School Exclusion is a Safeguarding Issue

Parise Carmichael-Murphy portrait

Written by Parise Carmichael-Murphy

Parise has worked with children and young people across the 0-25 age range in early years, specialist support secondary education, supported learning in further education, youth work, and inpatient settings.

School exclusion is a trigger point for risk of serious harm to young people. Young people excluded from school are more likely to experience social exclusion. They are placed at greater risk of developing severe mental health problems, obtaining education qualifications, experiencing unemployment, and being imprisoned. School exclusions can lead to isolation, which can be distressing and traumatic for a young person. This can have a detrimental impact on their mental health

Pupil views of school exclusion suggest that they understand, or are aware, of the behaviours that may result in exclusion from their school. However, this does not mean that they have a similar understanding or awareness of the potential repercussions of school exclusion across the life course. Young people voice that exclusions can exacerbate difficult situations, lead to negative labelling, and limit school and learning time. 

Statutory guidance on suspension and permanent exclusion clarify the headteacher’s duty to inform parties about exclusion, which lists parents, social workers, virtual school heads, local authorities and governing boards. However, the guidance does not clarify how the young person who experiences the exclusion should be informed and school policies are not typically worded in a way that is accessible or meaningful to young people. 

Coram showed that the exclusion process or decision is not always made apparent to the young person who is expelled from school. Young people feel that exclusions are unfair or unjust when they have little opportunity to have their voices or concerns heard or appreciated throughout the process. Young people are likely to benefit from clearer guidance and better-regulated processes for involving them in any considerations being made to exclude them from school. This guidance should cover all means of ‘hidden’ exclusion, such as internal seclusion, managed moves, early exits and restricted timetabling.

Ofsted recognises the impact of school exclusion on restricting learning time, but not for placing young people at greater risk of harm. To better safeguard young people in schools, greater recognition of how cultures, systems and structures can place young people at risk of experiencing vulnerability or harm is vital. The growing number of exclusions for drug and alcohol-related incidents is contributing to the criminalisation of young people in education. The high-profile case of Child Q and the local safeguarding review revealed a failure to safeguard a young person at school. Those in positions of responsibility and authority overlooked risk present in the school and wider community environments; instead locating the ‘risk’ with Child Q. Child Q’s alleged connection with another young person who had been excluded from school was given as a reason to permit a strip search on school premises. 

Clearer safeguards are needed to protect young people from exclusion in context of local needs. Schools should be both accountable and responsiblev for the safeguarding implications of school exclusion. This requires better funding, infrastructure and organisation as well as targeted mental health support services


As Educators What Do We Owe to Our Children?

Rosie Peters portrait

Written by Rosie Peters

Rosie Peters has been in education for over 20 years and is currently working as a Co-Head of School. She is passionate about improving children’s life chances and strongly believes in the power of mentoring and representation.

As educators, what do we owe to our children? Surely it should be an education where each and every child feels represented within the education system and the curriculum.

An early-years setting that says welcome, I hear you and I see you, instantly communicates to the child that they belong.  In turn the child recognises and sees familiarity within the physical environment, the faces they encounter, the words that they hear.

For a child that has little English, a simple hello in their first language can make a world of difference. Books opened and read aloud, bridge reality with the imaginary with ease because someone has taken the time to check there is true  representation of the children entrusted to them as they embark on what should be a wonderful adventure of education, full of excitement and discovery.

We want all our young people, regardless of colour, class religion, gender or ability to experience a shaping of belonging and identity that is positive, clear and authentic.  We are responsible for shaping their views and attitudes of self and others.

Pupils should be made aware of the true contributions made by their ancestors and the ancestors of their diverse peers.

Starting with a Primary History curriculum that gives the full story by bringing back the erased and forgotten:  the Aurelian Moors who were Roman soldiers based in Britain; the Ivory Bangled Lady; Septimius Severus a Roman Emperor.  ‘We can be certain that people from Africa lived here more than 1,700 years ago.’  (Black and British, a Short Essential History; David Olusoga 2020.)

In history wonderful websites such as ‘Another History is Possible’ or ‘Meanwhile Elsewhere’, gives insight to other equally important global events that took place at the same time as the eras covered in the national curriculum.

A curriculum that allows different perspectives to be taught – from the point of view of, for example, race, gender, class, religion, disability and age, would give a strong message that diversity is not only accepted but essential.

A curriculum that develops and champions critical thinkers who are able to question, to ask why, is essential.  Why, for example, during the VE Day celebrations in the summer of 2020 Black and Asians soldiers were barely mentioned.  Why, in certain professions, there is little or no representation from non-white communities.

Let’s empower young people by ensuring that the curriculum and experiences they encounter are reflected through the role models we choose, the places we focus on and the cultural connections we celebrate.  There is no subject in which diversity and inclusion cannot be embedded and made the norm.  With a bit of time and effort it is amazing what can be achieved.

Educators need to be supported and provided with CPD to enable them to become ‘racially literate’ and able to talk openly about racism; in other, words not shy away from uncomfortable discussions. They need to be aware that terminology is forever changing and that it is better to ask someone what they prefer to be called: Black, Black British, Black Caribbean, Roma or Romani … rather than avoid it.

Teachers that go all out to make sure that someone’s name is pronounced correctly show children that their name is important; it is part of their history and culture. ‘It is not the first mispronunciation that stays with the student, it is the failure to learn how the name is pronounced and then the continued incorrect pronunciation on the second, third, fourth attempt. The unfortunate consequence, witnessed first-hand, is that students with names from different backgrounds start to hide their names.  Their pride in their own heritage is eroded. (Diversity in School, Bennie Kara 2021)

We all have the responsibility to engineer change. Lack of knowledge of different people causes a lack of trust, fear, conflict and animosity.  Educators need to be instrumental in changing society in a meaningful way.

