Emotional Intelligence - A Dichotomous Variable?

Written by Aini Butt

‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.’

 

John Dewey wrote this distress signal over 100 years ago. Although it is more relevant now than it has ever been, once again it is being ignored.

 

As media brands students ‘The Lost Generation’ who will be ‘scarred for life’, The Sun’s leader column adds how ongoing school closures are a ‘scandal’, which ‘shames this nation’ because children continue to be deprived of an education while left to ‘flounder at home’. As refreshing it may be that The Sun has taken it upon itself to fight our students’ corner, fighting for a return to education as we know it, may not be in their best interest.

 

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced on 3rd July 2020 that schools have been asked ‘to resume a broad and ambitious curriculum’, which was followed up in the same sentence with the expectation that exams are to go ahead as ‘normal’ in the summer of 2021. Furthermore, formal OFSTED inspections are to resume from January 2021 with no clarity regarding performance tables. How are schools to facilitate a ‘broad and ambitious curriculum’ when there is an unrealistic expectation to return to normal; whatever this ‘normal’ might mean in a (post-)pandemic educational context. To add to the irony, new government advice published on 2nd July states that schools should be using ‘existing flexibilities’ and ‘cover the most important missed content’ while advising that it may be ‘appropriate to suspend some subjects’ if students can ‘achieve significantly better in their remaining subjects…especially in GCSE English and mathematics.’ This was interpreted by the media as ‘Schools can ditch art and drama’ and ‘focus on Maths & English’, which isn’t far from what Dewey described as reducing ‘the material of education so largely to a diet of predigested materials.’ 

 

Once again, we are being directed towards an ‘industrial model of education’ to ensure that students are prepared for their exams in 2021 and the values reinforced through these decisions display a total disregard for the students’ needs regarding their long-term education. If Covid-19 has taught us anything at all, it is the fact that we do not know what the future holds; therefore, this relentless emphasis on academic achievements and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) should be shifted towards the development of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and resilience to equip students with the skills to recognise emotions and use this knowledge to tackle daily challenges. 

 

In society, and particularly educational and professional settings, IQ has been extensively researched and used in reference to mathematical and verbal ability to reproduce the deep-rooted belief that IQ determines academic success. However, Daniel Goleman brought the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) to educators’ attention and argued that IQ only contributes 20% to an individual’s success, while the remaining 80% is down to self-management and interpersonal skills, which are key components of EI. Although the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ has not been exempt from criticism, it cannot be denied that developing its key facets is beneficial for all students.

Goleman argues that the five components of EI (self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation) are all capabilities that can be developed. Self-awareness and self-regulation are two components that go hand in hand with each other. Recognising and understanding one’s emotions and those of others while regulating them in an appropriate manner enables students to manage conflict and prevent the ‘emotional hijacking’ of the brain, which is our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. It is these emotional reactions that are drawn upon to argue that the term EI is a dichotomous variable in terms of intellectual capacity. However, schools can and should actively teach students how to recognise their emotions and those of others and support the development of their appropriate expression. 

As students return to schools, it is crucial that we foster an empathetic environment to allow expression of and reflection upon their lived experiences – their realities- of lockdown. Such an environment can be facilitated through a philosophical approach.

Philosophy is a tool to reflect and analyse various perspectives; therefore, engaging students in a philosophical inquiry will promote a classroom culture where individuals’ diversity of thought is acknowledged and reflected upon. Philosophy for Children (P4C) was founded in 1960s by Professor Matthew Lipman to facilitate opportunities for independent thinking and reflection as he believed that the educational system was not teaching students how to think.

 

Jana Mohr Lone- director and founder of the University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children also found that children as young as four were able to hold philosophical thoughts but their ability to think was being underestimated and their natural curiosity was not drawn upon to extend their questioning.

 

Philosophy for Children (P4C) creates opportunities for students to understand that things can be perceived in various ways while also exploring the values, thought and beliefs underpinning these views through questioning and reasoning. Students are encouraged to assess their perspectives and reaffirm or alter their views upon critical self-reflection. Educators need to equip themselves with the tools to facilitate safe spaces for students to share their lived realities. P4C is one of the many evidence-based pedagogical strategies to promote EI in the classroom as the teacher becomes the facilitator and allows critical thinking and individuality to flourish through tension-filled learning dialogues. Research published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in 2015 found that P4C has a positive impact on pupils’ confidence to speak, their listening skills, self-esteem and attainment of 7 to 11year olds, particularly those of disadvantaged backgrounds. 

            

In the latest ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’, the words ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘vulnerable’ (in context of pupils rather than medical) have been used up to twenty times. 

 

If the government has a desire to address the ever-widening attainment gap, it needs to promote ‘an education system that enables them to thrive, a democracy that gives them voice, an economic system that rewards their skills and talents and a welfare system that supports them during a time of need (Khan, S.,2020). We need to ensure that our students are equipped with the right balance between academic skills and emotional intelligence, which will not be attained by reverting to a narrow curriculum where core subjects are prioritised. Therefore, as Sir Ken Robinson says, ‘The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it,’ and ‘recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process.’

 

As we try to envision what a post-Covid19 future may look like, we need to pay heed to Dewey’s words and question the emphasis we put on IQ while downplaying the role of EQ. This notion of ‘preparing our students for the future’ fails to recognise their emotional state in response to their daily lived experiences of harsh realities, such as: poverty, abuse, racism, sexism, bullying etc. Oxfam’s Teaching Controversial Issues’ guide for teachers recommends the use of P4C as it provides ‘an ideal framework for teaching controversial issues.’ Through P4C, we need to create safe spaces within our classrooms to ensure that we allow students to articulate these difficult truths and support the development of self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy to enable them to respond appropriately to a competitive and harsh society. 

 

We need to ‘cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life.’  

 

Supported by


Growing Up Autistic and Undiagnoses

Teona Studemire

Written by Teona Studemire

Writer and college student majoring in Library Sciences.

