Section 28 is still hanging over us – but you don’t have to be a LGBT+ expert to make your school inclusive

Dominic Arnall portrait

Written by Dominic Arnall

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

One in five (17%) teachers in the UK are uncomfortable discussing LGBT+ topics with their pupils, our new research at Just Like Us has found.

It may have been 18 years since Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales but clearly things have not changed as much as we like to think. Growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough, as a result, and huge challenges also remain for LGBT+ school staff who are often afraid to come out in their workplace or to pupils.

Just Like Us’ latest research also found that only a third (29%) of teachers are ‘completely comfortable’ talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans topics in the classroom, despite government guidance of course reinforcing the need to include LGBT+ topics.

We found that primary school teachers are even less comfortable with discussing LGBT+ topics at school, with 19% saying they are uncomfortable and only 25% ‘completely comfortable’, despite OFSTED requiring primary schools to include different types of families – such as same-sex parents – in lessons.

The survey, commissioned by Just Like Us – the LGBT+ young people’s charity – and carried out independently by Teacher Tapp surveyed 6,179 primary and secondary school teachers across the UK. So we know this is sadly not an anomaly. 

Why does this matter? Well Just Like Us’ report Growing Up LGBT+ found that having positive messaging about LGBT+ people in schools is linked to all students having better mental health and feeling safer – regardless of whether they’re LGBT+ or not. The evidence is there: LGBT+ inclusion in schools really is beneficial for everyone’s wellbeing.

When so many teachers say they’re uncomfortable discussing LGBT+ topics, such as mentioning that some families have lesbian mums, this has serious knock-on effects for LGBT+ young people’s wellbeing and mental health, who are currently twice as likely to be bullied and have depression. Having silence around LGBT+ topics only results in shame, stigma and students feeling that they don’t belong in school.

We don’t blame teachers for feeling uncomfortable. Some school staff simply may not have had the resources or personal life experiences – but all you need is a willingness to support your pupils and Just Like Us can help provide lesson plans, assemblies, talks and training so that you feel confident discussing LGBT+ topics with your pupils.

It’s also essential that we get the message out that teachers don’t need to be experts on LGBT+ topics to support their LGBT+ pupils.

You also don’t need to be LGBT+. Often we see in schools that this vital inclusion work falls to staff who are LGBT+ themselves rather than all school staff taking on the responsibility of making their school a safe, happy and welcoming place for all of their young people. This work doesn’t need to be done by LGBT+ staff – in fact, how amazing is it for students to see adults in their lives being proactive allies?

One incredible teacher, who is an ally, and a brilliant example of this is Zahara Chowdhury, who teaches at Beaconsfield High and the Beaconsfield School, in Buckinghamshire. She says it’s a “human responsibility” to include LGBT+ topics in the classroom and has been the driving force behind School Diversity Week celebrations at her schools.

It all starts with a willingness to support your students or simply diversify your lessons using our free resources – sign up for School Diversity Week and you’ll get a digital pack of everything you need to kickstart inclusion at your school. 

Already doing this work? Let a colleague or fellow educator at another school know by sharing this blog – the more we share resources and reassure staff that you don’t need to be LGBT+ nor an expert, the sooner and better we can ensure all young people feel safer and happier in school. 

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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. 

Introduction 

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:  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=humxn. 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. 

Conclusion 

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.’

References 

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  

History%20National%20Curriculum.pdf. 

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: https://www.charliechaplin.com/en/articles/29-the-final-speech from-the-great-dictator 

Department for Education (2013) The National Curriculum in England: Framework  Document. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/  

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 figures.service.gov.uk/workforce-and-business/workforce-diversity/school-teacher workforce/latest 

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

Macpherson Report (1999), as part of The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry available at:  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attach ment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf pp.382 

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

https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/national_1?q=national

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:  

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attach 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: https://uclpimedia.com/online/lets-banish-the hierarchy-topped-by-male-pale-and-stale-voices-and-decolonise-the-curriculum 

The Equality Act 2010 guidance, can be found at: 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance 

The National Curriculum 1999 available at:  

http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/pdfs/1999-nc-primary-handbook.pdf.  pp. 10, pp.12. 

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

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Our Pregnancy and Maternity Toolkit for Schools

Emma Sheppard portrait

Written by Emma Sheppard

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

The research, legal practice and variety of experiences surrounding the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity is rich and diverse, but perhaps because it does not (often) include our students in the way other protected characteristics do, resources specific to the education sector are hard to come by.  We do not, for example, talk about diversifying our curriculum to include more stories of pregnancy and motherhood.  We don’t talk about ensuring that our workforce includes pregnant role models for our students.  We don’t organise student voice groups discussing how pregnancy and maternity affect pupils’ day to day school lives.