The pandemic has highlighted the inequalities that exist in our society and the mistrust that some communities have in our institutions such as the justice system, the police and the medical profession. This is built on decades of negative experiences and unfair treatment endured by marginalised communities.  One only has to look at key data sighted in the Office of National Statistics 2017/18: 

  • Fifty-five percent of Black Caribbean pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing & maths (The lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups after White Irish Traveller and Gypsy Roma pupils.)
  • Three times more likely to be permanently excluded than their white peers. 
  • Forty-five percent of Black Caribbean live in rented social housing, compared with 16% White British (2016/17)
  • Black Caribbean women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than their British counterparts.   

This lack of trust can have a devastating impact on minority groups.  A prime example can be seen in the low rate of uptake for the COVID-19 vaccine amongst the Black and Asian communities.  This surely has to change.

We need to come together and work for the common good.  It should not be the responsibility of one community, usually the community being most affected.  It has to be the responsibility of everyone; the majority: white allies, working alongside the minority.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to produce children who have a full sense of belonging; knowing where they have come from and where they are going and, in equal measure, hold the same knowledge of their diverse peers.

Imagine if this were the reality, there would be less racism, prejudice, unconscious bias and the inequalities we see today.

Agency would be for all and not the chosen.

The decision makers of tomorrow would mirror the richness of society’s diversity and therefore decisions on a local and global scale would recognise and address inequality and bring equity where required.

Some educators have already started this journey; a journey we should all embrace in order to bring into being a more equal society for our children, the leaders of tomorrow.

The green shoots of change can already be seen.  Let’s hope they fully blossom.                                            

Teaching is a great profession especially when we recognise that education is a powerful vehicle for creating better human beings.


Building Belonging in Primary Schools with Human Values

Sarah Pengelly portrait

Written by Sarah Pengelly

Sarah has taught in London Primary schools for 12 years specialising in Literacy and PSHE, studied for an MA Educational Psychotherapy and previously worked at the BBC. For the past 5 years, she has been working with non-profit charity, Human Values Foundation, to develop a new values-led PSHE programme called The Big Think

Laying the Foundations of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)

The Big Think (TBT) is a PSHE programme for ages 5 to 11 which explores human relationships through the lens of 5 BIG human values (Peace, Love, Truth, Responsibility and Community) and develops 5 BIG Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills. Our holistic approach uses Silent Sitting Meditations for Self-Management, Real World stories for Social Awareness skills, Values Inquiry for Responsible Decision-making skills, The BIG Feelings Compass for Self-Awareness skills and a range of safe dialogue practices to build Relationship Skills. 

The purpose of TBT is to build Belonging in all pupils and staff because we know that a stronger sense of Belonging in pupils leads to higher performance in all areas (see OECD SEL Report – Beyond Academic Learning 2021)

But when working with Primary schools to embed a whole-school PSHE approach, we are regularly faced with this pressing question from Early Years practitioners: ‘But what about us?’ 

We will always collaborate, trial, model and adapt our resources for 4-year-olds and younger. But this just isn’t good enough. If we truly want to create a climate of inclusion, equity and celebrated diversity – where EVERYONE (pupils AND staff) feels a strong sense of Belonging – then we must lay the foundations of DEI with the whole school community and start with more serious intentions, and with evidence-based practice, in those precious Early Years. 

To this end, we have recently started collaborating with a range of Early Years settings such as The Mulberry House School in West London and Exhall Cedars Infant, Nursery and Pre-school in Coventry, to start together at the beginning and build Belonging in the Early Years from ages 2 to 7. 

We are all human first

Human Values work well in all settings and with all ages simply because we are all human and when bringing together groups of people of any age and in any context, this is a powerfully inclusive way to begin. Introducing The Big Think to any school starts with a Community Values Dialogue – a 90-minute circle discussion with 30 invited participants representing the school community (school leaders, teachers, governors, support staff, caregivers, community and faith leaders and most importantly – pupils who are often members of the school council). This will naturally look quite different in different schools and can be face-to-face (always our choice!) or virtual (see case study examples and photographs on the full blog post link below)

Building Belonging in Early Years Settings

The Head Teacher at The Mulberry House School, Victoria Playford, leads with the vision: ‘Born curious, live curious, stay curious’.  A prep school in West Hampstead for ages 2 to 7, she wanted to bring to life their PSHE curriculum through their school values and ensure key social and emotional learning skills were being developed throughout the school. 

Their Community Values Dialogue involved school council pupils aged from 4 to 7 (including the Minister for Community who was 7!) and offered the chance for very young children to have a voice and part to play in shaping how the school values would influence their PSHE curriculum.  Each class has a basket of special animals that bring to life the school values in their everyday learning (e.g. Empathy Elephant, Mindful Meerkat, Resilient Water Bear, Participating Penguin and Meditative Macaque) and these Special Animals became the essence of our work with such young children. A 6-year-old at The Mulberry House School chose to connect Empathy Elephant with the BIG 5 Value of Love ‘because Empathy is about learning to love everyone for who they are’.

Each very young person was able to choose a special animal to link to a core BIG 5 Value and speak about the life skills they would need to show this value in action.  Together we created a safe space of non-judgement where everyone could join in with courage, listen with curiosity and respect all ideas.  Pupils didn’t have to agree with their peers, teachers or caregivers, and could move the animals around to try out a range of opinions and see which ideas were a best-fit for themselves and their school. A 4-year-old chose to connect the BIG 5 Value of Responsibility with the school’s Resilient Water Bear ‘because it’s my job to ask for help if I need it and this is being resilient’.

During the final check-out of the session, in which everyone is able to share a key idea they will take away and act upon, all adults expressed surprise at the depth of understanding about human values that the very young children were able to demonstrate during the session and the collaborative and inclusive way they were able to make responsible decisions together.  We could all see that our youngest humans already know how to live life as natural ambassadors for DEI – we just need to protect safe spaces for them to practise these innate values and skills. 

