Using stories and voices to combat the narrative of antisemitic hate: opportunities afforded by the Curriculum for Wales.

Jennifer Harding-Richards portrait

Written by Jennifer Harding-Richards

Jennifer is currently on secondment working as RVE and RSE adviser to schools across three local authorities as well as RVE adviser to the SACRE’s in each of the three authorities. She is passionate about education and especially keen on ensuring that social justice and equity are at the heart of all RVE and RSE curriculum planning, development and pedagogy within the Curriculum for Wales. She is the RE Hubs lead for Wales and a member of the steering committee for the Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre. She has previously worked as a freelance educator for the Holocaust Education Trust and has an MA in World Religions.

According to a recent report (ref 1), there were three times the numbers of antisemitic incidents reported across Wales in 2023, compared with 2022. The incidents which included threats, abusive behaviour and assault, represent a rise of 338%.

Wales is the first, and so far, the only home nation to have made the teaching of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories a mandatory element of their curriculum and are committed to being an anti-racist nation by 2030. The anti-racist action plan (ref 2) includes the vision, values, purpose and strategies needed to support this and understandably, education has a large role to play.

The Curriculum for Wales, introduced in 2022, empowers individual schools to craft and cultivate their own unique curriculum. The aim of each school’s curriculum is to nurture students who are:

  • ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
  • enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
  • ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.

As we work towards an anti-racist nation, we are reminded about the power of education. Nelson Mandela’s infamous quote ‘education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world’ really resonates with the vision that we have in Wales. We know that far-right philosophies and beliefs are infiltrating mainstream culture, and our children are intoxicated with the images, speeches and behaviour of those that preach such ideologies. As educators, we have the responsibility to counteract such narratives and use our privileged position as curriculum designers and teachers to support our learners to become ethical and informed citizens, able to not only take their place within our diverse society, but to contribute and make positive change.

Wales has a rich, diverse and multi-cultural history. We have a rich legacy of inclusive education as well as a welcoming acceptance for the many diverse cultures and followers of faith that have made Wales their home. The story is told of how some of the first Jews in Wales, arriving in Merthyr Tydfil in the eighteenth century, peered through the windows of some local homes, and on seeing a Bible in every one, decided that this was a place where they could stay and be welcomed.

Using Welsh Jewish stories and voices within our school curricula, whilst obviously not eradicating antisemitism in its entirety, will help develop a generation of young people who are able to humanise and personalise others, avoiding stereotypes and challenge the narrative of the media and those with the loudest voices. We want our children to become ethical and informed citizens, capable of independent thought and able to critically engage with the toxicity of hate that surrounds us on a daily basis.

There are so many Welsh Jewish stories that deserve to be told, individuals who have helped shape our society and made a positive impact on others. Leo Abse, for example, a social reformer, and Labour MP for 30 years. He was influential in the shift in laws and norms towards the acceptance of homosexuality and divorce. We want our pupils to engage with discussion around his ideals and values and how they have changed Wales for the better. His aunt, Lily Tobias, had a multilingual childhood in Ystalyfera which fostered in her a political activism, a sense of social justice and a determination to try and change the world. Her legacy cannot ever be underestimated. Kate Bosse Griffiths, escaped Nazi Germany and along with her husband, became a founding member of ‘Cylch Cadwgan’, an organisation that welcomed and celebrated writers, poets and pacifists. Her own writing focused on her feminist ideals and sense of spirituality. She made a huge difference to those around her.

In working towards an anti-racist Wales, in celebrating and recognising cynefin (ref 3) and using our subsidiarity and autonomy to design our own bespoke curriculum for our learners, we have a real opportunity to use stories and voices to challenge stereotypes, antisemitic tropes and narratives of hate.  


‘We’ve not seen this since the Holocaust’: Antisemitism in Wales up by 300% after outbreak of war:

Anti-racist Wales Action Plan


A Welsh word for which there is no direct translation. It refers to the ideas of habitat and a sense of rootedness, It describes the environment in which one is naturally acclimatised.

My Journey as a Part-time Senior Leader

Harroop Sandhu portrait

Written by Harroop Sandhu

Harroop Sandhu is a senior school leader and professional coach, with 17 years of experience driving successful strategies and improving outcomes in various educational areas. Most recently she has led her school to successfully achieve the Send Inclusion Award, as well as spear-heading the organisation's DEI strategy. Her approach is to ensure that DEI work is integrated within the strategic aims of the organisation leveraging existing leadership tools.