Provision for pregnancy and maternity as a protected characteristic is almost always in relation to staff members within our schools, nurseries and colleges.  And it’s a fairly important demographic: the majority of teachers are women who may become pregnant at some point; half our workforce are parents to children under the age of 18, and 3.4% of teachers (around 11,500) go on maternity leave each year – that’s an average of two per school.  But isn’t the experience of being a parent and a teacher the remit of our HR managers, rather than colleagues, middle and senior leaders?

Given the large number of parents in our teacher workforce, the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity – and the many years of family life that will follow – is an area about which leaders should be familiar and informed if they are keen to create positive working environments.  As in any other industries, failing to understand and therefore meet the needs of our pregnant and mother team members leads to staff attrition, negative school cultures, and a motherhood penalty in the form of a gender pay gap, gender disparity in school leadership and discriminatory cultures that we present to our students as the reality that they will inherit.

The DiverseEd Pregnancy and Maternity Toolkit is an evolution of the research, resources, networks and articles that supported the establishment of The MTPT Project – the UK’s only charity for parent teachers.  It provides the reports, blogs and contacts that The MTPT Project community return to again and again to inform their work and empower their community.  When you start exploring, you’ll realise what a rabbit hole we have tempted you to fall into: 25 pages of an ASCL Maternity and Adoption Leave guide; ways to support breastfeeding teachers as they return to work; the experience of undergoing fertility treatment as a teacher; the ins and outs of shared parental leave; how to avoid direct and indirect discrimination… At first you may be overwhelmed by what you didn’t know you didn’t know…!

Don’t be put off: start with the needs of the colleagues in your school – whether they be expectant mothers, fathers or non-binary parents, undergoing fertility treatment, returning to work, completing professional development on leave.  Use the DiverseEd toolkit to open up dialogue and get everyone feeling excited about how enjoyable making this next step in your personal and professional lives will be – learning to support, and be empowered, by your pregnant, expectant and parent colleagues.

Want to do more to support your colleagues?  Contact The MTPT Project about our schools’ membership so that the experts can guide you through the relevant documents, and how to implement impactful practice in your school.

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How I Created a DEI Toolkit for Diverse Educators

Shonagh Reid portrait

Written by Shonagh Reid

Shonagh Reid is a former secondary school senior leader. She is now a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Consultant and Coach.

As a consultant for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion I join organisations at a range of different points on their journey. When creating a leader’s toolkit for Diverse Educators it was important to me that it would be useful for DEI leaders and also for organisation leaders so that they know what is entailed in this specialist area of work. It was also important that it met the needs of leaders at all stages, be that those who have recently been appointed, or those who have been working in this capacity for some time. It was important to me that everyone find something new or challenging in this toolkit. 

Clarifying the role of DEI Leader

The beginning of the DEI Leader’s toolkit outlines specific details about what the role is and how it relates to key legislation such as The Equality Act 2010. I outline the main roles and responsibilities that a DEI Leader must deliver on in the toolkit as:

  • Analysing data to identify barriers for individuals and groups of people
  • Scrutiny of existing policies and practices effecting all stakeholders
  • Evaluating, designing and implementation of a diverse and representative curriculum
  • Supporting teaching and learning to meet the needs of all learners
  • Supporting the safeguarding of students with protected characteristics
  • Working closely with the SENDCO in order to meet the needs of all learners
  • Contributing to the wellbeing strategy for staff and colleagues
  • Working closely with governors and trustees to help drive the impact of DEI for the school
  • Delivering training and updates to staff, governors, and trustees
  • Implementing a review and quality assurance strategy to ensure DEI remains current and relevant
  • Celebrating the diversity of their organisation, the UK, and the world 
  • Providing training for staff including governors in matters relating to The Equality Act 2010 and any changes in terms and methodology

By providing this list of roles and responsibilities, I aimed to provide a useful resource for those who are considering appointing a DEI Leader in their school, and those who are being asked to take on this responsibility. Why is this important? This role is still relatively new, and people are not sure what the impact of DEI can be in a school, how it is measured and how to deliver on it effectively. In my work, I encounter people who are in the role of DEI Leader without a proper job description or understanding of how their work supports and drives stakeholder experience, and Improvement Plan outcomes. 

This list of roles and responsibilities should at least offer points for discussion as organisations begin to implement and refine their EDI aims. 

Why I Chose Specific Resources

The Equality Act 2010 covers nine specific characteristics. As a DEI Consultant I believe our responsibility is to create an inclusive environment for all. It was hard for me to not provide specific resources for each protected characteristic as there are so many excellent resources available, but it was important for me to focus on the role of leader. Therefore, the resources I chose for the EDI Leaders toolkit were selected to support an overarching view of the role of DEI leaders. To collate them, I asked myself:

  • What do I need to know about trying to create an inclusive environment?
  • How can I ensure I surround myself with diverse voices and attitudes to current trends in DEI?
  • How do I place my work in the context of activism, equal rights, and the need to work within specific guidelines and frameworks in a school?
  • How do I find the time for my subject knowledge development, and what platforms and media work within the parameters of busy lives?
  • How do I place wellbeing, support, collaboration, and networking at the heart of any DEI Leader’s toolkit?