Exhall Cedars Infant, Nursery and Pre-school in Coventry is a vastly different context serving an area of high deprivation.  However, it is laying the very same foundations as The Mulberry House School.  Headteacher Sharon Hillyard and PSHE Lead Bex Episcopo were keen to build Belonging in their pupils aged from 2 to 7 through self-regulation and oracy skills.  They knew that if their children had time to understand themselves more deeply and were able to label their feelings and talk about them, they would feel a stronger sense of Belonging and be able to access learning more readily. Exhall Cedar Infants also use special animals to represent the values (Rex the Resilient Fox, Rory the Respectful Rabbit, Kai the Kind Deer, Nuala the Nurturing Owl, Hadwyn the Honest Hedgehog).

During the Staff Workshop, Early Years teachers shared their experiences of very young pupils who struggled to belong as their communication and language skills were the most underdeveloped they had ever seen – with many arriving unable to make the sounds for animals.  For a host of complex reasons, the pandemic, coupled with rising poverty, have had a marked impact on the ability of pupils to feel they belong at school. 

In response to this national need, our new Early Years resources will focus on developing Self-Regulation and Oracy skills. Early Years children and staff deserve access to high quality evidence-based resources to support them in the vital work they do in establishing strong foundations on which to build learning and belonging for life.  We can’t wait to get started.  

See full blog post with photographs and case study examples:

https://www.the-big-think.org/community-stories/building-belonging-in-primary-schools-with-human-values


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.

References

BBC (2021) Pimlico Academy pupils stage protest over ‘racist’ uniform policy, BBC,  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-56594570 

Chamberlain, Z. (2021) School’s bid to end hair discrimination after shocking number of black students face name-calling, Birmingham Mail, https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/schools-bid-end-hair-discrimination-21935497 

GOV.UK, Discrimination: your rights https://www.gov.uk/discrimination-your-rights 

Jahangir, R. (2015) How does black hair reflect black history? BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-31438273 

Newsround (2020) Halo Code: What is it and how does it protect afro hair? BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/55249674

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

https://halocollective.co.uk/


What if we replace toxic masculinity with intersectional masculinity?

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

Zahara is founder and editor of the blog and podcast, School Should Be, a platform that explores a range of topics helping students, teachers and parents on how to ‘adult well’, together. She is a DEI lead across 2 secondary schools and advises schools on how to create positive and progressive cultures for staff and students. Zahara is a previous Head of English, Associate Senior Leader and Education and Wellbeing Consultant.

In 2021, I led a conference at Beaconsfield High School on how schools can overcome toxic masculinity by revisiting their gender behaviour policies. 16 schools, students and parents heard from Hira Ali, Harry Moore, Leila May Lawrence, Aaron Pandher and the Global Equality Collective, The Terrence Higgins Trust and Headteacher, Peter Tang, on how we can create equitable behaviour policies and create a culture of respect in secondary schools. Over a year on, the discussion continues as schools are now tasked with tackling the rise of online hate and misogyny fuelled by Andrew Tate. 

In schools, amidst the pressures of a recruitment crisis, a cost of living crisis and exam period, education about misogyny and sexism is being called on. As someone who is heavily involved in leading, researching and writing about this area, I worry, as an educator, as a parent and as a human, we’re talking more than we’re listening. An uncomfortable opinion perhaps: in the age of social media, content consumption, likes, comments and information overload we are overwhelmed with the problems, the dangers and fear. Whilst these feelings may be justified, we are looking for quick solutions before we understand the problems of toxic masculinity. 

For those of us who parent and teach, we know young people can be insecure sponges, looking for a sense of belonging, validation and acceptance. Amidst the doom and gloom of school, online comparison and tackling their mental health, they’re also looking for fun.  We know how impressionable young people are. We know for the most part, they just want to fit in – and therefore they look and listen for where this might be. So many have found a sense of belonging, entertainment and acceptance online with accounts and material that perpetuates – in this case –  historic and systemic misogyny. The conference I led and articles I’ve written are tools to support schools to resolve this. What I realise now, though, is I was yet again facilitiating a great deal of information (albeit, valid and necessary) without listening to those it affected: the boys. 

Professor Scott Galloway explains that our understanding of masculinity has been misconstrued and in many ways, caught up, in toxic masculinity – or what we perceive to be toxic masculinity. The data, research and case studies show that young men need support, whereas social media and the news imply masculinity is the problem – this all becomes a vicious cycle of information where many of us end up none the wiser. 

Of course, as a woman and a woman of colour, I am well aware of the whataboutisms, counterarguments and rebuttals that may be flung my way. For the sake, success and safety of all our students, we now need to pause and create space for intersectional male experiences of our young people. 

I say this because, as simple as it may sound, every young boy we come across has a different lived experience and whilst we hurry to find out how to make sure our children are safe, educated and staying away from the vile content they come across online, are we actually listening to them? 

  • Are we listening to the boy who has sisters he loves and respects, and knows exactly how to ally with women – because he is surrounded by strong people? 
  • Are we listening to Black and Asian boys who are still living amidst the trauma of George Floyd’s murder, and recently, the tragic murder of Keenan Anderson
  • Are we listening to Muslim boys who feel their faith and identity are constantly under a negative spotlight, or a spotlight entrenched in patriarchy and misogyny? 
  • Are we listening to boys who don’t like sport, but don’t know where else to go on the school playground? 
  • Are we listening to boys who are gay and don’t know where to turn, who to talk to, out of fear of what may happen? 
  • Are we listening to boys who are constantly told to be strong, but don’t know how?
  • Are listening to boys who are vulnerable, without dismissing their feelings? 
  • Are we listening to boys who are struggling with their mental health but don’t know where to turn? 
  • Are we listening to boys who are told they will take on responsibility for the family once they’re old enough? 
  • Are we listening to girls who have wonderful relationships with their fathers and brothers and are collectively working together for equality and equity? 
  • Are we listening to boys and girls who share healthy relationships? 