Three years ago, the notion of transitioning to part-time work was nowhere on my horizon.

Life took an unexpected turn when one of my children fell ill, prompting a pause on my career to refocus on what matters the most. Amid navigating my child’s health needs, I found myself in survival mode. Emerging from this challenging period, I returned to part-time work after a two-month gap, encountering initial hurdles. However, as I gradually found my rhythm, an unforeseen preference for this new way of working emerged.

Within this experience, I’ve uncovered valuable insights.

Myth #1: Working Part-Time Means Less Effectiveness.

Contrary to common belief, working part-time doesn’t hinder efficiency; it can actually enhance it. The gift of more reflective time has nurtured my creativity and innovation.

Success in this arrangement hinges on disciplined time management; I remind myself I’m paid for three days of work, not squeezing five into three.

Liberating myself from guilt and the need to prove myself has been a pivotal realisation.


  • Effective time allocation is key.
  • Balancing work, family, commitments, and especially self-care all demand careful planning and allocation. Don’t put yourself last or squeeze it in.
  • Silencing self-criticism about perceived weaknesses is part of the journey toward self-compassion.

Myth #2: Part-Time Work Signals Lack of Ambition.

Embracing part-time work has deepened my commitment to personal growth.

While some argue full-time dedication accelerates progress, I’ve found fulfilment in having the mental space for development and time to pursue other interests, aligned with my sense of purpose. I have found that I have more time for coaching and other professional development, which in turn benefits my employer and as well as myself. 

This flexibility has also inspired others, resulting in increased requests for flexible arrangements—an indicator of impactful leadership.


  • Celebrate your achievements and acknowledge your aspirations.
  • When you silence doubts, your strength and dreams amplify.
  • Before constraining yourself, seek input from others to broaden your perspective.

Myth #3: Missing out on Connection and Opportunities.

Initially, the challenge of navigating communication arose from a fear of missing out due to absence. However, I’ve learned that communication quality outweighs quantity.

Utilising strategies like follow-up emails and regular check-ins helps maintain involvement.

Open conversations marked by transparency with superiors foster mutual understanding.

Addressing unique experiences benefits not only you but also those around you.


  • Express your needs openly with your line manager.
  • Ensure your scheduled time with your line manager remains intact and isn’t cancelled.
  • Propose suggestions and solutions, but don’t shoulder the burden alone.

Myth #4: Flexibility Equates to Unreliability.

Unreliability often arises from overcommitment or lack of planning. Overcoming guilt and the desire to overcompensate, by embracing strategic time management and open communication was enlightening. Prioritisation, clear communication, and collaborative solutions with my line manager helped navigate this. As well as, balancing tasks and seeking help as needed cultivating a win-win situation.


  • Consider what you might need to say no to when saying yes to additional tasks.
  • Involve your line manager in this process. It could involve acquiring more resources, creating space, or delegating tasks.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek compensation for work beyond your designated hours.
  • Effective leaders recognise their boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no.

I believe that Flexible working is a solution for not only working parents, but for people that are looking to explore personal growth or navigate other areas of life outside of their work. This autonomy can lead to greater job satisfaction and happier employees who are likely to be more creative, innovative and productive. 

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

Rosa Legeno-Bell portrait

Written by Rosa Legeno-Bell

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

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

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

Greenlees’ Theories on the Native Mind

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

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

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

 And also claimed:

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

 (Greenlees 1902, p. 12).

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

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

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

(Greenlees, 1895, p. 75)

Greenlees’ Principles of Eugenics

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

(Greenlees, 1892, p. 302). 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Nkwazi Nkuzi Mhango, 2018) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more and find the references here: 

Bye bye Birmingham – a personal reflection on EDI work

Gemma Hargraves portrait

Written by Gemma Hargraves

Gemma Hargraves is a Deputy Headteacher responsible for Safeguarding, Inclusion and Wellbeing.

After seven years teaching at a wonderful school in Birmingham, I’m moving on. This felt like an opportune moment to reflect on what I’ve learnt from leading on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the youngest city in Europe. I was asked to take this on in Spring 2020, (whilst on maternity leave) and I hope I have done the role justice (although I know there is so much more to do). I have also visited dozens of primary schools as part of my responsibility to oversee transition, and whilst my experience has perhaps been limited due to the nature of my school (independent, selective) I have some sense of what makes Birmingham such a fantastic place to teach and learn today. 