I hope that the range of articles, blogs, podcasts, videos, and other resources are useful for anyone who is currently in or about to embark on their DEI Leadership journey. 

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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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Afro Hair: The Petting Microaggression

Adeola Ogundele portrait

Written by Adeola Ogundele

Adeola Ogundele is Head of Year 9, Head of Media Studies and a Teacher of English who has completed her NPQSL. She is a passionate advocate for Equality and Diversity. She tweets as @ao1982_

As black women, we have a very close relationship with our hair. Our hair is more than just keratin, it’s a badge of pride and honour because of the history behind it. Let’s celebrate World Afro Day on 15th September with the global The Big Hair Assembly.

In the late 1700s to the 1800s, there was a law – the Tignon Laws. This law demanded that women of colour cover their hair with fabric cloth. This law was introduced to curtail the growing influence of the free black population and keep the social order of the time. It was believed that black women were exhibiting unacceptable behaviours, which included the hairstyles they wore. These hairstyles drew the attention of white men. Black women were, apparently, wearing their hair in such lovely ways; adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking around with such beauty and pride, that it was obscuring their status. This disrupted the social stability of white women. Therefore, the law was introduced to minimise a black woman’s beauty. In many societies, white women would cut off a black woman’s hair, as they felt that her hair ‘confused white men’.

Without the fancy hairstyles of black women, white women believed that black hair, in its natural state, was ugly. White was the epitome of beauty, the straight hair and the fair skin. So, the further a person was from fitting with that ideal, the more unattractive they were deemed to be.

Slavery was abolished in the 19th century. As black women were free, they felt pressure to fit in with the European ideals and therefore adapted their hairstyles.

‘Black people felt compelled to smoothen their hair and texture to fit in easier, and to move in society better and in camouflage almost,’ says exhibition producer Aaryn Lynch.

‘I’ve nicknamed the post-emancipation era ‘the great oppression’ because that’s when black people had to go through really intensive methods to smooth their hair. “Men and women would put their hair in a hot chemical mixture that would almost burn their scalp, so they could comb it back and make it look more European and silky.’ Chemically straightening hair was often called relaxing the hair, a problematic term. Or perming the hair, as it was permanently straightened – until the new growth came through and you’d have to apply more chemicals to the new growth.

During the civil rights movement, black people began wearing their Afros and it was seen as a political statement and a form of rebellion. Black people felt a sense of pride and as they protested against racial segregation and oppression, the eye-catching style took off – an assertion of black identity in contrast to previous trends inspired by mainstream white fashions. Unfortunately, that’s all the Afro was, a political statement and a form of rebellion. When in fact, an Afro is the natural state of a black person’s hair. However, because black women have adapted to the European beauty ideals for so long, the Afro and the Afro hairstyles are seen as against the ‘norm’.

It was only when I was in my early 30s that I knew what my natural hair texture was like. There is a range of natural hair types. My hair is probably a 4a with some parts that are 4b and it is also very thin. I have always known that it was thin but I never knew the texture of it. I never knew the texture because my mum relaxed/permed my hair when I was really young. While I was in school, most of the black girls also had relaxed/permed hair. It was believed to be ‘easier to manage’ and it also ‘looked nicer’ – because it was straight. Obviously, these were unconscious ideas that were ingrained within us as a result of white supremacy.

This Morning presenter, Eamonn Holmes, told Dr Zoe Williams that her hair reminded him ‘of an alpaca’. He continued with, ‘You just want to pet it.’ Dr Zoe Williams laughed along and jovially responded with, ‘Don’t touch my hair!’.Black women have been faced with several micro-aggressions regarding their hair and the way to navigate it and to avoid being referred to as angry, is to laugh along. However, Dr Zoe William’s reference to the very well-known phrase ‘don’t touch my hair’ is an indication that she didn’t receive Eamonn Holmes’ comment well.

According to a study conducted earlier this year, it was found that black people experience ‘racial trauma’ because of frequent afro hair discrimination. At least 93% of Black people with Afro hair in the UK have experienced microaggressions related to their hair, and 52% say discrimination against their hair has negatively affected their self-esteem or mental health. So, describing a Black woman’s hair as animal fur and saying that you would like to ‘pet’ it, contributes to this damaging trend of ‘othering’ by treating Afro hair as a fascination. It is also very offensive.

Many people may fail to understand why comments about black hair can be so damaging, considering hair being superficial. But Afro hair is, unfortunately, political. Black people are punished and excluded from certain spaces because of the way their hair grows naturally on their heads.

‘Hair is a sensitive topic for black and mixed-race women as a lot of us still struggle with how to manage it, along with a lack of diversity in products in mainstream stores – so it’s like twisting the knife.’ says Keisha East, natural hair blogger and influencer.

Keshia adds that black women already feel pressure to conform to European beauty standards, particularly in professional spaces. ‘It can be really damaging to our self-esteem,’ she adds. ‘Quite frankly, negative conversations around our hair can be exhausting, as we already face so many other challenges.’