I could go on, and on and on. And, I know the same questions apply to women – intersectional feminism is perhaps a more well known term than intersectional masculinity. Equally, there is an absolute understanding and appreciation that intersectional masculinity is systemically privileged and of course, within that hierarchy of privilege, some men are more privileged than others. Having taught boys for a good few years and now, parenting a boy, I think part of the solution here is not just to teach them, but to listen. To understand who they are and who they want to be; to listen and then question their understanding of social norms, gender stereotypes and more. To understand their relationships, their communication, their hobbies. 

There is research to suggest teenagers fare better in group therapy; the best conversations I’ve had with boys is in small groups, in the classroom. It’s the best place to listen to their lived experiences, challenge and discuss their views and form trusting and safe relationships – for them and young female students, too. Plus, the banter can be pretty entertaining. 

Listening is a part of a wider solution and I know we are all still trying to figure out what that is. For now, though, let’s change their algorithm and introduce them to positive online male role models such as:

  • Steven Bartlett
  • Vex King
  • Jay Shetty
  • Marcus Rashford 
  • Ali Abdaal
  • Dr Alex George

…and I’m sure the list can be much longer. There is absolutely a need to rid systemic and social structures of misogyny. Part of that battle – perhaps, part of the solution –  is to listen to the experiences of young men too. 


“Andrew Tate is a father figure to me” - lessons learned from talking to young people in schools

Bold Voices logo

Written by Bold Voices

Bold Voices is an award-winning social enterprise preparing and empowering school communities to recognise and tackle gender inequality and gender-based violence through the delivery of educational talks, workshops, training and resources for young people, teachers and parents.

On January 3rd, the Bold Voices team arrived for our first staff training of the year. We love delivering staff training in schools, and we were excited to be back, if slightly unprepared for the early start and January rain. The session ran smoothly and the staff were engaged and passionate, all seemed as usual until we asked if there were any questions. Dozens of anxious hands shot up and they all had the same question – what can we do about Andrew Tate?

It wasn’t a surprise to any of the team, especially after the most recent news over the Christmas break, but the number of times his name has come up in schools in January has been unprecedented.

Back in July 2022 we began to hear students talk about Tate, and in order to get ahead of what we could see was a growing issue, Bold Voices released our Parent and Staff Toolkits to equip adults with the skills and confidence to have conversations about the ‘King of Toxic Masculinity’ with the young people in their lives. As the education sector catches up with the fact that this popular figure is not going anywhere anytime soon, we have seen a whole range of approaches to dealing with his popularity amongst teenage boys.

One strategy which we’ve seen is the blanket ban – sanctions for anyone who says his name in school. Another approach is whole school assemblies to speak about the harms of his content and messages. The young people we’ve spoken to don’t feel this works; they either say they feel silenced, or that the school is making too much of it. It is completely understandable that this is how many schools are responding. We certainly don’t have all the answers at Bold Voices, and we are always keen to hear back from other educators and parents who have found effective ways to address this issue (please let us know!) but for now we are encouraging schools to focus on one method that we know can have an impact: starting a conversation.

However, the reality is, these conversations are not easy. Here is a snippet of how they normally go:

“Miss, can I ask you a question? What’s your opinion of Andrew Tate?”

“Well, I’m much more interested in your opinion – what do you think of him?”

“He’s a top G miss. He teaches men how to be men. He makes money. He gets females. He’s a fighter. He is a traditionalist. He has four Bugattis. Those trafficking charges are lies. Those things he says? Taken out of context. Miss, it’s the Matrix. He’s a father figure to me.”

These conversations don’t always feel possible, or respectful, because these young people have internalised the message that anyone arguing against Tate is an idiot, hasn’t woken up to the truth, or they’re simply wrong. This makes it much harder to do our jobs – but we have seen success. In a school which had banned any mention of his name amongst pupils, when we opened up a conversation in a classroom, the feedback we received afterwards was: “I thought Andrew Tate was good but I realised what he does and all the hate against women.”

So what can we do to make more of those conversations successful? How can we move from fear of even starting a conversation, and those that go nowhere, to helping young people to choose for themselves if they want to continue to support Tate and his harmful messages?

Our response is three things (and they’re not easy):

STEP 1: TALK ABOUT HIM – BUT DON’T CONDEMN HIM

This can feel extremely difficult when the messages Tate puts forward are so explicitly dangerous and incite violence, but the more we condemn his words, the more we play into a right or wrong binary that pushes defensive teenagers even further away. Narratives around the Matrix incorporate the idea that there is a “great lie” going on, and figures like Tate (and Trump and other populists who brand themselves as anti-establishment) use this condemnation to push the idea: “that’s what they want you to think”. Break out of this binary by opening a dialogue and empowering young people to see all sides and opinions and to have the autonomy to make their own decisions about who they follow and believe. The aim should not be to have our children believe everything we believe because it’s scary when they don’t; we want to raise a generation of critical thinkers who can form their own opinions.

STEP 2 – MAKE ANDREW TATE UNCOOL AGAIN 

This ties into avoiding condemnation – when we stand up and tell young people he is dangerous we give him notoriety and power. Andrew Tate has branded himself as the antidote to cancel culture, so his popularity is not tied to his morality. Not only that, his messaging around gender roles mean that he can discredit those who speak out against him with misogynistic myths – case in point, I asked a student if he would stop liking him if Tate was convicted for the trafficking charges and he said “well, the women are probably just lying for money and attention.”

Attempts to laugh at Andrew Tate have been more successful in damaging his reputation than pointing out how dangerous he is. The closest to this that I’ve seen is this twitch streamer’s video and Greta Thunberg’s infamous tweet. What I don’t like about these tactics is that they use old tropes of emasculation to put a pin in his puffed up performance of masculinity. Relying on his tools to tear him down won’t create meaningful change in the long run (we’ll just see a newer version of him spring up to his place).

