In July, we held a Think In for the 2017 and 2018 cohorts on the topic of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in schools.
Most of the conversation, unsurprisingly, focussed on race; or more specifically race, ethnicity, language and culture.
We discussed three topics.
- What should the sector- schools, teachers, the system – do to improve EDI?
- How should we think about changes to the curriculum in the light of the BLM movement.
- What can and should Now Teach be doing.
We have written a short statement on what Now Teach is doing [link https://blog.nowteach.org.uk/post/102gb8s/our-response-to-the-black-lives-matter-movement-july-2020]. This Now Teach Take summarises the conversation about the wider sector.
- Many Now Teachers reported feeling discomforted by the observation that black children in their schools receive disproportionate numbers of detentions. People spoke powerfully of the reality, after school, of white teachers ‘policing’ rooms of black students.
- Now Teachers acknowledged feeling they often lacked historical/cultural knowledge and felt anxiety about what it is and is not OK to say around some issues of race and gender. They felt this anxiety also existed in their students and contributed to a culture of fear/judgement.
- Many teachers reported feeling wrong-footed by students claiming particular entitlements for cultural reasons (needing to pray during a trip to a museum for example). In the absence of strong school guidance they felt uncertain of the appropriate response.
- A Black Now Teacher felt confident that Black girls in her class deferred to her white colleague having made the assumption she must be a better teacher.
- Now Teachers questioned whether they judged Black children differently when they were loud – whether they might have different standards for children of different ethnicities.
- There was a wide-ranging conversation led by John Blake about the history of diversity and inclusion within curriculum generally and history teaching specifically. It is clearly not enough to have well-meaning intentions, we need to engage far more deeply in how curriculum changes feed through into sound pedagogy which
- Most Now Teachers received unconscious bias training in their former work-places. This was not the case in their schools or from their ITT providers. While there was a degree of scepticism about how successful such training is, Now Teachers were overwhelmingly in favour of both schools and ITT providers offering more. It was certainly deemed better than nothing.
- More should be done to create ‘safe spaces’ and to allow for uncomfortable conversations. People ought to be able to ask for advice and information without feeling judged.
- More must be done to recruit BAME teachers, but even more importantly more must be done to retain and support BAME, and particularly Black, teachers into positions of leadership.
- The curriculum must, of course, be reviewed, but of more importance is that the teaching which is delivered is done superbly. There has been too much weak if well-intentioned, teaching of history does not equip people for the complexity of engaging with the topics under discussion.
- There were strong calls for schools to listen more to student voices. A proposal for ‘reverse mentoring’ from the students was discussed.
- There was an acknowledgement of the need to engage parents seriously in this work: children’s opinions are more strongly influenced by their parents/carers than their teachers.
- Schools need to offer training to their staff into the particular culture of their school population. Alongside this, they need clear rules, made in consultation with that community such that teachers feel confident that whatever rules there are applicable to all.
- More should be done to talk with all students about racism: various people recommended the Channel 4 programme The school that tried to end racism.
There is so much more to discuss on this topic. In the coming months, we will publish a series of articles around EDI, written by cohort members. These will be found on the Now Teach blog. [link https://blog.nowteach.org.uk/]