There is a culture of it being okay to be ignorant towards black hair. However, why are so many ignorant towards our hair? It’s because we either straighten it, to fit in with social norms or wear extensions as a form of protection and/or to hide it away because we know that our hair is not seen as acceptable in a professional setting.

We often find that white people have a desire to touch our hair because it’s ‘different’ and they’re curious. However, this is a huge invasion of our privacy and, considering that black women are underrepresented in the media and the representation usually being where we fit the European beauty ideals, touching our hair and the fascination with our hair, is a symptom of unconscious bias informed by white supremacy. In the context of the history of black people’s bodies and looks being objectified, dehumanised and marginalised, the impulse for white people to touch black women’s hair sends the message that our bodies are there as objects to be touched and looked at.

I’ve never looked at a white person’s straight hair and been shocked by it or found it amazing. I’m also used to seeing it, as it’s what the media and society has told me is the ‘norm’ and therefore, beautiful. However, a black person’s hair isn’t seen the same way. The way a black person’s hair grows out of the head is seen as something of an amazement, a form of rebellion or unprofessional.

There has been the rebuttal, ‘My hair is curly and people always want to touch it, and I’m white.’ Right! That’s the point being made. People want to touch your curly hair because it’s seen as an anomaly. It’s not seen as ‘normal’ hair, hence people being fascinated by it. Also a white person’s curly hair is probably a 3b at most. Black people have curly hair (mainly type 4 hair), it’s our normal – but not the norm.

This needs to change.

 

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#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Blogs of 2020-21

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Written by DiverseEd

Diverse Educators started as a grassroots network in 2018 to create a space for a coherent and cohesive conversation about DEI. We have evolved into a training provider and event organiser for all things DEI.

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our blogs vary from sharing lived experience, to reflecting on classroom practice and curriculum design, to evaluating the impact of policy changes. We published 150 blogs from our network last academic year. You can meet our bloggers here and you can review our collection here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we are reading, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Reading the blogs by our community provokes reflection and stimulates conversations to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 blog collection include: allyship, belonging, careers, coaching, commitment, community, curriculum, culture, governance, HR, identity, ITTE, language, leadership, policy, recruitment, reflection, representation, research, safeguarding, strategy, teaching, wellbeing. 

 

Here are our Top 10 Most-Read #DiverseEd Blogs in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. How do we deal with racism in the classroom – Hannah Wilson 
  2. How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work – Wayne Reid 
  3. Interactive diversity calendar 2021 – Carly Hind/ Dual Frequency 
  4. How does material deprivation intersect with ethnicity to understand the variations in the achievement among BAME students – Nicole Edwards 
  5. Don’t tuck in your labels – Bennie Kara 
  6. Dear Secretary of State – Hannah Wilson 
  7. Gender is wibbly wobbly and timey wimey and gloriously so – Matthew Savage 
  8. Engaging with diversity – giving pupils a voice – Gaurav Dubay 
  9. Black lives matter, then now always – Wayne Reid 
  10. Breaking the cycle anti-racist plan term 1 – Dwain Brandy 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our #DiverseEd date and please do get in touch if you would like us to publish you. You can find out more about how to submit here.

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Dear Secretary of State

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Context:

Since July 2020, we have held a quarterly Diversity Roundtable with national stakeholders invested in, and committed to, a system-wide strategy for collaborating on a DEI strategy in our schools. We collectively wrote to the DfE, the SoS, the NSC and the Equalities Team on March 1st. We are yet to receive an acknowledgement to our concerns. We have agreed to publish the letter as an open source, in the hope that we can move this conversation forwards.

The Diversity Roundtable: https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/diversity-roundtables/

March 1st 2021

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to you publicly as The Diversity Roundtable, a collective of professionals and specialists working in the field of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), to express our alarm at the recent withdrawal of funding in multiple areas in schools and Further Education. The cuts include: The Department for Education’s Equality and Diversity fund for school-led projects, to accelerate the diversification of protected characteristic groups in school leadership; English Second Other Language (ESOL) funding reduced by 50% in Further Education; and Equalities Office fund cut for anti-homophobic and anti-trans bullying. The lack of action concerning the Gender Reform Act has been disappointing, considering the anti-trans rhetoric nationally.

Now is a critical time for the Department for Education to enable schools and colleges to address structural inequity. We ask for a staged approach to impact on the sector to apply and embed professional learning from research specifically around race; embed best practice to update policy enactment; facilitate organisational change through specialist intervention and apply DEI sector knowledge to increase recruitment and retention both in leadership and the wider teacher workforce (see Appendix A).

The current situation suggests nationally and internationally discourse about and impact on protected characteristic groups has been the most significant in a generation. Events such as the brutal murder of George Floyd by a representative of a public sector organisation and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have influenced the direction of the country underlining significant inequity in the structures of our institutions. Currently schools and colleges face these challenges without any funding to address legacies of inaction.