STEP 3 – ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

This brings us to the most important point – we need to change what questions we’re asking about Andrew Tate – instead of asking “what can we do about him?” we need to ask “what is it about him?” And “what is it about this current climate that allows his version of masculinity to thrive?”

His brand of masculinity is what draws people towards him: words like traditional, realist, role model for how to be a man. To most adults he looks like a cartoon of all the most ridiculous tropes of toxic masculinity; the cars, the money, the ideas about mental health. The alleged trafficking of women, the misogyny. So when we’ve looked at why he’s so popular the next question needs to be, what is the context and climate that means he is appealing?

When having these conversations I like to zoom right in, then all the way out. Instead of arguing his actual points with evidence or debating his intentions, I ask questions about what he represents, then look at the bigger picture, and ask why is that appealing right now?

The context in which boys are gravitating towards Andrew Tate is one in which they feel victimised and powerless. As an educator in the gender-based violence sector this can feel frustrating. But ignoring it and saying, “suck it up”, men have had power since the beginning of time, is not helping anyone.

Conversations around violence against women have completely transformed since I was at school less than 10 years ago. In a way that we can see paralleled with the movement for racial justice, conversations around gender-based violence have been radically shifted by events of the past decade: The #MeToo movement, Everyone’s Invited, Ofsted investigations, Sarah Everard’s death and many more. It’s confusing for young people.

Girls, trans and non-binary pupils have more awareness and knowledge than ever (thank you TikTok) about the ways in which they are victimised within a culture of gender-based violence. And they still suffer many different forms of this. But boys feel under siege too. They feel more under threat of being falsely accused than ever. Andrew Tate offers them a different narrative from the one in which they feel they’ve been cast as the baddies. There are no alternative models of masculinity on offer. We go into schools and tell young people that what Andrew Tate puts forward is an unrealistic stereotype of masculinity that ultimately harms everyone. Sometimes they see that, but when we exist in a system that punishes those who don’t fit a stereotype, we construct a reality where it is preferable to be an Andrew Tate rather than a man who can express his emotions and show weakness and vulnerability.

The quote at the beginning says it all. “Andrew Tate is a father figure”. This is how teenage boys feel when there aren’t any other role models for masculinity that seem valuable in today’s world.

The options are; see the problem with masculinity and try your best to not embody it, or go sit with Andrew, the realist, who can show you how to stop apologising for being a man in a world where stereotypes are just ‘the way things are supposed to be’. 

As educators on this subject we can tell you that having these conversations on the ground is hard work. It’s a painful slog that feels unrelenting and sometimes futile. Watching boys copy his physical stance, treat me with suspicion, shout down my logic and questions and cling to their idolisation of him makes me realise something; they are clinging tightly because he makes them feel safe and understood. And taking that away is difficult and can feel cruel when we aren’t offering good enough alternatives. If it was anybody but Tate, I would never question a vulnerable year 9 boy’s father figure and role model. I’m so glad he has that. I wish it wasn’t one who would teach him that depression isn’t real, that he should value women as possessions, and that his worth is measured in what he can win, and how dominating he can be. I want to give him a hug.

LET’S COME BACK NOW TO OUR THREE SOLUTIONS.

1- Talk about him, don’t condemn him. At Bold Voices we will keep going into schools and having these conversations. And if you have young people in your life please use our toolkits to start having these conversations too. This part is the intervention and it’s more necessary than ever. The aim is not to condemn and create a right or wrong, it’s to open a dialogue where there is more than one narrative to choose from.

2- Make Tate uncool – but not him specifically and not through emasculation. Instead through promoting other role models of masculinity who seem more appealing than Tate. We look to people like Marcus Rashford, Stormzy, and Steph Curry (get in touch if you have others you promote!)

3- Look at the conditions that make Tate popular. Ask questions and don’t stop asking.

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Bold Voices is an award-winning social enterprise preparing and empowering school communities to recognise and tackle gender inequality and gender-based violence. 

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Building trust: working with Gypsy, Roma & Traveller students

Christian Johnson portrait

Written by Christian Johnson

Christian works as a tutor with GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) students for Open Doors Education and Training, and is also a Policy and Campaigns Officer for The Traveller Movement.

I’m a tutor working for Open Doors Education and Training (ODET), a community interest company and educational provider offering funded and tailored education to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and young people. Having worked for ODET for over two years, one of the things we often hear from schools and other referral bodies, be that local authorities or youth service providers, is that they don’t know how to engage with different communities from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds.  

This is something which is unfortunately reflected in the data. When it comes to education, GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) communities have the lowest attainment rates of any ethnic group in the UK as well as some of the highest fixed term exclusion rates (21.26% for Gypsy/Roma in 2018-19 and 14.63% for Irish Travellers vs. 5.36% of all pupils) from UK schools. These figures are compounded by the well-known correlation between low educational attainment and exposure to the criminal justice system, often referred to as the ‘School to Prison Pipeline’, which extends to the GRT population. Almost 10% of children in the youth estate identified as GRT, which is extremely concerning when we consider GRT only constitute between 0.5 – 1% of the UK population.  

In trying to address these widening disparities, we recently released an evaluation of one of educational programs, ‘Tutors for Young GRT’, in partnership with Leeds Beckett University titled ‘Building Trust, Stepping Together’. Through stories, poems and songs, researchers captured the voices and thoughts of a large cohort of GRT students studying with Open Doors Education across the country, distilling their findings into cogent and concise reflections on what works and what doesn’t. These conclusions represent fertile ground for other teachers and those working within education to develop their own approaches to engaging with young GRT.  

