Raising Awareness of Black Texts for Primary Schools

Fabia Turner portrait

Written by Fabia Turner

Over ten years’ combined experience in education and educational publishing and a member of the Critics of Colour Collective

‘…appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage…’ 

Primary National Curriculum in England: Framework Document, Dec 2014


Something uncontrollably visceral stirred in me as I watched the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, with George Floyd’s dying face indelibly imprinted on my mind. I became perplexed and frustrated wondering how I, a stay-at-home-mum in leafy white-middle-class Richmond, could make my voice count; make a real difference for my people in this long uphill struggle against racism, injustice and inequality. I thought about my past work—my teaching and publishing careers—and how this might drive me to support change.


I completed a groundbreaking primary teaching course back in 2001: groundbreaking because at that time, I believe, it was the only PGCE course of its kind with multiculturalism at its core. Back then, I was fervently taught the importance of embedding cultural diversity into every aspect of my teaching practice. Scrutiny of the white-male-scientist trope and Eurocentric teaching resources was radical but also necessary to ensure all children encountered positive images from their own racial/cultural heritage in the classroom. (I continued to challenge these issues during my time working as the only Black editor at a well-known educational publishing company.)


Back to the present, and deep into the throes of Lockdown One and homeschooling, two things happened that really crystallised my thinking. Firstly, my mixed-heritage son confidently asserted that ‘all people in Africa live in huts’. I was taken aback by this and on further questioning realised he had acquired this misconception from reading his big ‘fact’ book. 


I promptly researched for better books, and found not much in the way of age-appropriate reads, finally settling on Africa Amazing Africa by Atinuke which, although not perfect, offered a somewhat more nuanced depiction of life in individual African countries. 


Secondly, one morning, I opened our home school pack and read: ‘We are learning about national treasure, Sir David Attenborough’. My heart sank! I love a bit of Dave…who doesn’t? But I couldn’t help thinking this was a missed opportunity. How far had education come in terms of diversity and representation since 2001? How many Black zoologists/naturalists were being overshadowed by Sir David, and not being studied in schools? How will children who look like my son be inspired to pursue a science career if white men still dominate their early learning experiences? I know that great work is being done so what’s going wrong? I decided, there and then, I wanted to do something specific to promote the use of diverse and inclusive resources in schools.  


My personal insights within the context of the Black Lives Matter protests made me realised we need to go further in terms of accessing multicultural educational resources, especially Black literature. Black History Month is not enough; the odd book pack including the much overused Handa’s Surprise is not enough! 


Regardless of how many Black children are in the class, more lessons and resources must reflect Black people as a matter of course, if we are to thoroughly challenge systemic negative racial prejudices and make a real difference for our children’s futures.


Publishers have a huge part to play in this disparity. The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s ‘Reflecting Realities’ report in 2019 stated that from the 11,011 children’s books published only ‘743 were found to have BAME presence’. This seems dire but until the situation improves, we need to ensure children are accessing the wealth of wonderful BAME books that have already been published. 


I know teachers are tired and stressed by ever-changing government initiatives and ridiculous workloads and, now even more so, due to the unprecedented uncertainty that Covid-19 brings. I salute you! I could not do the job now under such tough conditions. But I do hope that somehow you will muster the energy to continue to be vigilant and reflective regarding your inclusive offerings. Comprehensive use of culturally diverse texts will instil a sense of self-worth, self-confidence, pride, motivation and belonging in Black children, which is more crucial now than ever before. 

Which of these books were written by Black authors?


So, my blog has a new purpose: instead of critiquing theatre, I am reviewing as many Black children’s books as I can, in the hope I can support primary teachers and parents. Each book is linked to the EYFS and KS1/KS2 curricular, where appropriate, to offer ideas as to where it could be incorporated naturally within teaching and learning. In doing this, I hope to promote use of quality texts by brilliant Black writers and illustrators, such as Laura Henry-Allain, Trish Cooke, Lucy Farfort, Dapo Adeola, and Nathan Bryon. 


I’ve also added a Black Children’s Book Directory which I’m constantly updating, and a teacher Resources section. 


One day it will be commonplace for us to truly reflect our rich, diverse literary heritage in schools. Whether you’re a teacher, parent, publisher or bookseller I’d really love to hear about any recommendations of books you may have; feel free to send them to me. This blog is just the start of something—who knows how far it will go—let’s just keep going! 



If you find my blog helpful and would like to support my mission to get more quality Black children’s books into UK primary schools, then you can buy me a coffee here. Your donations, however small, will mean I can review more books and devote extra time to this mission. It will also help me to promote small independent bookstores instead of linking my reviews to Amazon. I appreciate any support you can offer. Thank you!

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A Reflection - For my daughters and young girls everywhere

Evelyn Forde portrait

Written by Evelyn Forde

TES Headteacher of the Year 2020, Future Leader participant 2008, NPQH, ASGS Board Member and ASCL Council Member

Whilst I am revelling in the success of winning HeadTeacher of the Year at the TES Awards at the weekend, I thought it timely to capture what this truly means to me as I consider my own personal journey, the unstinting support I have had along the way and my continued commitment to raise the profile of BAME leaders through my work with ASCL and how I can use my  privileged position as Headteacher to influence and make a difference.