Trigger Warning: This post will discuss trauma around bullying and the ableist slurs “dumb,” “slow,” and “stupid.” These words will not be censored and may be repeated throughout as well as contain references to other ableist insults.

 

The summer before 7th grade, I was moved to South Georgia. I would only end up staying there for all of three and a half years but that short period of time made a huge mark on my life and who I was as a person.

 

For years prior to this move, I was severely bullied from the second I started Pre-Kindergarten through every single year of public school afterward. I thought that this move would mean things would change and that I could “reinvent” myself so to speak. I mean, no one seemed to ever like me and I only had a handful of friends (who weren’t very good ones by the way). The year before my move, I was going to this siditty “school of the arts” downtown. The population was pretty white and I felt like the token black friend amongst all of my peers. Moving, although jarring and painful, at first seemed like a nice silver-lining.

 

When I got there, I soon realized nothing had changed except the people and the scenery. The same bullying that took place in Florida started up again when I stepped foot in the marshland city I would reside for three years. People just… didn’t like me. I tried so hard to appeal to others but no one ever really properly understood me. I’d say things that came out all wrong even though my brain knew exactly what I meant but my mouth wasn’t on the same page. I had other girls wanting to fight me just because they could and everyone thought it was funny. I didn’t want to fight. I didn’t even understand how I ended up in a position to fight anyways. One second I’m on the bus and the next I’m in a field surrounded by other students egging another girl on to pull my hair out.

 

I just wanted to go home.

 

I thought going home would be a reprieve from the bullying I constantly had to deal with at school. How do you get away from bullying when you just seem to find it behind the front doors of your home?

 

I used to deal with constantly being picked on by my mom’s ex husband. When I would forget things or misunderstand something he was always quick to call me dumb and tell me that I was having a dumb blonde moment. I constantly had to hear “duh!” several times a day every day when I asked something that he deemed a “stupid” question. Since the answer wasn’t obvious to me, I had to be the problem. He insulted my intelligence often and laughed about it like it was some funny joke.

 

I didn’t get the punch line.

 

I remember he used to throw my trauma in my face and act like my suicidal ideations or threats to run away were all for attention. He never paused to actually ask me about it. No one did.

 

It was just assumed that none of it was real. That I wasn’t struggling to find reasons to live everyday even if it were small ones. I would have walked out into the woods in the middle of the night and never came back because that at least seemed like what everyone would have wanted from me. I mean, everyone made me feel unwanted and like I shouldn’t exist.

 

I was struggling to feel my place in a world that didn’t seem like there was a spot for me because I was dumb and I was stupid and I didn’t fit in anywhere.

 

I didn’t realize I was autistic or had adhd until a year or so ago. I never really connected the dots between my neurodivergent brain symptoms and my lack of true connection and understanding with neurotypical people. I thought I was just weird and extremely misunderstood. I was always being picked on and bothered for things that were out of my control. I thought I was just walking around with a huge target on my forehead that said “pick on me!!!”

 

When I started making friends with more autistic and/or adhd folks, suddenly I felt my place. I felt understood like this entire time I was speaking a different language and I finally found others who could understand what I was saying. It started out simple, seeing different memes about ADHD and ASD symptoms and relating to… almost all of them. Then I started seeing more people talking about their symptoms and it was like a million light bulbs started going off in my brain and endless repetitions of “that’s me!” every single day.

 

I wasn’t dumb or stupid or whatever. I was just constantly being held to a neurotypical standard my brain couldn’t function at and I didn’t see it because my brain couldn’t even tell that there was something different about itself. I mean, I knew I was different but not in the “your brain functions differently” way.

 

I realized I’ve been stimming my whole life and I regularly go nonverbal, sometimes as a trauma response and other times because talking is too overwhelming and exhausting. I’ve had so many hyperfixations that lasted an uncomfortable amount of times and my brain is a chaotic mess filled with swirling thoughts and intervals of emptiness.

 

Even knowing what I know now and feeling the comfort and safety that comes with at least knowing that it wasn’t my fault for walking around so misunderstood, it doesn’t erase or begin to help with unpacking the trauma that comes with being neurodivergent in a world that expects everyone to be neurotypical and held to neurotypical standards.

 

I will never get back the years of my life I spent being torn down and brutalized. The scars on my self esteem and self confidence are six feet deep. I often find myself beating myself up for not getting something or for forgetting something or for my brain wandering off. For hyperfixating and stimming and infodumping…

 

All the things that make me autistic and adhd were things I’ve been called dumb for for so long that sometimes I can’t help but think that maybe I am and have been this whole time but you know what?

 

I don’t owe anyone some extreme amount of intelligence and talent. I don’t owe anyone the autistic savant trope. I don’t owe shit to anyone so even if I were all of those horrible slurs and more, it wouldn’t diminish my worth, right to respect and basic human decency.

 

 

Supported by


My Five Top Tips for Making Your School LGBT-friendly

Written by Jared Cawley

LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride month seems like a very appropriate time to give extra attention to making sure your school is an inclusive, diverse and safe place for your families, students and workforce who identify as LGBT+. The month of June honours the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, where LGBT people and allies fought against police brutality and harassment that many were and continue to be subjected to today.

Schools are well-known for their openness and celebration of diversity when it comes to students, but some LGBT teachers still feel isolated and uncomfortable to talk openly about their sexuality. Schools are heteronormative workplaces and being a person who is not ‘straight’ requires some careful navigation. Headteachers and school leaders have a responsibility to sustain a school environment that welcomes diversity, supports equality, and defend all staff, including those who identify as LGBT. If you are a school leader who identifies as heterosexual, or is not part of a minority group, you are less likely to notice the exclusion or the discrimination that may be happening in your school. 

