse population. Before even thinking about diversifying, or indeed decolonising  the curriculum, there has to be groundwork done in so far as personal reflection for  unconscious bias across educational institutions as a whole and for practitioners  individually. Time, hard work and commitment are needed to address issues of bias  towards the global ethnic majority here in the UK, other disadvantaged groups and  those belonging to protected characteristics. Race relations are at a pivotal point in  education. Addressing biases is vital to ensuring at least a reasonable understanding  of, and appreciation for, all people—and it is about time. By addressing unconscious  biases and diversifying the curriculum, education can create a culture of belonging  where each individual is celebrated for who they are, rather than being tolerated. 

A call for change 

It is not enough to say that there are ‘negative calls for decolonising the curriculum’  (Sewell, 2021). No longer can racism be tolerated. No longer can discrimination go  unnoticed. No longer can micro-aggressions go unchallenged. Protected  characteristics are protected for a reason- they safeguard who we are, our very core  of being. Being protected by law carries weight and should be upheld. 

How will each child leave school better than when they came? What ‘suitcase’ of  learning will they leave with, having spent years in education, ready to travel the  world with? How does a child of faith feel represented in the curriculum, for  example? What about those from a disadvantaged background? A one-parent  family? Those with same-sex parents? How does the curriculum seek to represent  the broader population of Britain in all its glory of cultures, ethnicities, traditions,  languages and families? Where do children belong? How do educational settings  foster a sense of belonging that sees children and young people feel completely at  home and at peace with who they are to erase the question of, ‘Where are you  from?’ Or worse in response to ‘I was born here’, ‘No but where are you really from?’ In order to demonstrate that we, as practitioners value our learners, the curriculum  needs to be ‘truly national’ (Alexander et al. 2015). 

The current picture

Some schemes have already sought to address the issue of wider representation,  such as the Jigsaw PSHE scheme (2021) and the Discovery RE (2021) programme. In their provision, they offer examples of different families and scenarios that are  inclusive of wider society. Some schools are already making headway by creating  their own learning journeys for children and young people. They offer urban  adventure curricula, for example, and use the new [EYFS] reforms as a basis by  which to advance already good practice with a specific focus on what exactly they  want children to experience and achieve in order that they become well-rounded  individuals, including talking about race. One example of this is Julien Grenier’s  extensive work on curricular goals which see children learning to sew a stitch, ride a  balance bike and bake a bread roll in Nursery. All aspirational, real-life outcomes for  children, no matter their race, background or socio-economic class. On the face of it,  there seems no link to race. However, by setting the bar high for all children at the  same time, education is, in fact, providing an equality-first experience for our young  ones where no learner is left behind. 

Consideration of history 

The National Curriculum of 1999 (Key Stages One and Two) sought to allow, 

schools to meet the individual learning needs of pupils and to develop a  distinctive character and ethos rooted in their local communities,’ (1999, pp.12). 

Then came the (Primary) National Curriculum of 2014 which called for a curriculum  that was ‘balanced and broadly based’ (2013, pp.5) promoting the development of  the whole child and where teachers were to ‘take account of their duties’ (pp.8)  where protected characteristics were concerned. The difficulty is, there are so many  unconscious biases at play that even before a diverse curriculum can be devised,  attitudes and unconscious biases must be addressed in the first instance as part of  initial teacher-training and as part of the wider continuing professional development  provision in schools. 

The murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 sparked a national debate around  race and the impact of structural and institutional racism here in the UK, namely in  the police force. As part of its findings, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report (1999), stated that education should value cultural diversity and prevent racism ‘in order  better to reflect the needs of a diverse society’ (Macpherson Report, 1999 pp. 382). 

With a curriculum that spans British history across both primary and secondary phases, the representation of a generation of Commonwealth workers, including the  Windrush generation, who came to help re-build our country post war is barely, if at  all, represented. The ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum is one of a vastly colonial view,  rather than the narratives of those enslaved as well as those who enslaved others.  The same is true for the British rule in India and the impact for Indian citizens and the  thousands of soldiers of colour from the Commonwealth who fought for Britain in the  Second World War. There is gross under-representation of people of colour and their  significant contribution to the British Empire as a whole. 