When I won on Friday, my 16 year old daughter asked me how I felt and I said, overwhelmed and that I would have loved my parents to have been around to celebrate with me so that they could see that the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings was worth it.   It’s also hard to put into words what it means to have left school with no qualifications, to have raised two children whilst juggling University, cleaning people’s houses and thinking about how I could put food on the table (we often talk about our lemon curd sandwiches!) to this point in my life,  now.

Soon after having my second daughter I quickly realised I needed to go back to school and get the education that would make a difference for all of us.  I needed to show my girls the value and importance of education and I needed to pay the bills!   I didn’t have privilege, class or money and so I drew upon support of friends and family.   I started with a night course in child development, then I did an Access course into higher education and it was here my teacher encouraged me to look further than my local University and took me to visit SOAS.  This was probably the first time throughout my time in education that someone took the time to ‘tap me on the shoulder’ and to believe in me, to show me that there is a world of possibilities out there, and for that I am immensely grateful.

From my NQT year at White Hart Lane to now as Headteacher  at Copthall School, I have had people on the side-lines supporting me on my journey, from my friends who would help with childcare, who would hold me up when at times it was all too much, to colleagues and Coaches who would steer me in the right direction, offering advice and guidance at the most crucial of times.    So that is why I know the HT of the Year Award, is not just about me, it is about everyone who has travelled the road with me and shared in the highs and lows on the way.

A fellow Head messaged me and said winning the award sends out important messages to the next generation, inspiring girls and children from minority backgrounds to believe they can make a difference, and I firmly believe that too.   I also hope it sends a message to all my fellow BAME colleagues in education, that whilst the journey to leadership will require hard work and will still come with challenges, those challenges are not insurmountable.   Working with ASCL to make systemic change is really important to me, as my lived experiences are what drives me ever more.   I also want to be part of a system that has true and not tokenistic representation at all levels of leadership so that our children can see people that look like them.  I also want to use my position as a Headteacher to talent spot, to tap colleagues on the shoulder and to always remember never to pull that ladder up behind me as the journey to success is rarely achieved by you and you alone –  and don’t I know it!

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The need for a trauma-informed, bias-aware and compassionate curriculum

Laila El-Metoui portrait

Written by Laila El-Metoui

Equality Advocate | Stonewall Lesbian Role Model 2020 | Pride 365 Champion | Helping leaders foster inclusive & diverse workplaces through training and consultancy | Founder of Pride in Education and Educating OUT Racism

A massive thank you to DiverseEd for organising such a comprehensive event. 

My reflections are about us having a trauma-informed, bias-aware and compassionate curriculum, so what does that mean?


One of the previous panelists (Amanda) mentioned refugees and trauma in the previous panel and my curriculum background is in ESOL , EFL teaching English to migrants, refugees and people seeking refuge which is better than referring to them as asylum seekers. I will be talking about it from a Further Education perspective in the UK and looking at the language we use. 



We can look at it from many angles but Id like to suggest a couple 

Firstly personal trauma , you cannot look at someone and guess what their background and experiences have been. Secondly historical trauma – which includes decolonising the curriculum and not looking at subjects in silos for example when teaching French one could look at where it is spoken in 29 countries, why ? because France colonised those countries, the language we use is important, these countries were not conqueredas stated in britanica.com but invaded.  From an ESOL perspective it means being mindful of potential triggers and having systems in place to support them but also the trauma that people may have experienced as a result or leaving their homes or the current pandemic. 



Breaking down stereotypes and being aware of our own prejudices is a good way to start. 

Looking at LGBT+ lives for example, some of the myths commonly heard within the sector include – you cannot embed LGBT+ within classes where people have low level of English, looking at the the language we use and teach for example  asking about pronouns for referring to partner and sibling rather than husband and wife, sister brother will lead to a more inclusive curriculum. Other panellists (Lisa) mentioned stories in the previous panel  and Chris talked about the lack of visibility in course books, for those very reasons I have  designed my own resources, one  can embed any themes within a story.  I have written narratives which included themes such as domestic violence, social isolation, my journey to the UK.  By creating relatable and meaningful content we will develop  more than reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, skills like empathy, critical thinking and compassion. 



Compassion is about kindness and fostering an environment where people are free to make mistakes, to experiment and express their authentic selves. Challenging discrimination compassionately, eliciting the difference between understanding, agree and accept; eliciting the difference between an insult and an opinion. This needs to be contextualised within a whole organisational approach and include: 


  • the use and collection of data so that the content reflects local population
  • understanding achievement, success and progression 
  • a zero tolerance policy with regards to discrimination 
  • easy access to resources knowledge sharing and training 
  • making different groups visible and represented (365 days a week) not just for black history month, LGBT HM or disability week


Organisations also need to have: 

  • supportive forums to raise issues
  • a clear and visible commitment from senior leadership 


But we also need funding, the ESOL funding has been slashed by the UK government more than halved in fact in the last 5 years.  Other factors include the imminent exit from the EU, the immigration  Law and many other socio-economic factors which contribute towards a hostile environment for people of colour. 


Digital exclusion has been highlighted by this pandemic with the most vulnerable groups not being able to access ESOL provision due to not having  a mobile phone or access to the internet. Giving people the tools to access learning is part of having a compassionate curriculum. 