As a LGBT teacher and a gay man, I have been subjected to abuse and discrimination throughout my life for loving someone of the same sex. Even though Government legislation has strengthened over the last few years, there is still a long way to go. As a LGBT teacher, I am hypervigilant and cautious about who I ‘come out’ to. This feeling of uncertainty is because being straight is the preferred and presumed sexuality. Choosing to ‘come out’ to students, families and colleagues is fearful, as you do not know their opinions and beliefs when it comes to the LGBT community. Making your school LGBT+ friendly must begin with small, deliberate steps. We must acknowledge that this will not happen overnight, but with thoughtful planning and strong leadership, a school can improve its culture of inclusivity for everyone.

When making cultural change in your school, it is important to avoid tokenism. It is superficial to teach diversity for a week or a month as a bolt on to your curriculum, when that is the only time you discuss LGBT rights or teach how to be anti-racist. All members of your school community is needed to make real change, deliberately walking the walk, instead of just talking the talk. 

Below are my five top tips for making your school LGBT+ friendly: 

1 Use Inclusive Language 

Making small changes around inclusive language can have a huge impact on either making people feel accepted and/or feeling excluded. 

Here are my suggestions:

  • Instead of greeting your staff team or students with, ‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls’, say, ‘Good morning everyone’. With this, you have included all genders and identities without assuming everyone identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.  
  • Challenge students and colleagues who continue to use phrases that diminish showing emotion or acting like a particular gender. For example: ‘man-up’, ‘you throw like a girl’, and ‘boys don’t cry’. 
  • Stop organising students into boys’ teams and girls’ teams, find different ways. 
  • Avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes.

2 A LGBT+ friendly school is everyone’s responsibility. 

  • It is a mistake to think that creating a LGBT+ friendly school should solely be the responsibility of the ‘gay teacher’. It should be a collective responsibility. Headteachers, senior leadership teams, teachers and the rest of the school community should be actively working together to promote an inclusive and diverse environment, ensuring all members of staff and students feel safe and can be their authentic selves. 
  • CPD and INSET days could involve external speakers, offering your staff a refreshing voice and a different perspective. 
  • LGBT+ people experience the world differently to their heterosexual counterparts, and school leaders should give them a safe space to talk about their experiences, with the support of their LGBT allies.

3 Be Proud of LGBT Visibility 

If you are showing a prospective same sex family around your school, or a LGBT teacher comes for an interview, or a new student who may identify as LGBT or does not know their sexuality, how do they know that this school or future workplace is a safe and inclusive environment where they can be their authentic self? 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Give teachers a choice to wear LGBT badges/pins or have LGBT lanyards
  • Display the Pride flag inside and outside your school. There are many flags here that represent the LGBT+ community. 
  • Displays. Show your visitors that you celebrate inclusion and diversity. Have displays celebrating LGBT stories and issues. 
  • Encourage LGBT+ teachers to make a network or support group where they can talk about LGBT issues and use this to show that LGBT+ voices matter.
  • Have your senior leadership team and staff go on a learning walk, where the focus is LGBT inclusion. Can you see it represented in your school?

4 Have an inclusive and diverse curriculum

Your curriculum should be well planned and deliberately tailored to minority groups and should not be left to chance. To avoid tokenism, these practices should be carefully planned and seen across all subject areas. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Children’s story books should include and promote different family dynamics, including same sex couples, single parents, foster parents, disabled children and parents, families of colour, families of different religions. Here are some ideas. 
  • In mathematics, have word problems that are inclusive of same sex families. Instead of Mrs. Smith or John, have names that come from a range of countries and heritages.
  • In your presentations, ensure that the pictures you use show a range of minority groups. 
  • In your humanities curriculum, teach about colonisation, the impact of imperialism, and celebrate indigenous communities and customs. See here for more about decolonising your school curriculum. 
  • Diversify your set texts, offer a range of authors, not just white, heterosexual men.

5 Educate Yourself 

I believe the best way to learn more about the LGBT community is to educate yourself, have an open mind and be comfortable with being challenged. I feel there can sometimes be a fear about people who do not belong to a certain minority group, making a mistake or unconsciously offending someone, or using a term or acronym that is outdated. 

Here are my suggestions:

Read books and use organisations that specifically discuss LGBT voices in education and whole school approaches:

 

 

 

Supported by


The Absence of Diversity in the Literature Curriculum – and its Lasting Impact

Written by Anjum Peerbacos

20 years experience as a teacher

Riz Ahmed made a powerful speech regarding diversity in the Arts: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/riz-ahmed-warns-parliament-that-lack-of-diversity-in-tv-leads-people-to-isis-a7610861.html Riz Ahmed warns Parliament that a lack of diversity in TV is leading people to Isis www.independent.co.uk

He stated that if young people could not see themselves as part of the narrative or the mainstream representation, they would turn elsewhere to feel that they had a sense of belonging. He said it was the responsibility of the Arts to reflect society; to reflect the patchwork that makes up a wider world, and our global community. 

In so many ways, Literature is another Art form and should be doing the same. When we study texts in class, there should be an opportunity for students to be able to see themselves in the literature world. However currently that is not the case.

 For more than two academic years now, I have taught the new GCSE curriculum for English Literature, I have taught ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding, ‘An Inspector Calls’ by J.B Priestly, ‘A Christmas Carol’ By Charles Dickens, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ by R.L Stevenson, and ‘Romeo and Juliet’, by William Shakespeare. White males that are no longer with us, have written all of these texts.

It may be that because I work in a boys school that these texts have been chosen, as the demographic of the school is largely white and male; however one could argue that in such circumstances it is vital that we expose our young people to the width, and breadth of the spectrum of the society in which we live. Students regardless of demographic and gender should be exposed to a range of writers’ experiences and Literature. It broadens their horizons, and ultimately their experiences. Students have studied the above texts, in addition to a small collection of poems largely about war, with the anecdotal inclusion of Benjamin Zephaniah and John Agard. ‘The Conflict Cluster’ largely addresses the atrocities of war, and as a result these young people have not been exposed to the wealth of Literature that exists in the world. 