We feel it is highly problematic not to address such concerns when research identifies schools as sites where racism is grown through structures (Warmington, 2020; Callender, 2020; Callender and Miller, 2019; Lander 2017; Bhopal, 2018; Gillborn, 2015; Parker and Roberts, 2011; Marx 2016; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Williams 1991). Racism is fostered and, at best, passively nurtured through professional gaps in knowledge and skills of DEI, uncritical pedagogic and curricula approaches and a limited range of lived experiences in leadership to address such practice. In addition, schools and colleges face historic bias in curricula, unchallenged majoritarian attitudes in the workforce and are now responding to families demanding change for their children.

We believe inequity in our schools presents a national challenge that needs to be addressed with national funding. It is our hope that in accordance with the Equality Act and 1 Public Sector Equality Duty (2010) all families, teachers, support staff and children, regardless of where they live, how many schools are in their Trust or the funding situation of their Local Authority, be protected from systemic inequalities in schools. We therefore ask for specific DEI funding for schools and colleges in order to provide geographical parity across the United Kingdom. We believe action is required in the following areas:

  1. Funding to address lack of racial diversity in leadership;
  2. Funding and training to protect students and staff from inequity in schools through addressing gaps in Teacher Standards;
  3. Funding to support serious focus on those with protected characteristics in the recruitment and retention strategies both in school and in Initial Teacher Education;
  4. Funding for schools and colleges to address professional gaps in curricula knowledge and skills.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000), the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty (2010) are upheld. School and college leaders have taken seriously and demonstrated agency in their responsibility to challenge structural discrimination and inequality for many years; examples such as Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham demonstrate the cost, time and nuanced complexity of this work for staff and the wider impact of upholding the law for communities and families.

The social and educational impact of COVID 19 and wider effects of the pandemic on people from different social class and Ethnic Minority backgrounds has underlined outcomes gained by structural privilege and laid bare the failure of our institutional structures to support children adequately at the point of need. It will be these families further disadvantaged by a workforce representing, interpreting and enacting policy by privileged groups in society.

It is our hope the Department seize this opportunity to provide funding and a structured approach to supporting schools and colleges to manage change. The teacher workforce is ready, invested and motivated to address structural inequity but needs funding and guidance in order to impact on children and staff as well as the communities they serve.

We extend an invitation to meet with the Diversity Roundtable by contacting the Chairs at
hello@hannah-wilson.co.uk  and hello@angelabrowne.co.uk to co-create ways forward.

Yours Faithfully,

Co-organisers of the Diversity Roundtable:

  • Angela Browne, Director, Nourished Collective
  • Claire Stewart-Hall, Director, Equitable Coaching
  • Hannah Wilson, Co-Founder and Director, Diverse Educators

Members of the Diversity Roundtable:

  • Adam McCann, CEO, Diversity Role Models
  • Aisha Thomas, Director, Representation Matters Ltd
  • Professor Dame Alison Peacock, CEO, Chartered College of Teaching
  • Allana Gay, BAMEed
  • Ann Marie Christian, Child 1st Consultancy Limited
  • Dr Anna Carlile, Head of the Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Aretha Banton, Co-Founder, Mindful Equity UK
  • Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)
  • Beth Bramley, Gender Balance Manager, Institute of Physics
  • Daniel Gray, Director, LGBTed
  • Diana Osagie, CEO, Courageous Leadership & The Academy of Women’s Leadership
  • Domini Leong, Chair, BAMEedSW
  • Elizabeth Wright, Editor of Disability Review Magazine, DisabilityEd Ambassador
  • Emma Hollis, Executive Director, NASBTT
  • Emma Sheppard, Founder, The MaternityTeacher PaternityTeacher Project
  • Hannah Jepson, Director, Engaging Success
  • James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director, UCET
  • Kiran Gill, CEO, The Difference
  • Laila El-Metoui, Founder, Pride in Education and Educating Out Racism
  • Liz Moorse, Chief Executive, Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT)
  • Lorraine Hughes, Director of Education, Chiltern Learning Trust
  • Mareme Mufwoko, Steering Group, WomenEd England
  • Marius Frank, Director, Achievement for All
  • Nadine Bernard, Founder, Aspiring Heads CIC
  • Nicole Ponsford, Founder, Global Equality Collective (GEC)
  • Pat Joseph, ARISEtime
  • Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT (National Association Head Teachers – school leadership union)
  • Ruth Golding, Founder, DisabilityEd
  • Sharon Porter, SPorterEdu Consulting
  • Professor Emeritus of the Harvey Milk Institute, Sue Sanders, Schools OUT UK
  • Sufian Sadiq, Director, Chiltern Teaching School Alliance
  • Susie Green, CEO, Mermaids
  • Professor Vini Lander, Director, The Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality, Carnegie School of Education
  • Viv Grant, Director, Integrity Coaching Ltd
  • Youlande Harrowell, Co-Founder, Mindful Equity UK