It has to be acknowledged that EDI work is challenging – it can be incredibly rewarding, frustrating and demanding in equal measure. Conversations about race, gender, sexuality and class are not universally welcomed, and some colleagues are sensitive, defensive or disinterested when inclusive language is discussed. Here I would add a Maya Angelou quote that guides me and helps me appreciates even small gains (because she says it better than I ever could) – Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know betterdo better.

A challenge and opportunity of a Birmingham school, especially a selective one, is the range of family backgrounds. Some have same sex parents, whilst some have strong beliefs that this is not acceptable. Some embrace SEND support, others shun it. Some welcome conversations around identity, others shut this out. As Josiah Isles mentioned in his April blog  here We need to step into the shoes of a Muslim student who attends school five times a week, an Islamic school on Saturdays and their local mosque every evening. This quote is more meaningful to me as Josiah’s school is actually where I went to school 11-16. For me, to see that my old school is undergoing this important work as I myself am reflecting as a senior leader in education means a great deal.

Reading recently The Birmingham Book: lessons in urban leadership and policy from the Trojan Horse Affair really made me appreciate the wider landscape I’d walked in to when I started at a Birmingham school. Initially, I hadn’t fully appreciated the context and impact of all the publicity on schools not far away. The book, edited by Colin Diamond, professor of Education at Birmingham University (just across the road from my school), is a collection of essays from people who “have lived and breathed Birmingham education for many years”. The accounts opened my eyes to a challenging period in recent educational history, but also to positives to have come out of it – relationships between school and communities, a greater understanding of the impact of deprivation and a celebration of the potential of Birmingham. This is reiterated in the aforementioned blog by Isles where he says A school is, after all, the heart of the community. The leadership takeaways at the end of chapters are useful reminders – about values, integrity, culture and understanding community dynamics, I plan to take this forward to my next school. I’ve also discovered some great YA fiction from Birmingham authors such as If Your Read This by Kereen Getten who we are lucky enough to have visiting our school to talk to pupils soon. 

Birmingham Commonwealth Games showcased the city and featured volunteers from our staff and student body (and countless other local schools). To see the city receive this positive attention was heart-warming and well deserved. The beauty of the Commonwealth Games coverage was in the showcasing the heritage and identity of modern Birmingham and this is where future EDI work must focus, in any area – an appreciation of the history and heritage but also a celebration of modern identities. As a History teacher, it is also clear that we can critique previously accepted interpretations of the past, and view the past anew through lenses of today.  This is how we can promote an authentic sense of belonging.

I am incredibly grateful to have worked at my school, which is playing a leading role within the King Edward VI Foundation in the city. The Foundation values state that The schools … should be rooted in the communities that they serve and be responsive to the nature of those communities. In particular, all of the schools are committed to making themselves as accessible as possible to all pupils, whatever their background or circumstances. I have to believe that this is achievable and that my school, with an excellent and developing Assisted Places programme, will be an appealing option for academically able students from across the region regardless of socioeconomic status. Personally, it may be indulgent but I have to acknowledge here how much I value the incredible pupils I’ve taught along the way; many of whom have driven EDI and helped maintain momentum at times of conflicting priorities. And of course, the staff – those who lead tirelessly, those who teach incredible lessons and support pupils every day, and those who support the workings of a school in subtle but vital ways. 

Over the past three years of leading on EDI I’ve realised that we need to shout about the work – raise the profile. Avoiding performative activism on social media, but celebrating progress (whilst acknowledging that the work goes on).  I’ve nominated colleagues for Rising Star Awards and National Diversity Awards and have nominated pupils for National Diversity Awards, NASEN Young Advocate of the Year and West Midlands Young Active Citizens Awards. I hope this helps people feel valued but also shows the whole school community that EDI work is valued and recognised. I would encourage more schools to recognise their staff and pupils in this way, alongside small daily acts of gratitude and recognition that mean so much to colleagues and pupils.

We are now three years on from when many schools stumbled or strengthened their EDI efforts following publicity around the Black Lives Matter movement and then Everyone’s Invited. There is more to do but I have faith that the schools of Birmingham, especially the King Edwards Foundation can lead the way.

Addressing the Legacy of Section 28 & Supporting Diverse Families

Troy Jenkinson portrait

Written by Troy Jenkinson

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, children’s author, public speaker and former Primary Headteacher and Executive Headteacher.

Today, more than ever, we should strive for equality in our schools. Seeing how LGBTQ+ culture has been embraced in colourful Pride events and the peppering of queer characters in the media, you could be forgiven for thinking we had turned a corner in equality. We have come a long way, triumphing over the Section 28 policy (the 1988 amendment to the UK Educational Bill silencing queer teachers) and the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. We have fought hard for rights to marry, adopt and live our lives showing our “True Colors” to quote Cyndi Lauper. 