 Across the exam boards, the choices have been extremely narrow. There are few women and even fewer texts from a diverse or BAME background. I appreciate the need to study the works of Shakespeare but, not counting The Bard, on the AQA specification there are 19 opportunities to explore other Literature texts and only 2 are from non-White authors. 

 On the Edexcel specification there are 15 opportunities to study a text written by a white male, there is only 1 non-White BAME author. On the Edexcel specification, all White Male playwrights write the Modern Drama Texts. WJEC offers two options which are non-White authors, however is more inclusive of female writers over time. 

 Obviously, I understand that we want children to study, learn and love Shakespeare and he is a white male and is from the 17th century. There is one re-occurring BAME author for modern prose and that is Meera Syal and her novel ‘Anita and Me’, and I can’t help wondering how much of a token of her appearance on the curriculum is. 

 My other concern regarding the curriculum is does it need to be British? And is there a place for Modern World Literature or modern world prose or drama? Why are we limiting our young people to English British largely male Literature, which is no longer representative of the global world in which we all live?

In addition, what constitutes British Literature? Is Syal considered English Literature or British Literature? Moreover, why are we not considering the likes of Malorie Blackman? Blackman is a modern Black female author and is much needed. She addresses many sensitive issues within her texts which provide the debate needed, which would also meet the Social Moral Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) criteria, which Ofsted demands of schools.

I happen to work in a boys school, and I am teaching an entirely male curriculum, bar a few poems in the poetry anthology, and my worry is that these boys are going to live, work, learn and prosper and flourish in a world which includes men and women. A world, which includes the young and the old.  A diverse world which includes people from all walks of life. So why is our Literature curriculum not reflecting this and preparing them for the alternative view? For the different perspective? For the obscure or the distance or the far-reaching? Why is it so inward looking and insular? Surely, this is then a potential breeding ground to consider anything different as ‘The Other’? How is this progressive?

 As Ahmed stated the Arts should be a representation of the world and narrative in which one can see oneself. Why aren’t ‘we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they are valued’? Ahmed goes on even further to state that if a young person cannot see themselves in the wider narrative then ‘we are in danger of losing people to extremism’. I think he makes some valid points. If you are studying a text for six weeks in a classroom, and potentially over five years you do not find yourself represented in any of those stories, then is Ahmed making a wider point? Do we not have a responsibility to deliver a narrative which is outward looking and less insular?

The curriculum was developed under Michael Gove, https://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-gcses/english-language-2015.html 

and I feel as though he has been able to dictate a curriculum, which he saw fit in an era, which is no longer fitting or applicable to our young people now. 

 The issue has been raised before, however I feel that now more when students are asked to regurgitate texts in exams, texts that they may not be able to relate to, or even understand, it has become a more pertinent issue. In light of recent events where we have witnessed a rise in hate- crime, communities feeling isolated and marginalised, immigrants being targeted; I think that now more than ever our young people should understand a wider broader spectrum of literature appreciating and celebrating difference and diversity. Of course, there is a place for Shakespeare and Romantic poetry, and of course, there should be an appreciation of the likes of Dickens and Austen. However, should there not be an opportunity to experience World Literature?

 Our young people are interacting on a global platform and developing a global community. If I were a young person living in 21st century Britain, I would not think the Literature that I am exposed to on the current curriculum is in any way reflective of me, or the world in which we all live.

Supported by


Why Diverse Representation Matters in Children’s Books

Written by Orla McKeating

Entrepreneur, coach and motivational speaker

I started Still I Rise Diversity Story Telling for Kids in 2019 as a passion project as I really didn’t see enough representation in kids’ books. As a single mother of a bi-racial child I had learnt the importance of this for the well-being, influence and mental health of this for children, but I didn’t imagine the impact this would have on so many young people around the world. Still I Rise is now a global business, lockdown forced us to do virtual storytelling sessions which has massively built our community and the feedback we have received from parents, psychologists, teachers and the kids themselves has been incredible. And having worked with hundreds of children globally we can see the impact first-hand of the importance of diverse and inclusive books, how it builds confidence, empathy skills, how it inspires and creates impact and allows for deeper connections with society as a whole.

 

I was blissfully unaware of the importance of a diverse and inclusive world having been brought up in largely white Northern Ireland into a family of privilege and shielded from the Troubles we experienced until I was in my late teens. I lived in Belgium for 10 years post university in a culturally rich and very international society and moved back to Belfast in 2012 where I began to bring up my son as a single parent. We always read books together from when he was so tiny, and I wondered was it really that great to read from such a young age? But now at 7 years old, he is such an avid reader and communicator and I can see that it absolutely did. What I did notice was that there were so few characters in the books that looked like him. This baffled me and I wondered why this was. Of course, I could find the books when I looked for them, but they weren’t so readily available as they are now. Why is this representation so important though I hear you ponder …? 

 

Well. The whole world is not white, able bodied and with a nuclear family structure. When children read books and don’t see people like them in them, they don’t feel included in society which can have a massive effect on their own confidence and self-worth. However, when there are characters similar to themselves culturally or ethnically, I have seen it reinforce a more positive view on themselves and pushes them towards goals and allows them to believe that anything is possible! How can you be what you can’t see, right?

 

Seeing characters, ideas and experiences in books that are unlike ours allows our children to open their minds and teaches them (and us for that matter) to value the whole human race and not just people who look like us. This equity within literature teaches empathy from a young age which helps them build secure and strong relationships with those around them while promoting tolerance and acceptance.

 

Being included in books and seeing other people like them facing challenges and making a difference in the world really helps kids have a deeper understanding of our world and how great things are possible. It creates impact, allows them to have role models they may never have met who influence their actions and behaviour, help them to overcome challenges and push them to their full potential.