Appendix A:

Increasing Recruitment and Retention:

Currently processes of recruitment and retention have led to a national figure of 14% of teachers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds (sic) teaching in schools (DfE, 2020). Under 5% of Head Teachers come from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, despite areas with significantly higher numbers of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the wider population (DfE, 2020). This has been consistent for some years without much scrutiny from the Department for Education; it was sadly not addressed specifically in the DfE Recruitment and Retention Strategy (2019). It remains less likely that people with protected characteristics will be able to join the profession or be retained in schools without cultures, processes and practices actively challenging existing structural barriers that lie within school structures (NEU/Runnymede, 2020). In addition, there remains a persistent lack of diversity in school governance, which contributes to and sustains the status quo in appointment to posts. The Equality and Diversity fund: for school-led projects recognised the underrepresentation in leadership providing one avenue for schools to address inequity. Without such funding,
schools will continue to enact practices that exclude and maintain majoritarian cultures as the ‘norm’ thereby families, children and staff will continue to feel marginalised and discriminated against.

Diversity as a Business Model:

The McKinsey report (2020) demonstrates that as an organisational business model this approach is flawed. There is now a plethora of reports, including from national government, outlining the business case for wider diversity and representation in organisations as means to meet demand and increase success rates (McKinsey, 2015; McGregor-Smith, 2017; Diversity at the Top, CIPD 2017, Ethnic bias in recruitment, CIPD 2019; Breaking Barriers to Inclusive Recruitment, CIPD, 2018; Recognising the bias in recruitment, CIPD, 2018). Past experience shows the sector that unless equity safeguards are consciously included, the effect of new policies is frequently to reinforce existing gender, race and class inequalities (Gillborn, 2014). In light of the Department for Education’s role in leading expectations for schools, fair and equitable working environments and creating a world class education system that actively prevents discrimination, we would ask that this decision is reviewed immediately.

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How does Social Work regulation perpetuate White Supremacy?

Wayne Reid portrait

Written by Wayne Reid

Professional Officer & Social Worker

Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated

 

The Black Lives Matter movement casts a revealing spotlight on how White supremacy permeates society and influences the policies in ‘modern institutions.’  An immediate example is Social Work regulation.  In this article, I outline how Social Work regulation perpetuates White supremacy.  My premise is that “morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated.” (Martin Luther King).

 

My mantra is “pure, proactive and unapologetic anti-racism,” which underlines my militant spirit when it comes to ‘Anti-racism in Social Work.’  My mentality is influenced by the hostile environment inside and outside of Social Work.  I hope any readers resist the urge to ‘tone police’ my opinions.  My observations reflect my environment – the ‘hostile environment.’  My motivation is for the cause, not applause – and the cause is Black Lives Matter.  

 

My narrative reflects my lived experiences and those of people like me who are routinely judged, based on their skin colour.  I write this article from both personal and professional perspectives.  I use the terms ‘people of colour’ and ‘Black and Ethnic Minority people’ interchangeably for ease.  I do not speak on behalf of all people or Social Workers of colour – as we are not a homogenous group.  My writing here may not represent the views of my employer (BASW).  I’m one of many Black voices in the profession.   The prelude to my current thinking is outlined in my previous articles here: 1, 2, 3 & 4.  

 

In my work, I’m able to act as an Anti-racism Visionary for Social Work across England.  I utilise different strategic approaches including: shock and awe; edutainment; collaboration and allyship.  My knowledge and expertise relates to anti-Black racism.  Since George Floyd’s murder, I’ve reported widely on the lack of protections and support for Social Workers of colour; their over-representation in fitness to practice panels and their disproportionately negative outcomes on Assessed and Supported Year in Employment programmes. The coverage and prominence of anti-racism in Social Work in recent months has been inescapable.  However, the silence from Social Work England (SWE) (and MP’s) is perplexing.                                 

 

Tools that discriminate and oppress

 

The Social Work standards (nor their associated guidance) make no reference to Social Workers or service-users of colour.  In a previous article, I emphasised my disappointment that: “neither [the] education and training standards for 2019 or 2020, nor the professional standards for Social Workers, explicitly refer[s] to anti-discriminatory (ADP), anti-oppressive (AOP) or anti-racist practice (ARP).”  And: “Their omission in Social Work regulation is a travesty of social justice in itself.”  Yet they are considered as ‘accepted wisdom’, ‘normal’ and ‘respectable’ – even though they implicitly convey that “White is best.”

 

I’ve commentated widely on how many Social Workers of colour feel unsupported during fitness to practice investigations.  Indeed, their statistical over-representation implies the current standards overtly dominates and punishes them.  At best, the standards are non-racist (or neutral/colour-blind), but definitely NOT anti-racist.  Due to the omissions of ADP, AOP and ARP, I conclude that central aspects of the education, training and the professional standards in Social Work are inadequate and unfit for purpose.  Perversely, the standards risk being perceived as tools wielded to discriminate and oppress Social Workers of colour (and consequently service-users of colour).