Tutors for Young Gypsy, Roma and Travellers 

In the wake of the pandemic and in response to the data available, ODET’s ‘Tutors for Young GRT’ program was created to provide the support needed to reduce the attainment gap between young Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students and their peers. Each student receives an hour a week of one-to-one lessons from their tutor over the course of a school year, focused on topics best suited to their needs and delivered remotely via Zoom. In designing the program, ODET was keen to ensure that digital access didn’t become a barrier to education – as it was for many students during the pandemic. With this in mind, the digital needs for each student are assessed upon joining the program and, if required, are provided with a suitable device to attend their lessons free of charge.  

The tutoring itself is, paradoxically, both generalised but also tailored; encompassing all ages (provided they’re in full time education) and across all subjects. This broader scope gives us as tutors a greater flexibility to tailor our lessons to the needs and interests of the child. While we place an onus on core subjects, if a child is a particularly talented artist then we’ll try to help them cultivate their ability by assigning them a relevantly experienced tutor. The same goes for other subjects; it’s primarily about nurturing a passion for learning among the students and giving them the support they need to succeed, regardless of the subject.  

Building Trust, Stepping Together 

Compiling the voices and experiences of 135 students, alongside reports published by the tutors at the end of each lesson, the evaluation found the program to be successful in helping to address the educational inequalities faced by the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young children and young people. These findings were broken down into several sections, each tackling a component of what helped the program’s delivery, and summarising the voices of the students.  

Valuing learning despite school – There was an overwhelming sense from the students that learning was important. Many students recognised the importance of the core subjects but also expressed interests in the humanities, arts and music. The report found that despite a desire to learn, many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people leave school due to poor experiences in education, often stemming from issues such as bullying, instances of discrimination and racism, bureaucracy and digital exclusion. One student commented that ‘I prefer this (online tutoring through ODET) to learning in class because sometimes it can get a little tricky in class with other people, who can sometimes make it hard to concentrate’. This willingness to learn was reflected in the attendance figures from the program, which, on average hovered at a consistent 70%.  

Quality Tutors  – The report found that the one-to-one structure of the program was positively received. Consistent across the experiences shared by students, were mentions of the importance of tutors having confidence in their pupils’ ability and building productive and supportive relationships. Another point of emphasis was that students didn’t feel judged or pressured during their learning. One student mentioned that they liked that the tutors are not too “pushy”. I think it helps me learn faster because they never put pressure on us so we are able to focus more.  

ODET’s tuition – Research has shown us that GRT communities are more likely to have poor experiences within the education system. Another key takeaway of the report was that the program helped students build confidence with learning, which then carried into mainstream learning. One student reported that ‘school has been so much easier since tutoring with [tutor’s name]. School feels like so much better and all the support I’ve been getting… I really hope our lessons can continue’. This was reflected in data aggregated from the tutors’ reports, which found that roughly 90% of students displayed a commitment level ‘at or above the expected level’. 

My experiences working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Young People  

The term ‘GRT’ itself is a broad umbrella, encompassing three varied groups (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller); each with their own distinct identities, variations and regional specificities. While there might be one broad term, the experiences of each student I’ve taught on the program have been resoundingly diverse. I’ve taught students who’ve left mainstream education in year 8 to be home-educated with their siblings, others who raise horses in their spare time; one young man who competes nationally for his age group in golf, and another who was awarded ‘student of the year’ in their school – the list goes on. In my experience, young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds are, more often than not, high attainers, just not always in the context of mainstream education.  

In a way, it’s a refreshing process to go through as an educator, for each lesson prompts you to reconsider and adjust your approach in order to better meet the needs of the child. Whether that’s through brushing up on your knowledge of golf terminology to teach spelling, or helping a student learn maths by designing a treehouse with them. This is where the format of the program, being one-to-one, really shines. It allows us as tutors, to tailor the lessons to the individual needs and experiences of the student, going at their pace while using material they’re passionate about. I realise it is a genuine rarity within the education sector, to have the scope and the time available to deliver lessons in this way, but it’s greatly needed for young GRT. In order to help address the widening attainment gap and allow these young people to go into the world confident and qualified to pursue a future they want rather than feeling like they’re on the back foot, programs such as these are absolutely essential.  

One thing which is consistent across the students who’ve been on the program for a few weeks or more, is an amazing tenacity and genuine passion for learning. These students want to learn. Many just don’t necessarily see learning as synonymous with formal education. Several students have expressed this to me, that academic learning isn’t for them, that it’s for someone else.  

This morning I received an email from a teacher in south London looking for poetry recommendations by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller authors she could teach to her year 7 class. I’m certainly no authority on GRT poetry, but it’s great to see educators recognising the importance of including positive Gypsy, Roma and Traveller representation in their curriculum. Including material from Gypsy, Roma and Travellers isn’t something teachers should ignore, but which they can find out about and incorporate. Because having texts, or paintings, or songs for that matter, from GRT artists, shows Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people that education is for them, that it’s a path or stepping stone they can take to help them build the life they want.  

Two of the key words which kept coming up in feedback for Leeds Beckett’s evaluation were patience and support. Many of the students reported feeling intimidated by school, that it was scary, lonely, and competitive. With many students, I noticed a dramatic shift in their attitude to learning after just a few weeks and I think this has a lot to do with just feeling comfortable. Having a historically difficult relationship with the UK’s education system, it’s important that teachers are patient, understanding and sympathetic of the structural barriers faced by many of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people and their families before them.  

In talking about the report and my experiences as a tutor on the program, I hope to show others working with these young people that they want to learn, want to engage, and will do great things if given the opportunity. 

For further information and guidance on techniques to engage with the GRT communities, I’d certainly recommend our recently released toolkit of best practice, titled BESTIE. Released in partnership with the National Youth Association, the toolkit provides a wealth of helpful guidance for practitioners working with young GRT in different contexts. You can find the toolkit here. 

 

 


Diversity and inclusion: what do students think?

Lulu Frisson portrait

Written by Lulu Frisson

Lulu Frisson is a 15-year-old secondary school student from Birmingham.

“But who benefits from all this stuff on inclusion and diversity at school? Do students actually care?” 