 

Books with a diverse and inclusive representation allow a mirror or a window for what our next generation can do for themselves. They read about a wide range of human experience – familiar or strange, real or imagined and they can manifest a larger window of opportunity for themselves. This allows for authentic connections which allows them to feel less alone, more important and increases self-esteem. 

 

While embracing books within education that promote diversity, equity and inclusion it is also important to encourage our kids to see colour, culture, history, identity and acknowledge the impact it has on our lives and experiences. Encouraging an actively diverse life through books, TV, films, toys, food music and embracing curiosity, welcoming questions and having the conversations can really encourage the next generation to have a clear understanding and acceptance that every human deserves to be treated fairly and with respect no matter who they are. And imagine the possibilities in a world like that.

Supported by


We Need Diverse Books

Written by Anna Szpakowska

English Teacher, Pedagogy Leader, NQT Coordinator and Lead Teacher for Professional Learning

The outpouring of shock, disgust and despair surrounding the murder of George Floyd this year rightly drew our attention to the discrimination suffered by so many on a daily basis. It also drew our attention to the institutional racism pervasive in much of our society. This heightened social awareness led to discussions of diversity in education, with calls for the history curriculum to include black British history and many English teachers sharing their recommended diverse reading lists or schemes of work online. In fact, some young people started a petition to ask the government to include The Good Immigrant and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race  on the GCSE English Literature specification.

It was heartening to see so many educators impassioned to provide an education to young people which directly tackled issues of discrimination; it’s wonderful to work for a profession that not only wants to provide young people with knowledge and skills but also wants to make the world a better and more just place. 

This is not the first time something like this has happened. In fact, in 2019, Edexcel were forced to add more texts from black, Asian and other minority ethnic writers to their GCSE Literature specification, after complaints about there being ‘too many dead white men’ on the reading list. This decision whilst perhaps well-intentioned, was met with disappointment from educators suggesting that the choices of texts, added by Edexcel, were not challenging enough. And, as Diane Leedham pointed out ‘As with all the exam boards in 2014, it’s clear that the people choosing the set texts that they frame as ‘diverse’ don’t have much knowledge of diaspora literature’

Nevertheless, according to statistics from 2019, only 12.6% of students sitting an English Literature GCSE in 2019, sat the Edexcel qualification. In fact, the largest percentage (85%) of pupils sitting an English Literature GCSE in 2019 sat the AQA qualification. And figures from the AQA Examiner’s Report in 2019 show that of the most popular texts studied by all centres completing the AQA English Literature GCSE, all of the authors were white men, very few of the characters were women and none of the characters were black or Asian. The dilemma for educators then, is not only are the exam boards not providing enough suitable texts to truly reflect the experiences of most of us in society, but that the majority of schools themselves continue to choose to teach texts written by dead white men. 

As teachers of English literature, we are the gatekeepers of books and literature accessed by many young people. It is, therefore, our moral obligation to expose young people to a wide variety of texts that provide them with a range of experiences, voices and characters. As Botelho and Rudman explain (expanding on Sims-Bishop’s metaphor of windows, mirrors and doors): 

‘Children need to see themselves reflected so as to affirm who they and their communities are. They also require windows through which they may view a variety of differences…. Literature can become a conduit- a door- to engage in social practices that function for social justice’

Where are all the women?

For the purposes of this post, I will focus my thoughts on female writers, characters and issues of sexism and misogyny. That is not to say that I place more value on the inclusion of female writers and characters than I do on black authors and characters, gay authors and characters or authors and characters with disabilities, for example. I just feel that as a woman, I am best placed to discuss the issue of women in literature. 

So, why then, in 2020, do we have to have a discussion about young people accessing texts written by and about women? And, why is it so important anyway? Aren’t women equal after all? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no. Despite the equal pay act being introduced fifty years ago this year, the UK’s gender pay gap is still 17.3% with the World Economic Forum reporting that it will take 202 years to close this gap. As well as this, statistics gathered from 2019, show that the number of women and girls murdered in 2019 rose by 10% on the previous year, to take it to the highest figure since 2006. It’s clear there’s much more work to be done before we can claim our equality. 

With no shortage of female authors writing about the female experience, why do we continue to choose to teach texts written by and about men? The myth of the superiority of the ‘great’ English literary canon has a lot to answer for but what worries me a great deal is that teachers continue to buy into this myth. By continuing to teach these texts – and more often than not, attempting to mirror the GCSE curriculum at Key Stage 3 too – we perpetuate the notion that one voice (the white male) is superior to everyone else’s. 

And, yes, it’s true that children may be reading plenty of texts by women and about women in their own time. But, when they haven’t been taught the critical skills to unpick the sometimes-sexist depiction of female characters, I fear that we are at risk of inculcating a generation of young people with sexist ideals. 

Both young women and young men need to see a variety of female characters. They need to be able to discuss issues of sexism. It’s not our job to police what they read and discourage them from reading books such  Louise Rennison’s Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging because, as Kimberley Reynolds explains it depicts female characters who are ‘only interested in friends, fashion and fun’. But it is our job to show young people alternatives and teach them to read critically. Characters like Starr in Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, for example show a passionate, intelligent, strong and socially responsible young woman. Or, Dana in Octavia Butler’s Kindred could provide opportunity for discussions of gender and race whilst also providing them with an insight into the Antebellum South and the science fiction genre too. For teenagers (some of whom will already be sexually active), it’s important to address the issue of sexual assault. Books like Amber Smith’s The Way I Used to Be could be helpful in achieving this. 

What’s key here is that teachers clearly have the passion, the willingness and the desire to teach a wider variety of authors and texts. I hope the passion and impetus we have garnered this year does not disappear and our calls for a more diverse reading list can be implemented. But what must also accompany these reading lists and all literacy education is critical discussions about how and why characters are presented in certain ways. 