To end on a positive I want to  highlight how kind people have been and Id like to invite any ESOL practitioner watching to join the newly created Facebook group called Digital pedagogy for ESOL teachers, where practitioners can get practical tools and resources to share knowledge and support each other: https://www.facebook.com/groups/741096156803038/?ref=share   


Laila El-Metoui she/ her / hers



Equality Advocate | Stonewall Lesbian Role Model 2020 | Pride 365 Champion | Helping leaders foster inclusive & diverse workplaces through training and consultancy | Founder of Pride in Education and Educating OUT Racism

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Diversity in the curriculum: teaching and learning with human stories

Penny Rabiger portrait

Written by Penny Rabiger

Director of Engagement at Lyfta and a committed educationalist

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being part of a panel of esteemed colleagues at the Big Virtual Conversation as part of the series of events organised by #DiverseEd . The session, hosted by the dynamic duo, Hannah Wilson and Bennie Kara, was a chance for us to hear from a range of speakers from the education sector. I had the opportunity to speak about the power of human stories to help to bring diversity into the curriculum, and the key themes are outlined in this blog post. 

Asking someone where they’re from can come from curiosity but can also serve to make people feel alienated, by placing undue emphasis on their right to belonging. If you ask someone instead, “tell me about yourself, what’s your story?” it invites them to craft their response and weave their answer so it belongs anywhere and on their own terms. 

When you tell your own story you can start to make sense of the connections and links that bring the elements together. I’ve been thinking about the many threads and moments in my own life that seem to have led me to where I am now.

Human stories have always fascinated me. They led me to study social anthropology at university and gave me a reason to explore beyond the pages of books, leading me to buy a year’s open ticket and accidentally spend some ten years abroad, learning, working, teaching and continuing to weave into my story, stories and histories with new threads of different hues, that had echoes of my ancestors. I learned new concepts and perspectives every time someone told me a new story.

During this time I ended up learning Hebrew, which taught me words that just don’t exist in English, opening me up to new cultural concepts and helping me see the world in new and different ways. One of my favourite words with no English equivalent is the word ‘Firgun’ (פירגון)said ‘fear-goon’.  This one word describes genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of the other person – or a generosity of spirit, an unselfish, empathetic joy that something good has happened, or might happen, to another person. It is similar to the South African concept of Ubuntu, I am because you are. Your success is our collective joy. And in the same way, your story, is our collective story.

I believe that human stories are more important than ever. The world events of the past 6 months during the global pandemic have brought this home to us in unique and often tragic ways. Like many in the education sector, I’ve been lucky to see the importance of my work’s potential to harness the power of humanity for the common good, even at this challenging time. At Lyfta, we capture human stories in the form of powerful short films and then turn these into 360 degree explorable, immersive and interactive spaces in which teachers and their students can learn about people, places, values and skills. 

While we are restricted from close human interaction and travel, these human stories seem more precious than ever. In the words of one student, Thomas, with Lyfta’s immersive platform you are “able to instantly teleport yourself halfway across the world while staying on the same spot and see how things are for real”.

One important aspect of schools’ offering for young people in their care is the element of broadening their horizons, and instilling a sense of cultural capital through the music, texts, art and experiences that are included in the curriculum, such as school trips. We know that even in normal times, many children will not have the opportunity to go far beyond their own postcode. 

Teaching and learning through human stories using Lyfta can be a powerful way to ensure that students have experience of the world as part of their entitlement to cultural capital. This can be important also as a way to teach an understanding of the protected characteristics, and show how diversity and equality are promoted within our schools.

We have seen that teaching and learning through immersive human stories can bring breadth, depth and meaning to concepts, taking them from the realm of information to the realm of deeper knowledge. Exploring Lyfta’s storyworlds enables teachers to unlock critical thinking skills in their students and helps them understand complex concepts, they were not aware of previously. Engaging in learning through these powerful stories can provide important breadth.  Leading authority on learning, Chris Quigley, describes this breadth as both cultural capital ie. the background knowledge of the world students need for inference and understanding, and also the range of situations students need to grow confidence in the threshold concepts. These threshold concepts are understood as concepts that ‘open up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something’. 

Our vision at Lyfta is to ensure that by the time a child completes their education, they will have visited every country in the world, and will have met at least one person in every place they go. Right now, you can take your students all the way to an Ethiopian village to visit Mesgana and Gebeyeu in their family home, or hop over to Malte’s garden in Berlin to see how honey is made, or pop down to Cornwall to litter-pick with Rob on the beach, and so much more. 

We have a limited number of places available on our funded CPD training webinars as part of the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme. Participants who successfully complete the course will receive free access to the full range of Lyfta content and resources for a whole term. 

Try Lyfta for free here: https://www.lyfta.com/

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Tuesday 25th May 2021

Darren Crosdale portrait

Written by Darren Crosdale

English and Media Studies-trained teacher, currently working in a large Liverpool comprehensive

This date will mark a year to the day of George Floyd’s murder. I use the word ‘murder’ deliberately because, despite the arguments that lawyers will no doubt make to the contrary, the world possesses clear, video evidence that it was murder, plain and simple. 


I still have not seen the clip. I never will. To watch such imagery is, to my mind, self-flagellation. I do not engage in that torture and warn my family – especially my social media-addicted daughter – to think very carefully about the emotional toll such images can have on our psyche. 