 

Community Care articles (from February 2021 and March 2021), have reported on the “delays in fitness to practise processes having ‘life-changing impacts.’”  Social Workers of colour are over-represented in these cases.  Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume these are the same unfortunate people being disproportionately affected by the delays. Another article (from July 2020), cited the lack of ethnic diversity within the SWE workforce.  Confidence is not instilled when there is no transparency about how this is being addressed/reversed.  I’ve previously queried whether this was being treated as a priority, as this could be mistaken for ‘pigmentocracy vs meritocracy – but I’ve had no response. Also, I’m concerned that SWE does not appear to have 1 designated Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead Officer.  I do wonder how incidents of racism (and other forms of discrimination) are being properly resolved.  Interestingly, even the Royal Family plan to recruit a ‘diversity tsar’.  My hope is this will be replicated swiftly in Social Work regulation.  

 

I’m pleased SWE have developed a Professional Experts Panel and appointed members with backgrounds in social justice and workforce development.  However, I was unable to find any information about panel members (including their backgrounds and careers in England, UK and overseas) on their website.  It is important the panel can reflect with insight, the diverse range of backgrounds and experiences of those within the workforce.  Also, transparency about the panel’s membership would be welcome.  My hope is for improved partnership working with BASW and myself on related matters.  I expect many social workers of colour (and their allies) will be disappointed if SWE don’t revisit the above issues, once their panel of experts have reviewed it.            

 

Patiently waiting

 

In collaboration with allies and colleagues (inside and outside of BASW England), I’ve amplified the voices of Social Workers of colour in OUTLANDERS.  I’ve published an anti-racist Social Work framework and outlined readily deployable strategies.  I’ve developed a comprehensive ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ presentation and delivered it at nearly 100 online events internationally (since May 2020).  I founded the BASW England Black & Ethnic Minority Professionals Symposium (BPS), (which is a multi-talented network of professionals across England).  I was joint winner of ‘Author of the Month’ in December 2020 for Social Work News magazine.  I’ve created a repository of anti-racism resources, which is utilised by thousands of Social Workers, organisations and stakeholders across the UK.  Here is my ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ portfolio.  

 

Despite my prolific work in this area, I’m disheartened to have not been approached by SWE (or responsible MP’s) to explore my ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ solutions.  I fear losing any momentum we have.  I remain patiently waiting for any opportunity to progress this work meaningfully.  Admittedly, I’m crestfallen, because I do not want to interpret the lack of responsivity as denial and rejection of my knowledge, expertise and lived (personal and professional) experiences. I don’t wish to appear populist or journalistic in my observations, but I genuinely don’t know whether some of the senior personnel at SWE are unaware of my work or just ignoring it.  I would prefer transparency and to be told that my efforts are not in accordance with their perceived vision – if that is the case.   I recognise there are minefields and pitfalls in embedding anti-racism in Social Work.  However, my door has remained metaphorically wide open for months.  

 

Those who govern the profession’s policies must do more than just be seen to acknowledge the advent of another social justice celebration (ie. Black History Month, Holocaust Memorial Day etc). These occasions are often met with bland blogs and ‘toxic positivity’ (if it all).  There is rarely accountability, substance or, more importantly – action.  My intelligence feels insulted when I read comments like: “…our statement of intent and inclusion shows how [anti-racism] is part of our core business.”  How can that be, when no actual proof is presented or when ‘anti-racism’ is only mentioned (fleetingly) once within the entire document?  This can easily be mistaken for brazen performative allyship.  Just so we are clear, suppressing racism does not mean racism does not exist.  

 

Sadly, none of the ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ activities that I’ve been involved in have generated endorsement or support from SWE.  I sent an invitation for SWE representatives to view an online presentation I was delivering at the Anglia Ruskin University on 25/03/21.  Unfortunately, I did not receive a reply.  I shared a draft version of this article (with my portfolio and presentation) to offer them the right to reply and/or shape the final versions.  I received the following reply: 

“[We do not wish to make any comment at this point.]  We will continue our dialogue with the sector more broadly, as well as various representative groups within it, on all matters relating to equality, diversity, and inclusion (including anti-racism) as we continue to develop our work and approach. The strategic conversations we are involved with at a national level will also drive conversation and change.  Good luck with the article and your portfolio.” 

I’ll continue working effectively with organisational leaders and relevant stakeholders nationally to integrate anti-racism into Social Work at every level.  I will genuinely engage and collaborate with authentic allies and professionals who want to improve the circumstances of Social Workers and service-users of colour.  Preferably, with people who are honest about where they (and their organisations) are at on their anti-racism journey               

       

Social work remains institutionally racist

 

Sir William Macpherson (RIP) coined the term ‘institutional racism’ when reporting on the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1999.  In 2019, Ibram X Kendi (in his book ‘How to be an Anti-Racist’) suggested substituting the term ‘institutional racism’ with ‘racist policies.’  I understand and appreciate both positions and their contemporary relevance to Social Work.  My previous article on this received widespread agreement (and acclaim) from my peers.  However, sadly, it failed to generate any response from SWE – the very institution responsible for policy changes in Social Work. 