Supported by


Thoughts and Musings on... Diversity

Written by Audrey Pantelis

What does diversity mean to you? What about cultural diversity? Often mentioned, usually at interviews where the interview panel will want you to know that you “know” about diversity. I would put diversity in the same bag as equality and equal opportunities. When I was a teacher, these words scared me. Not because I didn’t know what they meant, but because I couldn’t be sure that I was applying them to my delivery of the subjects that I was teaching. As I reflect on those early years, I know that I loved promoting difference – probably because as a black woman in a predominantly white world, I embraced difference. I have always loved any aspect of character that shows individuality in any shape or form and it may also answer why I love special educational needs pupils. I was a mainstream teacher before changing phase to SEND in 2008. I guess I thrive on the fact that despite difficulties, we can express our true selves; our true characters. Overcoming our difficulties is a strength and shows true resilience which is a value that I so admire. And we can bring this to any table we choose to come to.

I spoke at the last DiverseEd conference in Slough in January 2020 with @HeadsUp4HT and had really enjoyed the set up and the drive that came from meeting likeminded colleagues. There were a lot of groups and grass roots movements that I had not heard of before but there was something compelling about their missions and values that resonated with me. I came away from the conference pumped up and wondering how I could get more involved.

When lockdown took hold of our lives and all face-to-face meetings were on hold – I was informed me that DiverseEd would be a virtual event and asked if I would look at ‘Smashing Ceilings’. You may have heard of the ‘glass ceiling’ concept – defined as : “an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities” .  From my lens, I would go so far as to say that as black women in the work place we often have ‘concrete ceilings’ to contend with.  The main difference being that at least you can SEE through glass and aspire for more – with concrete – that’s it!! This has been my experience. I have been let down, as we all are as we aspire to leadership positions, but for me it’s been very difficult to work out whether I was the wrong fit, or just plain wrong. When you add ethnicity into the mix – we could be here for a while, trying to work it out.

Cultural diversity is a form of appreciating the differences in individuals. The differences can be based on gender, age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social status. Schools have realized the value in acquiring a diverse workforce but what is not so well promoted or encouraged is the opportunity to rise and in turn, steer the culture to embrace ALL. The stereotyping and prejudices, if unchallenged, contribute to a culture that can promote sameness and prevent the celebration of skills, abilities, and experiences.

My fellow speakers: Naomi Ward @naomi7444, Patrick Ottley-O’Connor @ottleyoconnor spoke of their approaches in how we can establish culture (see clip below). Hannah Jepson @Hannahjep also spoke in the same session (Session 3)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q7RWmbKONo

with me during Saturday’s virtual conference – #DiverseEd on Culture and Diversity – about Unconscious Bias: Recruitment and it really chimed with my own thoughts about how and why we recruit who we recruit. As a former Head of School, I was extensively involved in recruitment and always ensured that I fully considered candidates that weren’t anything like me – as Hannah stated “fit is important” – but it need not mean that I discounted potential employees that weren’t as I wanted. Like a jigsaw puzzle, we may have different shapes, but when we are placed together to make the bigger picture, no one worries about individual shapes, ONLY the bigger picture.

I believe that there is a lack of:

  • comfortable, trusted strategic relationships
  • positive strategic feedback
  • opportunities to showcase breadth of skills and experience

If we don’t increase the amount of black and minority ethnic voices seen and heard at leadership and strategic levels, then how do we expect things to change?  How do we smash those ceilings, glass or otherwise? Change means being uncomfortable – and the challenge doesn’t need to be aggressive but there needs to be clarity in the outcome with a plan and milestones to ensure that we are on the way to achieving that plan. 

I am a big believer in action and we all have agency to make things happen. We are privileged in that respect – all of us. I’ve currently got the same excitement and passion bubbling up that I felt after the DiverseEd conference in January 2020. What I am aware of, in these post #BlackLivesMatters post #Covid-19 days, is that this is a REAL opportunity for change. A chance to do things differently. For too long we have said that same things and nothing has changed. We need allies, we need authenticity, we need curriculum reviews, we need visible leadership, we need programmes that enable our up-and-coming talent to remain in education and be the leaders of tomorrow, not become disillusioned as they are under-represented or oppressed again and again! We need the systems that already exist to be challenged to enable that change to take place. Yes – the conversations will be uncomfortable – but no one needs to get hurt! Let us LEARN from one another.

And….. my biggest take away from my session and indeed the conference itself, is that I would welcome a genuine level playing field.   Merit is the only currency that we should be utilising to enable us to progress.   Remember – “its difficult to be what you cannot see”.   

I have focused on diversity from my own lens but the beauty of #DiversityEd conferences is the inclusion of LGBT, disability, gender, allyship viewpoints, as well as ethnic minorities. It’s such an important conversation – and in the current climate we MUST keep talking; and turning our words into actions. #MyDiversityEdPledge is: to use my voice to lead from where I am and to support others so that they can challenge their understanding of diversity and Black perspectives. What’s yours?

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences”.

Audre Lorde

Supported by


Diversity and inclusion - why are they not easy bedfellows?

Written by Amanda Gummer

20 years experience working with children and families

Two very hot topics at the moment but the approaches to increase diversity and improve inclusion can seem to conflict with each other, preventing either of them from being fully achieved. In order to achieve true diversity and inclusion we need to rethink some of the accepted wisdom.

When we talk about inclusion, we are often referring to disabilities and making sure children with additional needs are able to access the play or developmental opportunities that other children can. Similarly, when we talk about diversity, we’re usually talking about race, and occasionally gender. However, to truly be inclusive and diverse, we need to look outside of physical, and even mental conditions, and consider factors such as culture, geography, socio-economic status, and age. Only then can we achieve full inclusion and by breaking down those barriers we will automatically increase diversity. First, it is helpful to look at the evolution in our approach to inclusion. The same diagram can be used for diversity.

However, not everyone is on the same journey or going at the same speed on this. For example, many playgrounds were commissioned decades ago when the concept of inclusion wasn’t a priority – at best, there was a single, wheel-chair accessible piece of equipment – very little consideration was given to other disabilities and conditions which impact a child’s ability to play.