Digging deeper, you realise how far we still need to go. The ILGA (2020) reports 70 countries still criminalise homosexuality; 6 punishable by death, 57 with lengthy prison sentences. Only 68 countries offer broad protection for their LGBTQ+ population. High profile media events point to continued educational need. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill (March 2022) mirror’s Thatcher’s vindictive 1988 Section 28. We have not learned. Cripplingly unfair acts such as harsh laws to imprison LGBTQ+ people for life in Uganda reported by the BBC in March 2023 marginalise our community.

The UK once topped the ILGA table of European countries for LGBTQ rights (2015), but slumped 14 places by 2022, accredited to governmental failures and its abandonment of its promise on gender recognition and equality plans. The statistics speak for themselves. Galop (2021) reported “LGBT+ hate crime is disproportionately on the rise in the UK.” Two thirds of LGBTQ+ people experienced homophobic violence or abuse. This likelihood only increases for ethnic minority and trans people.

The question we have to ask ourselves is; why? 

Bullying is borne from ignorance. Section 28 has long-lasting effects on our educational establishments. Stonewall reports LGBTQ+ students are twice as likely to have been bullied than their non-queer compatriots (42% compared to 21%). Teachers echo this; 85% of secondary and 45% of primary staff acknowledge homophobic bullying in their schools.

With less than half of LGBTQ+ students (48%) experiencing positive messaging to support them, it is high time we as educationalists did something about it. The government introduced Relationships and Sex Education Guidance (2019) but left it open to interpretation stating:

“Schools should ensure that all of their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content. At the point at which schools consider it appropriate to teach their pupils about LGBT, they should ensure that this content is fully integrated into their programmes of study for this area of the curriculum rather than delivered as a standalone unit or lesson. Schools are free to determine how they do this, and we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area of the curriculum.” (DfE, 2019)

Robert Long (2023), concludes schools are still not required to “promote” same-sex marriage:

“Governors, teachers and non-teaching staff in schools, parents and pupils, are free to hold their own religious or philosophical beliefs about marriage of same sex couples.” (Long, 2023)

Schools need help to sensitively support all pupils and tackle the endemic victimisation. They need to address inequality and inclusion in their curriculum and how they support diverse families. There is little guidance for parents themselves.

From my own experience of coming out, my parents found it traumatic; relating it to grieving as they tackled a myriad of questions, hyped by media negativity: 

  • Would I grow up happy and fulfilled? 
  • Would I be bullied? 
  • Would I die of a terrible disease? 
  • Would they have grandchildren? 

Though this was in the 2000s, it is still a very real issue for some individuals today.

Recently, I worked with international colleges supporting staff and students from countries with poor human rights for LGBTQ+ citizens. I became fascinated by the term “Straight Privilege.” Those not identifying as LGBTQ+ do not have to come out, or seek out role models in the public eye. It is an interesting concept to explore.

As a headteacher, influenced by Andrew Moffatt, I introduced weekly “No Outsiders Assemblies.” Using news images, I positively identified people who stood up for their rights or succeeded despite potential marginalisation. This ranged from Malorie Blackman’s interpretation of historical figure, Rosa Parks for Doctor Who and Jacinda Ardern’s maternity arrangements as New Zealand’s Prime Minister, to discussing the controversies of a gay kiss at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Working with a family whose children experienced bullying for having same sex parents, inspired me to publish my first children’s book “The Best Mummy Snails in the Whole Wide World.” Since, I have delivered countless assemblies, workshops and key notes speeches aimed at fighting the corner and being the role-model, I never had in school.


Reducing barriers to inclusion by casting a wide net

Mahlon Evans-Sinclair portrait

Written by Mahlon Evans-Sinclair

Mahlon Evans-Sinclair is an experienced educator with extensive participation in the fields of learning, professional & personal development, and EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion).

Recently, I updated some guidance on the ‘use of pronouns’ as part of a wider report writing set of guidelines.

From the outset, I’ll say that I didn’t like the singular focus being placed on pronouns. Given that it’s an agitator for many, it felt like it was getting in the way of a wider message about how to write for a document that’s official in nature, but also personal in content. Additionally, the wording gave off a ‘need to know’ basis about any change/accommodation needed for the child in this regard. The twin issues for me in this are that (1) at a school-wide level, it requires the ‘push for assistance’ button to be pressed before ‘support’ can be given and (2) it can lead to a reactive ‘when prompted to’ attitude from teaching staff, with relation to promoting good practice of inclusion as default across the board.