Bringing education into the 21st century 

More than twenty-eight years on from Stephen Lawrence and with the brutal murder  of George Floyd on 25th May 2020, there is now widespread debate in education  once again about the curriculum on offer and how to diversify it. But is diversifying it enough? It seems that colonial attitudes need to be addressed perhaps before  diversifying the curriculum. Tackling unconscious (or even conscious) bias, white  privilege, micro-aggressions and direct racism may come to be more effective, in  other words, decolonising attitudes before decolonising the curriculum. 

In the book, ‘I Belong Here, A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain’, the author writes openly about belonging and the ‘deep loneliness and isolation that can affect  mental health’ without that sense of belonging (Sethi, 2021). This is in reflective  reference to a racist attack she suffered in public as well as countless micro aggressions. Deeply engrained and entrenched racist attitudes need to be  challenged. Micro-aggressions need to be challenged. Why? Because it is the right  thing to do. The book weaves a narrative that calls for the work needed to be done in  order to address micro-aggressions and the wider, long-lasting impact these have on  those individuals who suffer them. Equality is everybody’s responsibility. 

Imagine how children feel when they do not see themselves reflected in the  curriculum- in books and resources, in texts and images, in the learning. There is a deep cavity indeed for children and families of colour. Despite being a global ethnic  majority, their experience of the curriculum is all too often white Eurocentric; more  specifically that of white, middle-class men, ‘male, pale and stale voices that need to  be banished’ (Sperring, 2020 pp. 3). 

In order to foster a deep sense of belonging in children, the curriculum needs to  address issues of race, in the first instance, as well as other protected characteristics  more widely. We are living in a multi-national society with a vast array of languages,  cultures and traditions. Even in areas of which can possibly be described as mono ethnic, there still needs to be a national educational commitment to addressing the  racial discord that currently exists. Difference should be both appreciated and  celebrated. It is not enough to simply ‘tolerate’ other faiths, traditions, beliefs,  cultures, customs or backgrounds. Tolerance is such a low bar. 

The Black Curriculum Report (Arday,2021) highlights the drawbacks of the current  curriculum, more specifically the history curriculum, which distinctly omits Black  history, ‘in favour of a dominant White, Eurocentric curriculum, one that fails to reflect  our multi-ethnic and broadly diverse society.’ (pp.4). It goes further to make several  recommendations, in more detail than the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report, for  example:  

conventions of Britishness will always require reconceptualising to  incorporate all of our histories and stories. Our curriculum requires an  acknowledgement of the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity that comprises  the tapestry of the British landscape and the varying identities associated  within this.’ (pp.5) 

What it calls for is an evaluation of the curriculum to include Black history in order  that there be, ‘greater social cohesion and acceptance of racial and ethnic difference’ (pp.4). 

By offering a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum that is tailored to the demographics of  the school population, you are reinforcing a deep sense of identity and belonging.  Children and young people will feel seen, valued and understood for who they are, not just as individuals, but as a part of their communities. How empowering for our  children and young people of today!

Rather than continuing the old-fashioned approach of British history, we should be  teaching children and young people to be critical thinkers, to assess and appraise  the evidence and different perspectives so that they can come to their own  conclusions. No longer is it adequate enough to have diversity days or Black history  month; to teach just one perspective. People of colour do not just exist for one day or  one month of the year. There are countless scientists, historians and academics of  colour who have made huge contributions to society as we know it. For example,  although Thomas Edison may have invented the lightbulb as we know it, Lewis H.  Latimer made a considerable contribution towards this. However, in those days it  was rare for a person of colour to be attributed with such distinguished achievement.  Another example is Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, known for her  environmental activism in Kenya, ‘It’s the little things that citizens do. That’s what will  make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.’ (Wilson, 2018). Where are they  in the national curriculum? 

In the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, ‘national’ is defined as ‘connected with a  particular nation; shared by a whole nation’ (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary). If  education seeks to indeed connect the nation, and if it wants education to be a  shared experience as a nation, then there is more work to be done. Diversity needs  to go mainstream. 