The toy industry has been stuck using the segregation approach for years – toys designed for children with additional needs are not readily available in mass-market toy shops or supermarkets and so are not able to benefit from the economies of scale of the most popular toy brands and are therefore more expensive and seen as very niche.

Clearly segregation is where the diversity movement started. Integration wasn’t much better for increasing racial tolerance and appreciating individual differences, but I think that the biggest backwards step was when, possibly with the best of intentions, we moved towards homogenisation. The principle being that if not everyone could have something, no one should. So everything became bland – we introduced a national curriculum which meant that children in a vibrant inner city school couldn’t make the most of the opportunities in their community because the kids in the rural village school didn’t have the same access, and children living in the countryside with access to lots of space and natural resources were not able to make the most of that in their education because it wasn’t accessible to the kids in the inner cities. Examples of this one-size-fits-all approach can be seen in lots of walks of life – from the rise in chain stores and the loss of individual towns’ personalities, to pre-packaging of food, fast fashion – the list goes on.

The result? An education system that is inflexible with very narrow definitions of success, playgrounds that are vandalised and misused because they’re not inclusive enough (not enough children are using them for them to be seen as a community asset and protected by the people in those communities), High Fat Salt and Sugar packaged foods, and a loss of character on our high streets. This all contributes to a lack of understanding and appreciation of individual differences and differing needs. And it is time for that to change.

I’m focussing on toys and play as that’s what I know but I’m fairly certain this is relevant in a lot of other arenas. We need to take some bold steps and recognise that true inclusion comes from appreciating children’s differences – and this naturally leads to more diversity. By considering all of the potential barriers to inclusion and working to remove them we are automatically increasing diversity. A playground that includes challenging risky play will not only appeal to children with ADHD but will also be used by older children and maybe those who can’t afford to go to the theme parks but crave a bit of an adrenaline rush. Understanding the dress codes of different cultures allows equipment to be included that doesn’t require climbing or leg lifting and  is accessible to children in those clothes, as well as children on crutches.

So what’s to be done. Well first of all we need to get rid of the tokenism or ‘inclusion theatre’ all the things that look good and seem like they are promoting inclusion but are not based on any evidence and in the worst cases may actually be impeding inclusivity. To be truly inclusive and increase diversity, we need to take an evidence-based approach and include consultation with all stakeholders – whether that’s in town planning, toy design, playground procurement or shop layouts.

We also need to realise that a single product/brand/service can’t be all things to all people but should be accessible and relatable to by the people it’s designed for. A toy can not be multisensory and stimulating whilst also being quiet and relaxing. The important thing is to make sure that everyone’s needs are respected and catered for overall.

It’s really not rocket science but we need to update our approaches to both inclusion and diversity if we’re ever to really achieve either.

Amanda is a research psychologist and founder of the Good Play Guide: www.goodplayguide.com

Supported by


What does it mean for education to be diverse and inclusive?

Written by Jitse van Ameijde

Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Social Change Academy

Education is without a doubt the most transformative force in society. Education lifts people out of poverty, it opens up choices with regards to the livelihoods they can pursue, and it empowers them to challenge the status quo. But education has a diversity and inclusion problem. Like any social institution, it is rooted in its history and has evolved within a system predominantly designed by white men. This means that much of the curriculum is based on the thinking, insights and mindsets of white men who were taught by other white men who came before them. There has been some progress in addressing this and making education more inclusive.

Many educational institutions have developed policies to promote equality, diversity and widening access and success, yet statistics consistently show students from a minority ethnic background are underrepresented in many disciplines within Higher Education. There is also a significant gap in the success rates with students from ethnic minority backgrounds consistently lagging behind their white counterparts. When we look below the surface of the marketing materials provided by many educational institutions – which show diverse students smiling and having a good time – these images do not necessarily reflect the experience of learners from a diversity of backgrounds. 

As the recent surge in Black Lives Matter protests illustrates, we do not yet live in a society where everyone feels safe and included. Quite the opposite, this global movement has illustrated that large sections of our society face oppression and exclusion as part of their daily lived experience, including experiences within education. The fact that this experience has remained largely under the radar of white privilege does not make it any less real and urgent. 

Now what would it mean for education to be more diverse and inclusive, and what steps can we take to move in the right direction beyond articulating policies and providing diverse images in marketing materials?

First of all, it is essential that education explicitly addresses its own biases and blind-spots and actively works to incorporate a more diverse range of voices within the curriculum. This means including works from authors and theorists who represent under-represented groups within society because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or other relevant characteristics.

Secondly, it means making the contested nature of knowledge explicit and encouraging active debate among students about how many current perspectives and understandings are rooted in white privilege and promote insights which serve the interests of an establishment that promotes the interests of some over the interests of others.

Thirdly, it means transforming some of metaphors prevalent within educational institutions. Masculine metaphors around competition dominate within educational discourse and education is seen as a competitive battle among students for the best grades and a competitive battle for institutions to acquire the “best and brightest” students. We should instead be shifting these metaphors to something more grounded in collaboration and sustainable growth. Life doesn’t need to be seen as a competitive struggle for survival – and opportunity does not need to be presented as a cake with a limited number of slices.

Fourthly, it requires educational institutions change their recruitment, development and promotion practices so that these are effective at removing any barriers for minority applicants and staff to join and develop within an organisation. This includes using blind recruitment processes, balanced recruitment panels which include minority representation and whose members are trained in avoiding the adverse impact of unconscious bias, as well as a range of development programmes aimed at supporting minority staff to develop as part of their role.

These four steps form a starting point for addressing issues of diversity and inclusion in education, and responsibility for their implementing very much lies in the hands of the those in leadership positions in our educational institutions. However, the systemic issues cannot be addressed within our education institutions alone and require the active participation of the media, arts, literature, and other institutions in stopping the damaging stories and limiting expectations which give rise to access and success barriers in education and beyond.