As the above date approaches, you can rest assured there will be blogs and vlogs and articles and news items asking how the world has “changed”. How that 8 minute and 46 second horror short and the resulting worldwide protests “changed” many aspects of society, including education. Like most teachers, I firmly believe in the power of education and I will definitely be curious about how the education world has “changed” following George Floyd’s murder. Up and down the UK, family, friends, colleagues and associates have responded to the Black Lives Matter movement with renewed vigour: change the curriculum; review the policies; train the teachers. 


But as Frederick Douglass, the former slave turned writer and public speaker said: “Power does not concede without a demand.” I am not, at all, the only person who feels that the demands of racism are being placed on the shoulders of the victims. Such bitter irony. The stereotypes that we as thinking and evolving societies ought to have defeated centuries ago, remain: lower intelligence, higher physicality, unworthy histories. The list is, of course, longer and more subtle than this. 


As an eternal optimist, I focus on the notion of things getting better in schools. I have to believe this. However, as an eternal optimist with a good memory, I recall that we have been here before. We have collectively focussed on “changing” our racist societies and racist institutions and racist individuals’ attitudes before. The whole country has been engaged in the discussion of diversity and inclusion and breaking barriers and moving forward more times than I care to count in my own lifetime. 


The UK broached the topic of change after Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 and the McPherson Report, four years later, made the term “institutional racism”, more mainstream. I worked in the Merseyside school that Anthony Walker, murdered in a racist attack in 2005, used to attend. People often forget that his White killers attended the school, alongside this wonderful young man. The Department for Children, Schools and Families examined the issue of Black educational attainment in 2007. Alexander Paul, an 18 year-old student from south London, gave a powerful presentation about being stopped and searched at the 2014 Conservative Party Conference. David Lammy, MP, in 2017 reviewed how ethnic minorities fared when they came into contact with the criminal justice system. I am not even going to discuss the coronavirus. The UK, a country that likes to boast about its multi-cultural status, ended up with one of the highest per capita death rates in 2020, and ethnic minorities were over-represented in these numbers as were the poor and public-facing workers.    


Schools are especially busy as I write, early October, 2020. Most schools are engaged in some form of analysis: reviewing data, auditing curricula, employing speakers to deliver staff training. Will all these efforts to change the UK’s complicated attitude towards Black people in the education system yield results, however? There are still those on Twitter who struggle to link police brutality in the US with education in the UK (and, of course, fail to recognise this, in itself, is highly ironic.). So what if GCSE students, in 2020, do not study texts written by Black writers? So what if students do not learn the dual nature of Churchill? Wartime hero but also responsible for allowing three million Bengalis to starve. So what if students have no idea of the fuss surrounding Edward Colston’s statue being tossed into Bristol harbour.


What will schools be like by May 25th 2021? Will the government recognise that for all the past reviews and examinations of race, deep divisions and inequalities remain? Will the councils creating Task Forces to examine racial issues in their towns and cities create lasting change? Will enough school-based staff have had the necessary and uncomfortable conversations around race? Robin DiAngelo, in her best seller ‘White Fragility’ explains that middle-aged, middle-class white women are most likely to cry if their racial view of the world is challenged in any way. Will enough of these tears be transmuted into new ways of thinking and challenging the status quo?


The answers to these questions remain to be seen. We know our government has been remarkably quiet about the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests threw a much-needed light on our society and its continuing struggles with race – mostly because the education system has never properly learned to discuss our troubled history in an honest and guilt-free manner. 


I watched BBC presenter Daniel Henry’s inspirational documentary ‘Fighting the Power: Britain after George Floyd’ (directed by Eddie Hutton-Mills) and wondered about the young Black women who, with their passion and social media savvy, organised huge marches in lockdown London during the summer of 2020. Will they be disappointed in a year’s time? Will they have noticed any changes? Will prime minister Johnson’s racial disparity review (led by a controversial Munira Mirza who is not quite sure if institutional racisms exists) have reported back by then? Who knows?   


What I do know is that for the children in school at the moment – all children, not just the Black ones – carrying on as if huge protests about race never happened, as if things do not need a good shaking and sorting, as if their teachers do not need to learn about all types of inequality, is not an acceptable option.


Darren Crosdale


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Cultural Competency

Amardeep Panesar portrait

Written by Amardeep Panesar

Headteacher with two decades of experience in education

As an ethnic minority leader, many challenges and barriers do come our way. It is how you perceive them and more importantly yourself in order to be successful. I personally, do not see these as hindering barriers, but challenges that I know I/ we can overcome, depending on “how badly I want something”. A philosophy that most definitely comes from my foundation and sports participation – let your work do the talking! 

I’m writing my first blog on Cultural Competency based on a fantastic opportunity given to me by Diverse Educators in particular Hannah Wilson, following the response on social media, I’ve realised just how powerful this platform really is in developing educators! So let’s do it…

Why is it important to be culturally aware of the needs of our children?

Let us first look at the statistics:

  1. African / African Caribbean people face more ingrained pathways into the criminal justice system as a result of greater levels of disengagement and exclusion from school (Wright, Francis and McAteer, 2015).
  2. Over the last five years, the number of young ethnic minority people in the UK who are long term unemployed has almost doubled, whereas for young white people it fell slightly. 
  3. In 2014, the probability of Black African women being detained under mental health legislation in England was more than 7 times higher than for White British women.
  4. People from ethnic minorities are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to White people across Britain.