 

I’m pleased the Chief Social Workers for Adults and Children & Families have acknowledged their previous shortcomings and re-emphasised the importance of anti-racism.  Hopefully, this will involve the Workforce Race Equality Standards (WRES) becoming mandatory and universal across the profession (with a sense of urgency) and supplemented by other national initiatives from key Social Work stakeholders and policy makers. Black human rights activists are rarely welcomed by ‘the establishment.’  The obstacles Social Workers of colour face are simply the latest manifestations of what people like me have battled against continuously for centuries.  Opponents of ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ must be mercilessly spotlighted, shamed and subverted.  

 

Clearly, some readers might take delight in labelling me as an ‘extremist’.  I admit, I’m extremely anti-racist.  If at this juncture, the message requires ‘tub-thumping’ – so be it!  Social justice must prevail. Let’s not forget, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. I remain convinced the 2 main obstacles to progress are ignorance and ‘wilful blindness’.                         

 

The OUTLANDERS anthology

 

OUTLANDERS: Hidden narratives from Social Workers of colour, is an anthology of essays, stories, poems and other miscellaneous works – which I co-edited and compiled in collaboration with Siobhan Maclean.  I’m proud to have been involved with OUTLANDERS and the richness and uniqueness it exudes.  People have enquired whether I will profit from the book.  Definitely not!  The profits will go to the Social Workers Benevolent Trust (SWBT).  At the time of writing, the book has sold 1000 copies and raised £700 for the SWBT.  As far as I’m concerned, OUTLANDERS is a legacy piece of Social Work history and literature.  Siobhan and I’s ‘labours of love’ for OUTLANDERS is an eternal gift to the Social Work profession.   

 

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Why taking part in School Diversity Week can help LGBT+ young people struggling with mental health

Dominic Arnall portrait

Written by Dominic Arnall

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

The pandemic has hit us all hard – whether it’s through job losses, being furloughed, losing loved ones, loneliness or our lives simply turning upside down. However, new independent research by Just Like Us has found that young people who are LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans) are struggling significantly more.

 

LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to feel lonely and more than twice as likely to be worrying daily about the state of their mental health.

 

On top of this, one in four (25%) are facing daily tensions in the place they’re living and seven in 10 (68%) said their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, compared to just half (49%) of young people who aren’t LGBT+. 

 

Sadly, Just Like Us’ independent research found what we suspected to be true when the pandemic began – LGBT+ young people are facing far more challenges than their peers and this is having a devastating impact on their mental health. And we found that LGBT+ young people who are also Black, disabled and/or eligible for free school meals face even worse mental health.

 

While we’ve all had a tough time not being able to see our loved ones and socialise like we used to, many LGBT+ young people are having to cope with living with families who may not accept or understand them, while also being cut off from their usual support networks or safe spaces where they won’t be judged for who they are.

 

School, while it may have been virtual for much of the pandemic, can be a fantastic source of support for young people. Sadly, for pupils who are LGBT+, school still often isn’t a place they are able to feel safe, welcome or happy being themselves. 

 

Our research shows that half (48%) of 11 to 18 year olds say they have received little to zero positive messaging at school about being LGBT+ in the last 12 months. One in five (18%) young people say they have received no positive messaging from their school about being LGBT+, which suggests that a significant number of schools are not taking action to meet Ofsted requirements of preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

 

It’s a real shame to see that Section 28 is still having such an impact on LGBT+ young people’s experiences of school. As adults, we could be forgiven for thinking that things have moved on – after all, we have far more legislation to protect us these days – but education still has a long way to go in being LGBT+ inclusive. 

 

No child should feel scared to be themselves at school. And pupils in primary schools should know that there’s no shame in having LGBT+ parents or families either. Growing up bisexual, if I’d known and could’ve seen that my school accepted me, my journey would’ve looked very different.

 

We know that teachers and school staff are doing an incredible job in an overwhelmingly challenging environment. That’s why we are doing everything we can at Just Like Us to make taking the first step to LGBT+ inclusion in education as easy and accessible as possible. 

 

This summer is School Diversity Week. We’re asking all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges to please sign up to take part. It’s free, you’ll get a toolkit of teaching resources for all key stages, across the curriculum, and celebrating means your pupils will know they can be safe, happy and accepted at your school. 

 

We’ll be running free online masterclasses that you can stream, there’ll be Rainbow Friday where pupils can dress up as a colour from the Pride Progress flag, and we have many new resources for staff to inspire your celebrations. LGBT+ young people are facing disproportionate mental health challenges and need to know who they are is not something to be ashamed of – please sign up for School Diversity Week and celebrate with us and thousands of schools and colleges taking part 21-25 June. 

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