Bio

Jitse van Ameijde is a social entrepreneur and founder of Social Change Academy – a social enterprise focused on the development of tomorrow’s change makers passionate to make a positive difference to the lives of others. Originally from the Netherlands, Jitse came to the UK to finish his Masters in Social and Organisational Psychology, and ended up working for the Open University where he worked on the design of distance learning experiences and taught systems thinking in practice as an Associate Lecturer. He is passionate about issues of inclusion, social justice, and equal opportunities for all regardless of their past.

Jitse van Ameijde is the founder of the Social Change Academy: https://www.socialchangeacademy.org/founder/

Share on Social Media

Supported by


Inclusive Allyship

Hannah Wilson portrait image

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Allies:

noun. a state formally cooperating with another for a military or other purpose.

verb. combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit.

Allyship:

A lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. not self-defined—work and efforts must be recognized by those you are seeking to ally with.

Why do we need to be Inclusive Allies?

We are all humans. We are all equal. We all need to check our privilege. We need to empathise with the struggle that some people go through. We need to be aware of the obstacles and the barriers in the way of some people on their journey.  We need to be aware of the impact of prejudice and discrimination.

#HeForShe and #WhiteAlly are two labels I have heard used in the last few years as the grassroots communities encourage supporters to join their movements for change.

Much like #DiverseEd aims to make connections between the different communities, we need a term to capture everyone who works with others to. At the #CollaborativeSupportForWomen event and our #DiverseEd event we have promoted the idea of Inclusive Allies:

Amy Ferguson spoke about Allyship at the Collaborative Support for Women event and the recording is here.

Patrick Ottley O’Connor spoke about Allyship at the Virtual Diverse Educators event and the recording is here.

Allyship is a process, and everyone has more to learn. Allyship involves a lot of listening. Sometimes, people say “doing ally work” or “acting in solidarity with” to reference the fact that “ally” is not an identity, it is an ongoing and lifelong process that involves a lot of work.

Inclusive Allyship is:

Men working alongside women to smash glass ceilings and advance gender equality.

White people working alongside people of colour to smash concrete ceilings and advance racial equity.

Heterosexual people working alongside Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex people to smash the gay glass ceiling.

Able-bodied people working alongside disabled people to smash the glass disability glass ceiling.

How do we support as Inclusive Allies?

Allyship is about confronting othering, ‘isms’, privilege, prejudice. Allyship is about standing up and speaking out on social justice issues.

I found a great website called Diversability which encourages us to think differently about allyship and I have lifted the below advice from The Guide to Allyship.

How to be an Inclusive Ally:

Take on the struggle as your own.

Stand up, even when you feel scared.

Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.

Acknowledge that even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.

Be willing to own your mistakes and de-centre yourself.

Understand that your education is up to you and no one else.

Being an Inclusive Ally is about white people, straight people and able-bodied people being aware of our privilege. We need to do the work, the inner work, to reflect, to learn and to grow. As an Inclusive Ally there are different roles we can take on to move the conversation and the agenda for diversity, equity and inclusion forward.

7 ways to be an Inclusive Ally:

The Sponsor

The Champion

The Amplifier

The Advocate

The Scholar

The Upstander

The Confidant

Allyship will not always be comfortable. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to check our privilege and realise that our momentary discomfort is not comparable to the long-term discomfort that people live with. Trauma and tragedy are the lived experienced for many people.

The last few months have been emotionally-charged. Our colleagues, our communities and our children who come from diverse backgrounds have potentially been deeply affected by the tragic murder of George Flood. I saw potentially as we cannot assume that everyone has experienced and responded to the most recent Black Lives Matter incident in the same way. To deepen your understanding I recommend reading this article on How to be an Ally During Times of Tragedy.

Becoming and being an Inclusive Ally requires intention, commitment and action. We need to lean in to this space, no matter how hard, how painful and how uncomfortable it is.

What do we do to be Inclusive Allies?

THE DO’S

Do be open to listening

Do be aware of your implicit biases

Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating

Do the inner work to figure out a way to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems

Do the outer work and figure out how to change the oppressive systems

Do use your privilege to amplify (digitally and in-person) historically suppressed voices

Do learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable

Do the work every day to learn how to be a better ally

THE DON’TS

Do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions

Do not participate for the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics” (you don’t need to compare how your struggle is “just as bad as” a marginalized person’s)

Do not behave as though you know best

Do not take credit for the labour of those who are marginalized and did the work before you stepped into the picture

Do not assume that every member of an under-invested community feels oppressed

For teachers and those working in education we need to consider the impact we can have in our classrooms and our schools. We need to be the change in teaching tolerance and acceptance, we need to celebrate diversity and create a sense of belonging for all identities. We need to ensure that our environments and physically and psychologically safe for everybody. We need to have the big conversations about the world to equip everybody with the knowledge, skills and values to navigate society.

There are  10 Things You Can Do to be an Ally:

Listen

Get educated

Get involved

Show up

Speak up

Intervene

Welcome discomfort

Learn from your mistakes

Stay engaged

Donate

There are some tips here on how to be a teaching tolerance ally here.

For leaders, being an ally is a journey.  Even the most inclusive leaders admit they have room to grow.  The work never stops, yet it is your choice to start, to practise, and to be better every single day. There is a training programme here you may be interested in on leading like an ally.

Following our most recent Diverse Educators conference in June we have a series of free training videos of the event available for staff CPD on the topics of Landscape, Curriculum, Culture and Leadership: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3MxxcAlAy__4H5GiygV7fA?view_as=subscriber

I have also started a series of weekly webcasts with a HR and D&I specialist called #FastForwardDiversityInclusion available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fastforwarddiversityinclusion-a-weekly-webcast-tickets-111397462810

My #DiverseEdPledge from the event is to be a better Inclusive Ally. Let’s all be upstanders for what is right, not bystanders for what is wrong.

Share on Social Media

Supported by