Young people need to know that who they are makes a difference. Not who they are  because of an out-of-date system that continues to advance the privileged few,  rather, who they are without the labels that are thrust upon them. They are not their  labels. They are ‘humxns’2(Ricketts, 2021) who make a valid and significant  contribution every day. Diversifying the curriculum should reflect this. Decolonising  attitudes is the right thing to do- creating safe spaces to open up dialogue, offering long-term quality staff training, enriching the curriculum with a broader representation  of different communities, making equality training mandatory for initial teacher  training.  

Data from the Department of Education shows that 92.7 per cent of headteachers  and 89.7 per cent of deputy and assistant headteachers in the UK are white (DfE,  

2 Humxn is the gender-neutral term for human. Urban Dictionary: humxn (2021) Urban Dictionar. Available at: 2021). These figures show that all-white leadership teams run the majority of schools  in the country, which is not necessarily reflective of the communities they serve, or  even our nation as a whole. 

More needs to be done to actively recruit and retain professionals from ethnically  diverse groups. For example, anonymising applications for name, age, gender and  university to name a few categories; randomising responses to scenario questions  and eliminating the personal statement response so that colleagues can show what  they would do as opposed to what they have done, thereby showing their potential  against their experience and expertise, skills and qualifications. 


These are just a few starting points. Essentially, good, quality equality work means  hard work. It means making the uncomfortable comfortable. It means braving being  vulnerable. It means addressing racism head on so that attitudes can change, as  well as behaviours. ‘In this world there is room for everyone’ (Chaplin, 1940). Children should leave with a rich tapestry woven from learning and experiences that  celebrate who they are, that give them every chance of further success in life, that  elevate them in their sense of self-worth and identity. When a child asks, ‘Where do I  belong?’ you can confidently say, ‘Here.’


Alexander, C., Weekes-Bernard, D., & Chatterji, J. (2015) History Lessons: Teaching  Diversity in and through the History National Curriculum. London: Runnymede Trust.  http://www.runnymedetrust. org/ uploads/History%20Lessons%20-%20Teaching%20  Diversity%20In%20and%20Through%20 the%20  


Arday, J. (2021) The Black Curriculum, Black British History in the National  Curriculum Report 2021. pp.4-5. 

Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator speech, taken from the film, The Great Dictator  (1940) available at: from-the-great-dictator 

Department for Education (2013) The National Curriculum in England: Framework  Document. Available at:  

uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/ file/210969/NC_framework_document_- _FINAL.pdf (pp.5, pp.8)  

Department for Education data available at: https://www.ethnicity-facts workforce/latest 

Discovery RE Scheme Of Work | Discovery RE (2021) Discovery Scheme of Work.  Available at: (Accessed: 16 September 2021). Primary and Secondary PSHE lessons fulfilling RSE | Jigsaw PSHE Ltd (2021)  Jigsaw PSHE. Available at: (Accessed: 15 September  2021). 

Macpherson Report (1999), as part of The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry available at: ment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf pp.382 

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, ‘National’ definition, available at:

Ricketts, R. (2021) DO BETTER, SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM for Fighting and Healing  from WHITE SUPREMACY 

Sethi, A (2021) I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain.  Bloomsbury, London. ISBN 9781472983930. 

Sewell, T. (2021) Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, can be  found at: ment_data/file/974507/20210331_-_CRED_Report_-_FINAL_-_Web_Accessible.pdf 

Sperring, K. (2020) Decolonising the curriculum: male, pale and stale voices that  need to be banished. Available at: hierarchy-topped-by-male-pale-and-stale-voices-and-decolonise-the-curriculum 

The Equality Act 2010 guidance, can be found at: 

The National Curriculum 1999 available at:  pp. 10, pp.12. 

Wilson, J. (2018) Young, Gifted and Black. Wide Eyed Editions. ISBN978-1-78603- 983-5.

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Attention Policymakers: We Need to Update the School Curriculum

Naida Allen portrait

Written by Naida Allen

Naida is a writer and blogger, fuelled by coffee and dark humour. She is a mental health advocate and regularly uses her own experiences to raise awareness about social issues. Her aim is to break stigma around taboo topics and enlighten the masses through the art of words. She loves dogs, and hates the patriarchy.

Given the significant impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the criminal justice system, it’s only natural for this event to trickle into the education system. The British school curriculum is outdated at best. It will come as no shock to know that 85% of secondary school texts studied were written by White authors. The lack of diversity is damaging both socially and educationally. The year is 2021, and we are still waiting for change.