With these statistics against us and the young people we work with, it is crucial to be culturally competent when educating our young children. Both for adults who are from and ethnic minorities and those that are not, in order to give our children the best possible life chances in order to become successful citizens. 

In order to fully support and understand, it is critical to understand self and others perceptions, which can be categorised under four main areas: 

  1. Attitudes and beliefs towards others.
  2. Attitudes and beliefs towards others of the same group.
  3. Attitudes and beliefs towards members of different minorities and
  4. Attitudes and beliefs towards members of the dominant group.

As we read on, do take a moment to self reflect and and understand your own perceptions towards others, because we all have them. We are naturally hard wired to like people like ourselves, people who look like us, think like us, share similar values and visions. We need to continue to educate our staff and children on how/ why these perceptions exist and how collectively, over time, things will start to change by listening to each other. Diverse education is crucial, in all areas, especially in culturally diverse schools. 

We can all share our experiences through school leadership and educating children. For me, as an ethnic minority leader, everything I have learnt so far has only empowered me to support others in our profession and to help individuals understand culture and children! Every day we learn… 

The world assumes the young people of colour will fail or behave a certain way, we as educators, MUST do the opposite.

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Diversifying representation while working with textbooks

Chris Richards portrait

Written by Chris Richards

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

I have a vivid memory of being told about the importance of images in my classroom. It was 2010, I was doing my PGCE and was eager to start teaching. I remember that this was the first moment of many that shaped the way I have approached diversity and inclusivity in the classroom ever since. As this post explains, the issue of representation in the classroom has come back to me again in recent years.


When I was teaching English language and literature in England and Wales, we made very little use of textbooks. This certainly made things challenging for a newbie, but to focus on the positive, it also gave me a lot of freedom to make my own choices about which images in the classroom. I learned quickly that you have to be careful when you do internet image searches and not for the reasons we tell our young pupils to be careful. Just last week, in preparation for my contribution to DiverseEd: The Virtual Conversation, I searched for some images. With the search term ‘reading’ I found mostly kids, mostly white. The first four were of girls and the first negative image I found was a bored boy holding a book. When I searched for ‘man reading’, men from BAME backgrounds appeared just twice in the first thirty-two images, and the first appeared twelfth. 


In 2016, I moved to Spain and began teaching English in a private language academy. It was a huge change in pace, lifestyle and teaching philosophy, and was the new challenge I needed. Aside from very small class sizes (I now work with a maximum of eight), the biggest difference was the use of a course book. In the first institution I worked in here, every group has an assigned course book that we followed across the course of the academic year. Very quickly, I started to notice that representation was very narrow and, while studying for my MEd in Applied Linguistics, I decided to write my dissertation on how gender and sexuality get represented in a sample of course books. It all began with a page about “different” weddings in the UK that had four photos: four straight, white couples. To paraphrase 20,000 words, on the whole, gender was presented rather traditionally, although there were some images of women in positions of power; minority sexuality was conspicuously absent from the pages.


Whether we’re working with course books or not, we should always be ready to substitute and supplement, especially so with images as these can be a very powerful way to give, or withhold, representation. We also need to consider what texts pupils are reading, lest they are always reading the same stories and hearing the same voices. Whose stories do get told and who gets effectively silenced in our classrooms? If we give space to one image or story, we reduce the space for others. Ultimately, this is simply a question of inclusion.


Also crucial is asking ourselves what unwanted or unintended associations inclusion might bring. For example, are people with disabilities routinely referred to in heroic situations, overcoming their disability rather than as people whose identities extend beyond their differences? Are we remembering to show women in positions of power and responsibility outside the home, but forgetting to represent men in caring or homemaking roles? Are LGBTQ+ folk only shown when their minority sexuality is the defining factor?


Asking ourselves these questions initially is effort, but once it becomes habit, once it becomes part of planning and preparation routine, it becomes normal. I can’t look at a course book page now without quickly scanning it for representation. I don’t always choose to substitute and at other times I might specifically leave unrepresentative material as it is, and ask my students what they think might be missing. I turn over that critical evaluation process to them, so they can start to perform this analysis themselves. After all, I won’t always be there to recast the material they encounter in their reading and viewing lives.


My final thought is that we should always be asking ourselves who gets a voice and who gets seen in our classrooms.


Chris Richards, Teacher Mentor

Chris first taught in the UK high school system in inner city Birmingham and South East Wales, but has been working in English Language Teaching (ELT) since 2015. He holds an MEd in Applied Linguistics and currently works as a Teacher Mentor in Madrid. He is particularly interested in inclusivity/diversity, literature, and the use of first language in the ELT classroom.

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Supporting quiet shy or anxious Black, Asian and minority ethnic children with English as an additional language in the Early Years.

Dr Susan Davis portrait

Written by Dr Susan Davis

Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Many articles that have been written in relation to the Black Lives Matter agenda, state that education is key to improving Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children’s life chances (Blair, Bourne, Coffin, Creese, & Kenner, 1998; Blair, 2002; Ofsted, 2005). However, the system itself is at fault. The UK educational system perpetuates disadvantage: from the very earliest years of schooling (Richardson, 2007; Tomlinson, 2008) children’s sense of identity may be affected by a range of factors such as their experience of being in a minority, or having a lack of BAME role models. School staff may demonstrate unconscious bias in relation to these children. There is also an impact of differing levels of staff knowledge and understanding in relation to cultural issues. We can see how inequity becomes embedded as a result.

