Rachel Clarke portrait

Written by Rachel Clarke

Working with many leaders to improve schools, Rachel is a "passionate, dedicated and inspirational educator, who strives for success with students and educators".

The absence of any acknowledgement of the existence of institutional racism in the UK education system, is a sad indictment of these times. In the context of George Floyd’s trial, the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan and the glaring difference in response to Sarah Everard’s murder compared to Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman’s, much of the nation has been discussing race and the existence of racism. It felt as if education was slowly waking up to the systemic racism that exists within it. To then hear the outcome of this report, feels as though the conversation is firmly ‘off’ the agenda now. 

The meritocratic framing of how well ethnic minorities achieve, makes no reference that where this is true, this is in spite of the racism that exists, not because it doesn’t exist at all. The ‘well if you have families with high aspirations, children will achieve’ sentiment is firstly not comprehensive enough and secondly, echoes the long held belief that it’s the fault of the individual and no responsibility needs to be taken by the institution to ensure all children achieve their potential.

Then we have those who are of Black Caribbean heritage, who appear to have outcomes that start off quite strong (68%) at the end of EYFS, then plummet to 26% at GCSE. The high exclusions are referenced, as is the need for more ‘diversity’ training to be on ITT programmes. However the report fails to unpick the link between individual racism, institutional racism and structural racism that exists that facilitates these statistics. The silence on this is shameful. Yes, wider factors do affect outcomes of children and young people but it is no coincidence that the group whose ethnicity is still framed around negative 17th century hierarchies of race, are the ones being over-represented in negative statistics. 

With a workforce of approximately 90% from a White British background, our education system has a duty to ensure that biased views/opinions aren’t given the opportunity to thrive, but are deliberately challenged, so all children achieve their potential. Racism is not just a one off act of violence/aggression but more often, is the drip, drip, drip effect of racial action over time that has to be explored as being central to these poor outcomes.

Despite the report stating that “if there is racial bias within schools or the teaching profession, it has limited effect …”, it is clear that we have to change our approach if we genuinely have a desire to have an education system that meets the needs of all. Now is the time to educate the educators to start the hard work of challenging racism.