My dad leans over the table, eyes bright, his questions hanging in the air between us. Both of my parents are teachers and occasionally conversations like these – about anti-discrimination work within education – will crop up at the family dinner table. Truthfully, I find it fascinating. I tick a lot of diversity boxes myself as a biracial, bisexual, autistic teen girl. I often think about my identity and how schools can be more accepting of students from minority groups, but conversations with my parents about diversity in education make me realise that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to creating inclusive learning environments.   

I often think of the awful murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and the subsequent international Black Lives Matter protests as the sort of ‘explosive’ point for anti-discrimination work in schools and workplaces. In my mum’s primary school, the sudden heightened awareness around race within white spaces began igniting conversations around the lack of diversity in children’s books. In my own school, students began demanding change – to the curriculum, to the teaching staff, to the extracurricular clubs on offer – and we were largely listened to, encouraged to recognise and speak out against injustice. To answer my dad’s question – students undoubtedly cared about improving diversity and inclusion. And we absolutely do still care.   

And yet the contrast between pupils’ anger about social injustice in summer 2020 and our current vocal demand for change is stark, and it’s something that needs to be addressed if schools wish to continue making meaningful progress with diversity and inclusion. Our reaction to the horrifying events of that summer was loud, passionate and angry because being loud, passionate and angry is often the quickest way to drive change. Now, having seen some positive changes implemented in my own school – the creation of an annual Culture Week, for example, and the increased awareness around the texts we study – I think a lot of us have stopped talking about diversity and inclusion simply because we’ve come to believe that those changes may be the most our school is able or willing to make.  

But schools can’t let the conversation die down. Students who are part of minority groups still experience discrimination regularly – so much so that I believe we’ve become somewhat de-sensitised to it. I’ve noticed that my classmates from minority groups often brush off or downplay personal incidences of discrimination, and it’s something I find myself doing too. If a teacher jokes about how ‘exotic’ I am, my immediate reaction is usually to laugh it off. If a classmate makes an ignorant comment about autism, or someone tells me that bisexuality does not exist, I tend to excuse them through a hopeful lens of forgiveness.  

What this really shows it that there’s still a certain expectation for LGBTQ pupils and students of colour to extend endless grace and compassion to classmates or even teachers who offend us; from as young as primary school, we’re often told to ‘be the bigger person’ when it comes to conflict, or to stay quiet and not cause a fuss. As a result, a lot of comments we hear that would absolutely be considered discriminatory get unreported in schools, brushed off as insignificant or normalised – with inevitably damaging impacts on student mental health.  

That’s why diversity and inclusion work within school is so important. I remember listening to an assembly about microaggressions and realising that it was okay to feel hurt and uncomfortable by comments a lot of us students have come to excuse as banter, curiosity or ignorance. The simple acknowledgement that discrimination exists in forms other than outright abuse was so impactful, and I left that assembly feeling like my identity, and the struggles I’ve faced surrounding it, are valid. My parents sometimes talk about how it is ultimately up to policy makers to improve our schools and the culture created in them. And whilst longer term national change towards promoting equality in education is incredibly important, I’d argue that smaller immediate actions towards inclusivity can be just as meaningful. 

For students who use different pronouns, for example, inclusivity might mean having teachers who respect and actively try to use gender neutral language in their classrooms. For me personally as an autistic student, inclusivity has meant being able to access things like fidget toys and a time out card, and receiving pastoral support in school. More broadly as an LGBTQ biracial person, I’ve felt most included and safe in lessons that include perspectives and examples of people from all backgrounds. If a teacher uses a case study of a same sex couple in biology class, for example, I’ll know that they’re accepting of LGBTQ people, and by extension accepting of me. It may sound trivial, but it often really is small actions that make the biggest difference.   

So yes, students do care about diversity and inclusion. We notice the changes being made – or lack thereof – to our schools more than we might let on. Many students from minority groups naturally care deeply about continuing and improving our work on inclusivity, but the truth is that everybody, staff and students alike, need to too. To have the ability to not care about inclusion is undeniably a privilege. To be able to think about diversity solely at times that suit you, to be aware of inequality only when it is pointed out, to be oblivious to the fact that you are amongst the majority in the spaces you occupy – these are privileges that people from marginalised communities are persistently denied.  

So it is not enough for allies to say they do not see colour, do not care about sexuality or do not think about gender. And, to extend on that, it is not enough for schools to hear minority students’ struggles or uplift our voices only at times that are convenient. Regardless of whether it’s Black History Month, Pride Month or a time like the summer of 2020, schools need to continue to actively listen to students from marginalised communities and be receptive to our suggestions – not only to create more diverse learning environments, but safer ones, too. We do not have the ability to leave aspects of our identity behind when we come to school, and we shouldn’t have to, either.  


Accessing the voices of students with SENDs: barriers faced by a PhD researcher

Klaudia Matasovska portrait

Written by Klaudia Matasovska

Former SEND teacher. She worked for 16 years in London, specifically in the areas of autism and sight impairment. She is currently working as a researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I am really enjoying my PhD journey and I wanted to share some of my key experiences here. In particular, I wanted to talk about the issue of access to students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) which I encountered during my recent data collection. My PhD research interests centre around LGBT inclusion with pupils with SEND. For those who have an interest in intersectional research regarding inclusion and equality in education, this blog might be of use. 

Based on my previous practice as a former SEN teacher, the barriers to disabled students’ voices being heard are often there because of the attitudes of others. Sometimes the barriers are (openly) presented via the attitudes of those who are supposed to be on their side. I once had an ex-colleague, a senior leader in one of the schools I worked at, confiding in me that she did not regard disabled students’ right to information about LGBT as ‘important’ because she expected them to have no romantic lives due to their disabilities. Other barriers can be presented via fear rather than stigma. Research shows that there does appear to be a deep-rooted fear amongst educators that talking about non-heterosexual intimacy and relationships with students with SEND is somehow risky.