My research on how quiet, shy or anxious children cope in the early years classroom was based on a targeted programme entitled Special Me Time (Davis, 2012) aimed at supporting quiet children in vocalising their feelings; accessing classroom opportunities; and communication and developing friendships. Evaluation of the programme was conducted in early years classrooms predominantly in south Wales. I found that this intervention especially benefitted BAME children with English as an additional language (EAL). These children worked very effectively in a smaller group dynamic with more support. It is essential to allow young children with EAL longer thinking and processing time in relation to oracy, especially when responding to teacher questions. Quiet children with EAL need additional time to formulate replies, in a busy mainstream classroom.

The taught sessions were delivered to small groups, over a six-week period. Baseline evaluations were employed. Assessments were taken at the start and on cessation of the programme. BAME learners with English as an additional language made significant gains in their personal and social development as a result of engagement within the smaller group dynamic. This was true across all settings in the research project. A year 1 teacher on the programme stated:

‘I have some very shy children in my class, many of them would play alongside others and not join in or were led by others. A BAME child with EAL – K – was the child that I noticed got the most out of the Special Me Time (SMT) programme; after taking part, she played with other children in the class much more. Now she will initiate games with the others, where she would not do this before. She really bonded with E (also BAME EAL) during the SMT programme – they had not been friends before, but they both grew in confidence and this was due to the programme.’


It became apparent that the role of the teacher or teaching assistant was paramount, in relation to supporting the children’s oracy, confidence and engagement skills. The support needed was simple, such as giving children peaceful time in the book corner of a classroom or allowing them to work alone, or in pairs rather than in large groups. Taking time to listen to the children when they were speaking, without any interruptions, and also waiting for them to offer answers to questions in their own time, rather than rushing them, was also particularly effective. The research also found that the children had improved social and emotional skills, gained within the small group dynamic and were able to effectively transfer those skills to the wider classroom, demonstrating improved confidence and communication skills.

To conclude, it is pertinent that teachers are aware of the needs of all BAME learners and support them accordingly. Brentnall (2017) suggests that we need to train teachers in diversity awareness and equip them with strategies for supporting and raising attainment across the board. BAME children with English as an additional language need to be in classrooms where the practitioner is aware of their specific needs, in order for them to thrive. In a nurturing classroom, with a high level of support, and with an intuitive and emotionally literate practitioner, this research study suggests that the child can flourish and as a result their life chances and educational trajectory will be significantly enhanced.



Blair, M., Bourne, J., Coffin, C., Creese, A., & Kenner, C. (1998). Making the difference: Teaching and learning strategies in successful multi-ethnic schools. England: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Blair, M. (2002). Effective school leadership: The multi-ethnic context. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(2), 179–191.

Brentnall, J. (2017). Promoting engagement and academic achievement for Black and mixed-ethnicity pupils in Wales. Cardiff: Welsh Government. Retrieved from https://gov.wales/barriers-learning-faced-black-and-mixed-ethnicity-learners-report   

Davis, S. (2012). Examining the implementation of an emotional literacy programme on the pedagogy and reflective practice of trainee teachers (EdD thesis, Cardiff Metropolitan University). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10369/3975 

Ofsted. (2005). Race equality in education. Good practice in schools and local education authorities. Retrieved from https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5546/1/Race equality in education good practice in schools and local education authorities (PDF format).pdf

Richardson, B. (2007). Tell it like it is: How our schools fail black children (2nd ed.) London: Bookmarks.

Tomlinson, S. (2008). Race and education: Policy and politics in Britain. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

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An Ethical Curriculum

Kate Smith portrait

Written by Kate Smith

Compassionate school leader (and former headteacher) with a passion for developing an #ethicalcurriculum.

2020 has been the year that teachers and leaders have faced a plethora of unthinkable challenges and demands. But, despite the pandemic, and the pressure of the current Edu climate, children’s social and emotional development has to remain of the utmost importance in schools. I think now is a pivotal time to be thinking about how well our curriculum is serving our young people.

I recently joined an awesome line up of educators for the third TMBuffet, hosted by the impeccable @Mr_Speighton, and organised alongside @JamesWJCain on GoBrunch. This was a new webinar platform to me, and despite my tech issues and the kids overflowing the hot tub in the garden to distract me, it was easy to navigate and I liked the visual representation of the theatre (although there wasn’t a lot of virtual social distancing going on!) so you could see who was sat in the audience, waving you on. The platform had a great chat function too, so it was easy to interact with your audience and respond to live questions. 

I spoke about why curriculum reform and evaluation is so pertinent right now; what sort of issues and themes are relevant to include when developing an #ethicalcurriculum and shared some practical steps you can use to start designing and implementing a holistic, values based curriculum in your school. We looked at the following steps as a starting point. 

We are navigating complicated times. The pandemic is now exaggerating issues that we still fighting to make headway on. Child poverty is on the rise, racism and discrimination are still rife, there’s been little movement on the gender pay gap and our planet is being neglected. Sounds stark? Well it is. And I’m an optimist! We have a responsibility to our young people to ensure they thrive both academically and holistically in their education and the time is now! 