So I changed the wording from a focus on pronouns to a wider acknowledgement to ‘Inclusive Language’ and in doing so, I added the following points:

  • Inclusive language is affirming of all students, regardless of identity marker. (It reduces anxiety and barriers associated with identity presentation and supports feeling respected, understood and represented).
  • [With regards to gender] Use of gendered terms are perfectly appropriate in many contexts (such as report writing) and don’t need to be consistently avoided, however consideration to use inclusive terms is encouraged across all interactions with students.
  • Where a request has been made by both student and parent/guardian to use only the student’s name or [different] pronoun, [this will be communicated] directly.

In updating the guidance, there were a few things I wanted to contextualise, so separate from the document I gave further framing:

  • Firstly, we should be working to reduce any barrier of inclusion related to accessing the feeling of being part of/belonging in a space.
  • Thinking about it from the famously used and adapted ‘equality/equity’ image, we should be working to remove the fence completely (inclusion/liberation), rather than suggesting that we will treat everyone equally unless there has been a request made by the person facing the greatest barrier for an equitable ‘accommodation’. 
  • Furthermore, it’s understood that it’s not the responsibility of the person facing the oppression to educate others about it, so if we were to take that into account in this case, being inclusive in our language from the start takes the burden off of students having to ‘out’ themselves in highly visible and potentially unsafe way to feel validated in their identity.
  • Finally, (in this case), moving the conversation away from being specifically on gender and reactive in its nature, we have the opportunity to move it to being about being ‘Intentional, Individual and Inclusive’ that both affirms the purpose of the space as well as those who are part of it.

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

Tori Sprott portrait

Written by Tori Sprott

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

Introduction: Equality in Schools

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

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

Hair discrimination: a brief history

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

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

Hair discrimination in schools: UK context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

GOV.UK, Discrimination: your rights 

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

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

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

Whistle-blowers are damn nuisances aren’t they?

Sonia Elmer-Soman portrait

Written by Sonia Elmer-Soman

Sonia Elmer-Soman has a background in both law and education. She is a qualified law lecturer and has many years’ experience working as a legal practitioner in two prestigious law firms in the City and now within a reputable law firm local to her home town in Essex. She is also a qualified primary school teacher and is a guest writer for professional journals.

– The Pitfalls of Whistleblowing in UK Schools

Official figures from the Standards and Testing Agency revealed that 793 maladministration investigations were carried out in 2018 – a rise of more than 50% in two years according to the Independent. 

Data compiled and analysed from the Teaching Regulation Agency, shows us that sexually motivated and other inappropriate conduct was the reason for a third of teaching bans between 2013 and 2018. 

The charity, Protect, say that between 2020 and 2022 they received the highest number of calls about wrongdoing in the education sector than any other profession. In the majority of cases concerns will have been raised by well- intentioned individuals or, as legislation has it, – Whistle-blowers.

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing occurs when an employee raises a concern about an alleged wrongdoing, including corrupt, illegal or unethical behaviours in a public or private sector organisation. The disclosure must be in the public interest and not for private gain. 

Emma Knights, the Chief Executive of the National Governance Association, writes ‘Arguably the need to speak out is important in the education sector, which deals with young and vulnerable people , people to whom there is an overriding duty of care’. 

What are the pitfalls faced by whistle-blowers?

In reality, many whistle-blowers say they face micro-aggressions, spurious claims of misconduct, gas-lighting and compromised or lost career opportunities.

Writing for Protect, Louise O’Neill explains how ‘gas-lighting’ involves the whistle-blower being told  ‘they have not quite understood the situation’, that what they witnessed is ‘part of a bigger picture’  and that it is they who have ‘failed to fit in’. 

O’Neill cites psychologist Doctor Jennifer Freyd (https/ when explaining the concept of ‘DARVO’ – Deny, Accuse, Reverse, Victim and Offender. So now the whistle-blower will hear comments as ‘You are intimidating and harassing me’ and ‘Your messages are harassing and hurtful to me’.

Discrimination following whistle-blowing does not end when the whistle-blower leaves the school gates. ‘Work and life intertwine in teaching’, ‘with threads running into and over other threads’.

Whistle-blowers may never have come across the term and it is not a particularly helpful one. They may not know that a school has a whistle-blowing policy and there are strict guidelines to follow. 

