Coaching & Leadership Development
The Cost of Not Being Racially Literate

The Cost of Not Being Racially Literate

  The government has recently published guidance on politically impartiality in English Classrooms. For me, the guidance represents a ‘teaching by numbers’ approach to the global challenges of today.   What’s more, I believe the confusion around the guidance (that many of the unions have come out in condemnation of) rather than strengthening race equality work in schools, will actively serve to undermine it.   Education is a moral and social endeavour and for this endeavour to succeed, our young people need support to develop the critical skills that will enable them (alongside the rest of us) to shape a more just and equitable society.   One of these critical skills is racial literacy – the ability to understand, talk and explore matters of race. For centuries, our education system has valorised approaches to teacher development, and classroom pedagogy that centre on acquiring knowledge, technical skills, and expertise.   As a result, we have educators who have been ‘trained’ to seek praise and affirmation for levels of pedagogical expertise and little else. Meanwhile, learning or development that moves beyond these narrow confines, particularly in relation to race, is rarely encouraged.   Consequently, within the arena of anti-racist work and developing racial literacy, we have a vast swathe of the teaching workforce that is ill-equipped to move from expert academic to novice inquirer. And … there is a cost.   The cost of not being racially literate   Becoming racially literate requires that, as educators, we can:   – Engage with the emotional content of any conversation that has a focus on race – Welcome personal narratives and the lived...
Why White Leaders are Key to Ending Racism

Why White Leaders are Key to Ending Racism

  For decades, race equality work has predominately focused on the black experience of racism and strategies for enabling the black community to overcome huge systemic injustices and inequalities.   However, increasingly, since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, the education world has come to understand that white educators also have a role to play. The onus of responsibility for addressing racism can no longer lie solely with the black community.   If our schools are to change and if they are to become the places where our children learn to be true global citizens, then to be effective allies in the battle against racism, white educators need to be able to demonstrate agency as anti-racist practitioners and undertake their own race and identity work.   However, it is my observation that while making the mental commitment to become anti-racist, many white school leaders have absolutely no idea of what is being asked of them and the deep psychological and emotional task that awaits.   New Territory   Exploring one’s racial identity has proved to be new territory for most white educators, partly because understanding whiteness as a social construct and how it impacts efficacy, agency and the shaping of both personal and professional identities has not been a prerequisite for teacher training, the ever-growing range of NPQ qualifications or movement into senior leadership.   Unfortunately, little within the education sphere appears to be cognisant of the ‘Psychic wound of racism’. That anti-racist work has a profound psychological element that is concerned with piecing back together the fragmented parts of personal identity so that divisions within individuals...
Why Schools Must Keep Tackling Racism a Priority

Why Schools Must Keep Tackling Racism a Priority

  This story comes from Headteacher of St Marylebone C of E School, Kathryn Pugh   Our school is a really thoughtful, dynamic, exciting place to work and learn. We serve a very diverse community; we always have done.    I joined the school in 2005 as a Teacher of English.  When I joined, I thought to myself, “This school’s amazing. We have students of all different backgrounds, with so many different languages spoken. We have multi-cultural celebrations, we celebrate diversity through dance and music and many subjects and activities … ” etc.    So, when in 2020, we were confronted with the idea that actually we haven’t done enough, that we weren’t doing everything we could be doing to serve our community and be an anti-racist school, as Headteacher, proud of our diversity and service, it was a very hard pill to swallow.    Even up to a couple years ago, if somebody had said or even implied that part of the way we do things as a school was racist, I’d have recoiled in defensive horror. I wouldn’t have known where to put myself, except for probably being quite embarrassingly defensive about it.   Yet looking back now, whilst we would absolutely do our best to deal with incidents around race if and when they occurred and did lots to celebrate racial and cultural diversity – in truth, we hadn’t done any deep work to tackle racism and the tensions that may lie under the surface in our school, that were going unspoken.   A number of us (including me) had worked with Integrity Coaching before.  I...
Becoming an Anti-Racist School – A Governor’s Story

Becoming an Anti-Racist School – A Governor’s Story

This story comes from Chair of Governors of Ursuline High School, Claire Thorogood   Like many people, I felt a mix of horror and outrage at the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. But this time, it didn’t feel enough.   It really brought home to me and to many, that racism isn’t just an issue in the States, systemic racism is alive and well and thriving in the UK. I think previously the UK has always let itself off the hook by being like, “well, we’re not as racist as America, we’re a multicultural society” but the events of last year showed that racism is part and parcel of the lived experience of people of colour here.   Particularly, as I’m also a chair of governors of a large girls’ comprehensive school with large number of students of colour, the personal impact, and the extra weight of responsibility I felt was striking. It made me realise that if this has impacted so much on me as a white person, then what are the students of colour in our school feeling? If I feel that horror and outrage, what must they be feeling?’   As a school, it made us realise that we could no longer pretend that racism happens out there, but not within our school gates.   Taking a Stand   So, like other schools across the country, we decided to undertake wholesale work to try and address these issues on racial justice in our own context. As part of this, there was a review of the curriculum, uniforms, staff training and policies amongst other things....
“It Starts with You” – How to Tackle Racism in Schools

“It Starts with You” – How to Tackle Racism in Schools

  This Headteacher story comes from Headteacher of Frensham Heights School, Rick Clarke   Like most schools and organisations across the UK and beyond, myself and our school community were very much affected George Floyd’s death in 2020, the resulting Black Lives Matter movement and the whole worldwide condemnation of the events that took place.   Like many schools, the events led us to re-examine what was happening in society, what we were doing, and how we were relating to each other.   As a school, we’d always said that we absolutely don’t tolerate racism and I’d like to think that openness and transparency and generosity, are in many ways some of the defining features of our school. Yet demographically, as a school, we are overwhelmingly white, we only have a handful of students of colour and just one staff member who’s mixed race.   Looking back now, I would say we probably also hadn’t always approached race, in the most honest way, despite of our culture of openness.   But after George Floyd’s death, when the discussion about how organisations should respond become more pronounced that changed. We almost immediately started having a lot of conversations, engaging with our students and with our parents about these issues, who asked us a number of questions such as:   How’s the school going to respond? What are you going to do about this? What’s your position on race? How we began to chart a way forward   There were some calls for us to examine what we teach and why. In particular, there was a very conflicted debate around some...
Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

  This blog comes from Vice Principal and Co Founder of Mindful Equity, Aretha Banton (@Reah_banton) I don’t want to be positioned as the angry Black girl in the corner, who when she tells her truth is isolated, unheard and ignored. But, when we have discussions about race and equality with our colleagues, this is too often the reality. So, what do we do? We stop speaking, we conform and we accept the unacceptable in the hope that one day, we will make it to a level where we can influence change. Our compromise… our pact… is silence. I recently came across this tweet: ‘Calling white educators! Check out the links below… Learn something new about BAME and education. #BlackLivesMatter’. This got me thinking. Why did my fellow educators need a tweet to call them to action? Why didn’t they speak to me when they passed me in the hallway? Why didn’t they speak to me when we had lunch in the canteen or a drink in the pub? Why didn’t they speak to me when we were planning the curriculum? Why did the tweeter assume that Black educators somehow have an innate knowledge of Black history and therefore do not need to learn more? Why are we so scared of speaking to each other about race? Bold Conversations about Race Silence is a major issue. The ability to speak openly and freely is heavily tainted with fear and judgement. In order to really move forwards we need to ensure that our schools are safe places — safe for students, safe for staff, safe for governors, safe for parents. It takes a lot...