It may not feel like it, but schools do have considerable freedom over how they deliver their curriculum. Academies, Free Schools and Independent Schools have even more than State Schools, so now more than ever, is a great time to think about whether your current curriculum is serving your children and your community. Curriculum development is a long haul task, but a beautiful one, and an ethically focused curriculum, carefully crafted with the whole team, will mean the children, and the staff and families, will reap the benefits for years to come. 

There are certain subjects in the curriculum that are naturally easier to use as a platform for teaching more ethical topics, such as teaching about climate change through geography, or LGBT relationships through RSE or PSHCE. However, because the themes that are most relevant to teach our children, in terms of enabling them to develop into compassionate, responsible global citizens, are not explicit in the National Curriculum, then it’s down to school leaders and teachers to be creative in interweaving these key themes in, to ensure our pupils are able to create a kinder and more sustainable world. 

I thank the stars the PSHCE is now a statutory subject, however, Global Citizenship is not a required NC subject until KS3. So, if you are interested in teaching global citizenship in primary, then you need to think carefully about how you can interweave themes into the subjects you already teach, or, how you can specifically carve out some time from your (already crammed) timetable. 

As often is the case, the best place to start is by using what you know about your children, your community and your context. What is it they need now, and also, what they are going to need in the future? How can you challenge and strengthen their attitudes, develop their self awareness and equip them with skills, knowledge and understanding to offer them the best life opportunities through your curriculum? 

Each school is contextually unique which I think is what is so special about curriculum development; it’s so bespoke and yet so diverse.

Why teach an #ethicalcurriculum? 

We want to ensure that we are teaching a diverse and colourful curriculum.

We want to ensure we are teaching to promote equity and inclusion for all under represented groups and all of those within the Protected Characteristics Groups

We want to be educating our young people on issues around sustainable living, and the importance of becoming globally minded citizens in order to make the world a kinder place. 

To what extent does your current curriculum amplify these themes, and therefore, how well is your curriculum serving your young people and your community?

Step 1 : Focusing on Relevant and Ethical issues

It’s important for children and young people to see the relevance of what they are being taught, otherwise, what does it all mean for them? Black Lives Matters, The Gender Pay Gap Issue and recent Australian Bushfire Crisis are all recent events to interweave into your curriculum. Teach the children about how the issues effect their families, friends and future. Be aware of what’s going on Globally, Nationally and Locally to inspire you to incorporate relevant and ethical themes into your subjects. Additionally, identify any areas that specifically relate to your context, or that you feel are valuable on a global level.

Start this by creating a list of themes that are of interest to your school’s context. If you don’t have ideas to begin with, take a look at Global Dimension’s website and use this as a starting point to research ethical themes. If you are looking to improve Diverse representation then I’d highly recommend Diverse Educators shiny new website as a one stop shop to signpost you to those who can support you with work around the 9 Protected Characteristics of the Equality Act 2010. Then, consider where these themes would fit into each subject of the curriculum. It’s important to consider the appropriateness of each theme with regards to age, or your school’s context. If you’re keen to teach about equality for example, why not start with exploring gender stereotypes in your Early Years classrooms?

Children are subjected to gender stereotypes very early on. Consider how detrimental this can be?

A basic starting point is to think about issues that are particularly relevant to the context that you are in. There can be two ways of thinking about this: firstly, looking any gaps that you need to fill to improve your ethical curriculum offer: So you might be in a school which has issues with, for example, homophobic attitudes and therefore you need to further develop the value of compassion or respect. Or, you might be in a a school with a large refugee community, therefore, you need to nourish the values of empathy and humanity. Perhaps you’re in a school which is lacking in diversity, and consequently, your values need to promote respect and equality. On the contrary, if you are a school which is doing great work on climate change, or celebrating diversity, then you might want to strengthen your #ethicalcurriculum accordingly through a focus on the values of Leadership or Service.

As a a quick example, just think about specifically teaching about Equity. There are several themes here to be addressed; gender pay gap, global inequality in education, stereotyping, rights for LGBTQI+, racism, social mobility, the justice system, poverty, ableism, the protected characteristics… there are so many imperative topics to be interwoven in the curriculum in this area. Learning about these themes develop the values of self respect, involvement, empathy and advocacy to name a few.

We can do this through the use of children’s literature; through using media and through using lived examples. If you haven’t already used or experienced LYFTA, then I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a beautiful and interactive online platform which support values and citizenship development through exploring lived experiences from all over the world. (Currently, you can access free CPD which enables a term’s subscription for your class, plus a British Council Level 2 CPD certificate upon completion of the webinar and review session.)

Step 2: Using Values to Guide you

Think specifically about which values you want to instill in your children, to allow them to create a kinder more sustainable world for themselves and future generations. The context of the school may influence this greatly and many MATS and Faith/C of E schools often hold their own set of collective values. Values are completely universal, however, the values you choose to focus on can still be specifically relevant to your school context too. So, the best place to start is using what you know about your children, your community. Consider what they need now, and for the future. A great place to start is by inviting your community to join you on your values journey. Share lists of values and ask them to send you the three that they think are most pertinent to them and the school. Many schools have a set of values that they focus on throughout the year; by week, month or even a term at a time. These are then creatively interwoven into assemblies, lessons, conversations, long terms plans etc. In the wise words of Mary Myatt however, ‘ Values must be lived – not laminated.’ So using your values within the curriculum authentically and deeply is the key.