There is no legal aid available for whistle-blowers and legal advice can be expensive. Furthermore, what falls within the arena of a protected disclosure can be confusing.

The All Party Parliamentary Group believes that legislation is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. They are seeking a revised definition of whistle-blowing to include ‘any harmful violation of integrity and ethics’, even when not criminal or illegal. 


Without access to legal advice before, during and after whistle-blowing, it is likely that a whistle-blower will find themselves having to evidence concerns, mend reputational damage and deal with resulting treatment, causing them to mis-step in the process or face detriment even when they have followed due process.

For instance, a professional couple were forced out of their jobs from a school in the south of England for exposing ‘systematic exam malpractice’. Rianna Croxford. ‘Whistleblowers: We spoke out and lost our jobs’. (15th July 2019) BBC News. (

It is a failing in the system that claims of unfavourable treatment following whistleblowing are commonly dealt with under an internal grievance policy. This means that the organisation whom concerns have been raised against, is then in charge of determining the outcome. 

In one case, a SEN teacher lost her job when a panel found she had stood on a pupil’s foot while he screamed, pushed a pupil down when he tried to get up and shouted and screamed at children. However, the teaching assistant who raised concern was ostracised and ultimately dismissed from her position. 

Laura Fatah, Policy Officer of Protect writes “The problem of accessing justice when you’ve lost your job, have no lawyer, and are facing a strong armed employer is sadly all too familiar’. 

Croxford reports only 3% of the 1,369 employment tribunal cases brought in connection with test maladministration between 2017 and 2018 were successful according to Government figures. A report by the University of Greenwich found that when examining employment tribunal outcomes between 2015-2018, women who whistle-blow are less likely to be represented or succeed.

What are the challenges and benefits of whistle-blowing for leadership? 

School leaders perform a delicate balancing act in protecting all stakeholders including the rights of individual(s) whom claims are made against. 

Dealing with concerns effectively can demonstrate an appetite for improvement, minimise the risk of more serious breaches, enhance structural practices, increase productivity, retain vital skills and encourage the best applicants. 

Failing to listen and investigate concerns can result in reputational damage and time lost in defending claims and resulting legal proceedings.

Perhaps the worst injustice, however, is to the very people to whom there is an overriding duty of care and for whom the vast majority of staff work tirelessly to educate and safeguard – the children. Every child Matters. Every school day matters. Every year group matters.

Let’s Fix It.

Protect is seeking to reform the law so that whistle-blowers have access to greater legal support and guidance, while Baroness Kramer’s Bill introducing an Office of the Whistle-blower is working its way through the House of Lords. Schools which are geared up to deal with concerns effectively, will already be ahead of the curve whatever future changes in law and practice may follow.

How can leadership teams engage effectively with whistle-blowers?

  1. Look and interpret facts and patterns. Have concerns been raised before?
  2. Containing a situation is not the same as dealing with it. 
  3. Do not make the whistle-blower do your job. Whistle-blowers are witnesses/messengers, not investigators.
  4. Maintain confidentiality
  5. Avoid impromptu, unrepresented meetings. 
  6. Avoid polarising individuals, as this serves only to distract from the original concern.
  7. Create a safe environment in which stakeholders can voluntarily disclose mistakes/breaches.
  8. Roll out training on your School’s whistle-blowing policy.
  9. Embed a culture of honesty. 
  10. Imagine potential harm if an individual turned the other cheek to something they knew to be wrong, because they have seen how a previous whistle-blower was treated.
  11. Consider whether it is appropriate to have staff and Governors as eg, Facebook “Friends”, who have access to and are commenting on every aspect of your personal life. 
  12. Look around your School. Who sits on your leadership team and at the table of the Board of Governors? Is diversity reflected anywhere? Lack of such can lead to conformity of thought and exclusion in dealing with concerns.

What can whistle-blowers do to mitigate loss?

  1. Consult with a Solicitor, the CAB, ACAS or speak with Protect or WhistleblowerUK before you raise the concern and harness that support going forward.
  2. Read the whistle-blowing policy before raising a concern.
  3. Be clear what and why you are raising a concern.
  4. Ensure meetings are scheduled, recorded and you are represented. 
  5. Be realistic. Potentially harmful cultures are rarely remedied by one person/small group particularly if lower down in the hierarchy.
  6. Avoid Colluding with other colleagues/witnesses. Others may speak up or they may not. Be prepared to go it alone.
  7. Be patient. Potentially harmful cultures will take time to unpick if found to be present.
  8. Do not sign any document (eg, NDA) without getting legal advice.
  9. Check in with your mental wellbeing. The institution will stand long after you have gone. If there isn’t the vision for change, you alone are not responsible for it.

‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’ (C.S. Lewis)

Against the backdrop of a system that is largely autonomous and results driven, structures and procedures can become ethical quagmires and a perfect storm for conflict. 

Protect asks us to hold each-other to account courageously. Indeed, there is a moral imperative to do so.

‘School leaders can find themselves in uncomfortable positions’, but by working together ‘the best leaders will use the experience as a catalyst for change’. 

Conversion therapy is a safeguarding issue for educators

EJ Francis Caris-Hamer portrait

Written by EJ-Francis Caris-Hamer

Mx EJ-Francis Caris-Hamer is a PhD student at the University of Essex within the Department of Sociology. Ze has worked, as a qualified teacher, within the education sector for 20 years, working in both 11-19 sector and Higher Education.

I woke up this morning to read the news that a leaked document shows the government decided to U turn on their commitment to ban conversion therapy. In 2018 the conservative government pledged to ban the practice (Government Equalities Office, 2018) and this was confirmed in the Queen’s speech in 2021 (ITV News, 2022). My heart truly sank hearing this news because it felt as though the U turn was a decision based on political interests rather than an evidence-based health decision (Cramer et al, 2008; Independent Forensic Expert Group, 2020). Fast forward to the BBC News, 46 minutes ago, the updated stance reads that the conservative government now does plan to ban conversion therapy practices in England and Wales for sexual orientation identity, but will remain legal for transgender identities (BBC News, 2022). 

What is Conversion Therapy (CT)?

Conversion Therapy (CT) is also known as ‘Cure’ therapy or ‘Reparative’ therapy. It is any “form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or supress a person’s gender identity” (Stonewall, 2021). These therapies are both unethical and harmful to the person undergoing such treatment and have been condemned by the World Health Organisation and NHS (The Guardian, April 2021) and the United Nations in June 2020 (Stonewall Survey, 2020).

Why is CT a safeguarding issue for educators to be aware of? 

The charity Galop surveyed 5000 LGBTQIA+ people in February 2022. They found that 1/3rd of those surveyed suffered abuse from a relative due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and for 2/3rds this started when they were under the age of 18, worryingly 30% were under the age of 11 (Galop, 2022). If you identify as trans or non-binary, you are more likely to be subjected to abuse (43%). Abuse includes verbal threats, harassment, facing threats or actual homelessness, and even physical violence. 5% reported relatives subjecting them to conversion practices and the statistic increases to 11% if the person identified as trans or non-binary. Thus, it is essential that the government should also include gender identity when considering a ban of CT. 

As educators, it is essential to have an awareness of these statistics and practices, just as we perceive FGM, we should be perceiving the findings from Galop and CT practices as coercion and abuse. As Leni Morris, CEO of the charity Galop, states:

“Anti-LGBTQIA+ abuse from family members is often misinterpreted by statutory services as ‘generational differences’ or having ‘different values’ rather than seeing it for what it is really is – domestic abuse” (Brooks, 2022). 

Thankfully and rightly so, today we would never accept such justifications in relation to domestic violence. We need to consider Anti-LGBTQIA+ abuse in the same sense. 

What can we as educators do to support young LGBTQIA+ people?

As part of safeguarding, we need to demand from school leaders the time and space to understand the potential harm that families and CT practices can cause the students we teach. We need to recognise the signs of students who could be vulnerable. It is important to recognise that identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community is not a safeguarding issue per se, but Anti-LGBTQIA+ abuse including CT practices is a safeguarding concern and the harmful impact it has on students. Even more importantly, students need to be empowered to spot the signs for themselves, or their peers (in support of the ‘no bystander’ agenda). This can only be achieved through awareness. 

As a PhD researcher addressing queer inclusion in education, I have heard stories of teachers explaining how students have been threatened with CT by their parents or other authority/guardian figures. As a qualified teacher myself, I also recognise the time constraints that educators have when trying to find the time to research and become increasingly aware of the issues surrounding abuse for LGBTQIA+ young people. As a result, I attach two resource documents as a starting point:

Document one – This is for all staff working in education. This document is to inform you regarding the impact of CT practices and support organisations for young people. This document can be used to inform you as an educator to discuss with students and can be converted into a CPD session under the umbrella term safeguarding. 