Research involving the actual voices of students with SEND is limited and I wonder if this is partially due to restrictions imposed on researchers by students’ gatekeepers. This has been my experience, too. Earlier this year, I organised a series of research trips for the Year 1 evaluation of the ‘Equally Safe’ anti-bullying project of the EqualiTeach charity. I worked with a sample of eight mainstream primary and secondary schools including faith and church schools across a range of areas. During my interviews with staff and focus groups with students, I asked about aspects of the Equally Safe programme, such as creating inclusive policies and tackling identity-based bullying using a whole-school approach. I was viewing this research project via an intersectional lens and therefore, the evaluation was also seeking to elicit discussions about the LGBT and SEND intersections amongst other things. The gatekeepers, members of the leadership teams, were asked to select focus group student participants representing a wider selection of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act (2010) and involve student participants who traditionally might not have a voice, such as students with SENDs. Unfortunately, as it turned out – there were no focus group participants present who had any recorded SEND. 

I understood that this type of research project can feature sensitive information and there is a need to protect any vulnerable students, ethically speaking. Despite this, the gatekeepers’ efforts to deny those from the under-represented groups an opportunity to have a voice in a research project on identity-based bullying was surprising. In sharp contrast, the focus groups included other types of under-represented pupils. For example, they often (but not always) featured pupils who had come out as LGBT. This is an interesting phenomenon given the fact that the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act (1988) is still impacting school culture in England. This is evident in misconceptions about what is suitable and ‘appropriate’ to teach which some educators can still struggle with. Often when I interview teachers about LGBT RSE topics or the SEND/LGBT intersection regarding their school policies and inclusive practice, I notice a hint of anxiety in their responses. They tend to stress that they follow the Equality Act (2010) and often mention having a considerable number of students with SEND. My experience with having no access to this category of students in these schools makes me question the cause behind this. Is this all happening because these schools just do not see these intersections? If that is the case indeed – why don’t they see them? Could the cause of this phenomenon be partially the result of the influence of Section 28? Do educators find dealing with certain types of intersections difficult and uncomfortable despite the law?

I will carry these questions into the second year of my PhD studies. It will be interesting to see if these issues with having access to students with SENDs will still be evident in the next sample of schools I am planning to visit. I would be interested to hear about your academic experiences in this area and any barriers you may have experienced in collecting data involving those who represent the ‘less heard’ category of students. Please, do not hesitate to get in touch with me. 


Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology

Sinmi and Parise Carmichael-Murphy. Hidden Histories book cover

Written by Sinmi Ekundayo and Parise Carmichael-Murphy

Sinmi is a Year 9 student with an avid interest in politics and humanities subjects.

Parise is a PhD Education student who is passionate about decolonising the curriculum and widening access to the psychological professions.

Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology celebrates the contributions of Black people to the field of psychology and its allied professions. It is an open resource for people of all ages who are interested in psychology’s past, present and future. The booklet encourages young people to develop critical thinking skills by exploring ideas of anti-racist psychology, social change and activism, race and racism across psychological practice, and racial disparities in mental health. It also introduces readers to the requirements and steps needed to pursue a career in psychology and highlights how a range of skills, qualifications, and experiences can inform and shape our interests and expertise in psychology. 

Parise Carmichael-Murphy and Adam Danquah are co-authors of Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology; they developed the resource in the hope that it has the potential to inspire future generations of anti-racist psychologists. Sinmi Ekundayo is listed in the ‘Acknowledgements’ of Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology as one of many contributors who helped to support and develop the book. 

Sinmi was invited to review Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology by her teacher Laura Morris. Sinmi took a printed copy of the booklet home and reviewed it over a few weeks. Sinmi provided some really insightful feedback that highlighted areas of interest and some spaces for improvement. Sinmi’s comments highlighted some of the terminology used that could be better explained and in response, we added the term ‘cultural competence’ to the glossary. 

Next, Parise invited Sinmi to collaborate on a blog post to highlight Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology. Some of the feedback and comments from Sinmi’s review have been expanded on in this blog:  

“The fact that African Psychology is such a new concept that I have never even heard of it is astounding. It seems so simple when you think critically, obviously the culture you grow up in will affect the way your psyche functions and will not align with a completely different culture’s way of interpreting the human mind. It’s fascinating! I love this booklet so much. 

I’ve always felt a bit of alienation from psychology as it always felt like a very white field to go into and now I understand why. Honestly, if the goal of Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology is to get more Black students into psychology it will succeed. Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology introduces psychologists that are telling our stories and interpreting them in a way that feels personal. 

The poem at the end by J.Chambers is beautifully written. I love the ‘Useful Links’ section at the end where they list all the organisations that were made for Black education by Black people, it makes me feel so hopeful, especially since I have first-hand experience with some of them. It’s good to know someone is looking out for us. A lot of the time I was stopping to look further into new ideas and people I was being introduced to. 

I sincerely believe that keeping Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology out of the curriculum is a disservice to ourselves. It would help Black students feel a stronger connection to themselves and psychology and I believe it would endow non-Black students with a sense of cultural empathy. The exemplary Black psychologists introduced in the booklet would intrigue anyone, but especially young Black students (such as myself) who will finally see themselves reflected in a field that feels very exclusive to rich white men. 

This booklet is tremendously helpful in increasing Black students’ confidence in their ability to succeed in psychology in a way that isn’t too distant or convoluted. I’d recommend this to everyone, regardless of race. It’s genuinely an interesting insight into psychology that anyone would be interested in.”

To read, download and share the Hidden Histories: Black in Psychology resource, please use the following link: https://gmhigher.ac.uk/resources/hidden-histories-black-in-psychology/

We thank Laura Morris, our teacher and friend, for supporting us both to connect and collaborate on this blog post. Laura is Head of Religious Studies and Citizenship at Cedar Mount Academy and has a whole-school responsibility for anti-discrimination.