There are hundreds of values to choose from. Which are relevant to you and your setting?

Consider: Which values do you need to nurture in your children, and how are you going to be active in doing that? How can we use our positive influence as teachers and leaders to nurture a school’s collective values and a set of core values for each pupil?

If you are looking to achieve a Quality Award for you work on developing values, then I would highly recommend that you contact The Values Based Education Network who can support you on this process. They also run INSET on how, as a whole school, you can develop your vision and align them with your values. This is such an empowering and enlightening process!

Reframing and Renaming

Renaming the titles of your topics or schemes of work can be incredibly powerful and help you shift your mindset and focus onto the ethical and moral aspect of a topic. You might use a KS1 Geography unit of work on the physical environment to look at the impact of say, Plastic Pollution. Then, reframe the title of your topic to reflect that focus. For example ‘The Blue Planet’ or ‘Saving our planet’, which gives real scope for exploring the effect of plastic pollution on our oceans and environment. If you’re looking at teaching a unit of work on design in DT in KS2, then why not reframe the focus onto the Effect of Fast Fashion and the impact on child labour, therefore developing the value of empathy and agency. If you are teaching about Nutrition in KS3 then can you focus your work on ethical farming, or food poverty, again promoting those values of accountability and collective responsibility.

This Banksy mural, which depicts a young boy toiling over a sewing machine making Union Jack textiles, could be a visual starting point for a lesson around child labor and humanity.

The 5 year-olds we teach now are going to be our future activists, our future humanitarians, our future engineers, our future environmentalists, our future policy makers. The curriculum we teach today is about ensuring that our children and young people thrive in five years, in ten years, in 30 years time. That’s why we have to teach children about physical and mental health, about looking after the environment, developing empathy for others and a desire for social change NOW. In doing so, we will all play our part in creating a kinder, more sustainable world.

Click here to download the slides shared at tm-buffet-2






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Student leadership programmes and celebrating diversity: students as drivers of change

Sadie Hollins portrait

Written by Sadie Hollins

Students are drivers of change. As educators I’m sure we can all think of times when students have been the key stakeholder that affected positive change in our schools, whether that be at the classroom level or at a schoolwide level. I have felt fortunate to witness a number of our students make a stand, whether it be fighting for the rights of the student body as a whole, or coming together to support a member of their peer group facing a particular challenge, such as ‘coming out’. This is student leadership.


I have been in awe of what our Student Council has been able to achieve in terms of the quality of events they plan and host, and the fundraising projects they have created. As well as how the Student Executive Board works together along with class and year group representatives for the Student Council to discuss ideas and how they might be implemented in the school. This is student leadership.


Students drive change.


It struck me recently that often this instinct to drive change comes intuitively to students. School is such an important and informing experience for young people to learn about leadership, and for some may be the only ‘organisation’ they experience being a part of until they reach university or work. How we define leadership, and how we lead as staff, will indirectly inform students how leadership works. For better or worse. 


Schools offer many leadership opportunities for students to be a part of, including captaining sports teams, editing school magazines, holding positions such as prefects, student mentors, peer tutors, Student Council members, and many more. However, a lot of these opportunities tend to be most readily undertaken by students that excel in some form, whether that be academically, socially, or physically. A lot of the time students that take on these roles are the ‘good’ students. This in turn can send a message to other students about what leadership is. Leadership is for ‘good’ students. 


A lot of these roles don’t come with any ‘Leadership’ training for the role, so it’s often implied that you learn by doing. Whilst I think there is a lot of merit to this approach, I feel that if we work with students to help them define what Leadership means to them and help them (all of them) develop their skills, perhaps we can empower a bigger portion of our student body to drive change.


Last year we started 2 different Student Leadership programmes (Level 2 and 3 Leadership programmes from Sports Leaders UK) in our school. We’ve just begun the Level 2 course with our new Year 11 cohort, and this week we got students to rate themselves according to the different Leadership skills outlined in their course booklets (communication, teamwork, organisation, problem-solving, etc). One of the areas that they had to rate themselves on, and explain a little more why they had given themselves their score, was ‘self-belief’. When going around and looking at their work I was struck by how many students had rated themselves so lowly in this area (scoring themselves less than 5 out of 10) which made me feel a little sad. How can students drive change or lead (or push themselves forward in whatever they choose) if they don’t believe in themselves? We can’t ‘magic’ ourselves into developing a greater sense of self-belief, but we can gain it through experiencing challenges and getting through them (imperfectly). I also wonder if this lack of self-belief sometimes comes from comparing ourselves to the narrow view of what a successful student (or adult) is – normally the best of the best.


The hope for our leadership course is that we can challenge students to redefine what a good leader is, and for them to realise their own leadership potential. We all need and want different types of leaders for all types of situations – we just need to empower students to believe that they could be the leader that someone else needs. 


In order to create a school (and organisation) that appreciates and celebrates diversity, we need to empower students to feel confident in who they are and drive the change they wish to see. Our job as teachers is also to be genuine and open about who we are, and model to our students that we all have the ability and power to affect positive change.

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