Document two – Lesson plan which can be delivered to students as part of PSHE/RSE and Citizenship. This increases their awareness and helps them to maintain safeguarding for themselves and their peers regarding CT practices. As educators, we should be campaigning to ensure that such lessons are taught within PSHE. 

Sometimes to ensure effective safeguarding practices, we have to embrace our roles as trailblazers, reaching beyond the limitations of current legislation. The right thing to do is always the right thing to do. 


BBC News (2022) Conversion Therapy: Ban to go ahead but not cover trans people.  Available: Accessed: 01/04/2022.

Brooks, L. (2022) Third of British LGBTQIA+ people experience abuse by relatives. The Guardian. Available:   Accessed: 01/04/2022.

Cramer, R.J. Golom, F.D. LoPresto, C.T. Kirkley, S.M. (2008) Weighing the Evidence: Empirical Assessment and Ethical Implications of Conversion Therapy, Ethics & Behavior. 18(1), 93-114. DOI: 10.1080/10508420701713014

Galop (2022) LGBTQIA+ Experiences of Abuse from Family Members. Available: Accessed: 01/04/2022.

Government Equalities Office (2018) LGBT Action Plan. Available: ta/file/721367/GEO-LGBT-Action-Plan.pdf Accessed: 27/09/2021.

Independent Forensic Expert Group (2020) Statement on Conversion Therapy. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 72 Available: Accessed 01/11/2021.  

ITV News (2022) Exclusive: Government ditches ban on conversion therapy, according to leaked document.  Available: Accessed: 01/04/2022.

Stonewall Survey (2020) Conversion Therapy and Gender Identity Survey. Available: Accessed: 08/09/2021. 

Stonewall (2021) Conversion Therapy. Available: Accessed: 07/09/2021. 

The Guardian (April, 2021) Why are gay conversion practices still legal in the UK? Available: Accessed: 07/09/2021. 

A Call for Action

Esther Mustamu-Daniels portrait

Written by Esther Mustamu-Daniels

Esther Mustamu-Daniels has 20 years of teaching experience working in London and the Middle East as a Class teacher, Education officer, Middle Leader and DEI Lead. Currently working at British School Muscat, Esther co-leads the DEI work across the whole school.

I read the most horrific story of a child being sexually assaulted by police in her school. Her teachers did nothing to protect her. Her parents were not called. She was strip searched while in the middle of an exam while on her menstrual cycle. She was not allowed to clean herself after. She was not checked upon to see if she was ok and then she was sent back to her exam to continue it. All by people who are supposed to protect and look after her. All I kept thinking about was what if this was my child? This happened two years ago and the conclusion of the investigation is that ‘racism was likely to have been an influencing factor’. 

Unacceptable. The child is now in therapy traumatised by these events and now self harming. 

What if this was your daughter? What would you do? 

I have been thinking about the reports of Ukraine. How our children feel hearing these reports. Not only of the African students who have been denied entry on to trains and through borders but also of the reporting. How black and brown lives are deemed lesser and how this is normalised in our media. What impact is this having on our children? On all of them? How wars in certain countries are acceptable but in others ‘horrific’. How western media is more sympathetic towards a ‘type’ of refugee. What are we sharing with our children? With all of them? What are we teaching them? What kind of world are we showing them exists? 

There are so many stories in the media that show our children the unjust and prejudiced way of the world; how can we counteract this? How can we show them that they are all important? That their lives matter? Put yourselves in their shoes and think about the messages that they are receiving. Think about what you can do to counter that. 

If you are a teacher, what do you show your children? The stories and images you choose to share have a huge impact. The authors you share and the lessons you teach that include positive role models, narratives and histories will all have an impact. Are you considering the impact that current events are having on your children? What are you doing to support them? Are you calling out if you see racist or biased behaviour?

If you are a leader, what are you doing to counter these messages? Are you holding spaces for people to share and raise concerns with you? Are you actively trying to ensure that your establishment does not reinforce these messages? What policies do you have in place? What training do you have in place? If you are not aware or are not sure how to navigate these situations, are you seeking support and advice from those who do know?

This is a call for action to break these biases. Are you aware of what some of your children and colleagues may be facing? Are you aware of some of their experiences? Could you even be responsible for some of their experiences?  Imagine it was you? Imagine it was your family? What would you do? What will you do? What action will you take? What will you do today to support our future generations and all of our children and adults who are impacted and continue to be impacted by the traumas they witness?

Take action for what is right in whichever area you occupy. We all have the power to take this action and make a difference so that the bias stops. So our children and our communities are safe; psychologically and physically. What will you do?