After the murder of George Floyd, the world woke up. We could no longer stay silent; the time to take action had arrived. Amongst many deep-rooted racist issues that still exist in British society, one that became impossible to ignore was the issue with the school curriculum. Secondary school pupils across the country (and the world for that matter) are not taught the truth about the UK’s shady history. The broad lack of diversity exists across all school subjects, from English and Drama to History and Science.

Even the American K-12 curriculum lacks punch. The Coalition of Educational Justice (CEJ) in New York recently published a shocking set of statistics that puts the school curriculum to shame. Their enquiry into the lack of diversity found that 4 out of 5 books studied in English were written by a White person. Similarly, a national UK study by Penguin Books found that less than 1% of GCSE students studied a book by a writer of colour. 

It goes without mentioning that it is not just Black authors and people of colour who are marginalized. No; it is also women — and worse still — Black women who are frozen out. There is rarely a platform for LGBTQ+ authors, or awareness in their struggles, which adds to the exclusion and creation of ‘otherness’.

Yet it has to be a top-down approach for us to succeed in any social change. The current school curriculum contributes to perverse attempts to sugarcoat the past, allowing White people to hold the monopoly of power. Gestures that arguably verge on tokenistic, like “Black History Month” are the bare minimum. They are designed to keep the peace, but are ultimately just performative in nature. As Jean Alexander states, “it is a game play for the survival of a democratic society”.

My message today is to the policymakers: we need to update the school curriculum. If history, implicit and institutional racism, or celebrating Black achievements are not prioritised in schools, we can assume change still sits on the backburner. Young people will only learn when we own up to our mistakes. For there to be any hope in a harmonious society, we need to right our wrongs as best we can. The optimum approach is an authentic one.

So, teach students about Britain’s role in colonialism. Explain why the prison population is overrepresented by Black people and ethnic minorities. Study fiction and non-fiction texts across all subjects written by non-white authors. Take English as an example; whilst Shakespeare is undoubtedly important for the development of language, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God remains underrepresented. Consider adding Zadie Smith and Reni-Eddo Lodge to the English syllabus. This will by no means erase centuries of oppression; it will, however, inspire development.

The fact of the matter is, these texts are not hard to come by. There is a long list of potential contenders written by Black women, from textbooks and fictional narratives to plays; and they are all critically-acclaimed. Why, then, are we not capitalising on this opportunity? There is no better way to teach students about human rights and social justice than directly from the horse’s mouth. 

An example of where this sincerity has worked is in Germany; their school curriculum shows significantly more willingness to revisit and admit to past mistakes. Teachers will openly discuss the German role in the Holocaust and WW2; many students will at some point visit a concentration camp. At no point do they attempt to disguise their atrocities. In doing so, they are now more respected by other nations. This is how to rewrite the future.

The irony is, British schools are the first to slander Nazi Germany for their war crimes, particularly when it comes to the Holocaust. Where is this zealous attitude when documenting our own actions on the History syllabus, for example, as colonialists? Instead, students learn about what makes Britain so Great. We share how we were the first to abolish slavery, but not that explorer, John Hawkins, was the first to start the slave trade in 1562.

Reform starts in school. We cannot expect the youth of today to differ from our predecessors if we do not light the torch. For students to thrive, they need to be represented in all their diversity. It is simply not good enough for only 0.1% of pupils to study a text by a Black female author. When you do not see yourself represented, your dreams and options are extremely limited. This is what inevitably leads to apathy and missed opportunities in the community.

We need to mention the achievements and discoveries of both people of colour and Black people – scientists, mathematicians, poets, historians. For example: Madam C.J. Walker who created the first African-American hair care products; Elijah McCoy who invented the ironing board; Tu Youyou who discovered artemisinin, the treatment for malaria. 

At the very least, we need to incorporate texts written by minority authors to study in the classroom. It’s important to keep current and move with the times, rather than promote a false representation of the “good old days”.

Let’s inspire all students — regardless of their gender, race, or sexuality — to know their worth. Britain as a whole needs to understand their history and address their ignorance. The only way to do any of this is through policy change; otherwise we remain stuck in bad habits. It is time to update the school curriculum.

This is not a plea. It is an order.

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