Coaching & Leadership Development
Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

This blog comes from NLE and Headteacher of Brookside Academy, Brian Walton (@Oldprimaryhead1) I sit at my school desk reading an email from a former student… I am writing to you today, following the recent death of George Floyd, an African American man who was murdered at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota on the 25th of May 2020. For the first time in my existence, I have found a confidence within me to address the distressing issues that I have felt, and am still feeling as a person of colour, due to the triggering exposure that George Floyd’s death has created within the media.   I pause… wondering where this letter will take me, immediately feeling out of my depth. Though I have had a blessed career working in diverse communities such as Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets and Easton in Central Bristol and I have been a trustee for charities such as Think Global and Young Citizens which schooled me through first hand experience in fighting for justice and advocacy… I realise I am not comfortable discussing race with people of colour. It is not something I do… ever. What I do not realise, as I begin reading these emails, is what a profound impact having this conversation would have on me. When it came to my race, I was unsure as to who I could turn to when I was upset at school. All my friends were white, all my teachers were white, all my dinner ladies were white, so as a child, I felt my racial experiences couldn’t be discussed on a...
Racial Literacy: What does it mean?

Racial Literacy: What does it mean?

This blog comes from educator at The Black Curriculum and Head of Equality, Inclusion and Culture at the British Medical Association, Aishnine Benjamin (@aishnine). What is your first memory of racial difference? Mine is when I was 5 years old. My family had recently moved to Brighton from a small town in Surrey, and I was the only black child in my school. Some of the other children called me names (like ‘poo face’). I cried a lot. I was very sensitive. What is your first memory of racial difference? The diversity of responses always fascinates me. I am amazed at how different people’s experiences of ‘race’ are. It ranges from white people who went to multi-cultural schools. Who, are very racially aware and confident in the language they use and their knowledge of cultural difference. To white people, who didn’t encounter racial difference until they interacted with people from different cultures in university or their first city-based jobs. To black Africans, who also didn’t experience the concept of ‘race’ until they moved to the UK and were othered for the first time, no longer in a black majority. What Is Race?   Literacy is defined as knowledge or skills in a specific area. The legal definition of race as defined by the Equality Act 2010, can mean your colour or your nationality (including your citizenship). It can also mean your ethnic or national origins, which may not be the same as your current nationality. That sounds simple, but it’s not really. Firstly, because all these things are not the same. Nationality is completely different to ethnic origin, and colour is...
3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

I recently wrote an article for the TES to mark the 12 month anniversary of the death of George Floyd. If you’d read my original article on the TES website, please click here   After George Floyd was murdered on 25 May 2020, a colleague said to me that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. I felt the same. Throughout my teaching career, I have witnessed myriad manifestations of racism and a plethora of race equality and social justice initiatives.   Yet, despite the good intentions behind these, the single narrative of colonialism and empire still dominated our classrooms, along with deficit models for addressing the underachievement of pupils from racially marginalised groups. But over the past 12 months, I have felt a growing sense of hope.   I’ve seen that when attempts were made to silence those talking about the institutionalised racism here in the UK, people refused to acquiesce. Collective voices for social justice, equality and equity have continued to speak truth to power.   And I am hopeful because, after 30-plus years in education, things feel different. Schools that I have engaged with as part of our Race, Identity and School Leadership Programme are now recognising that new race equality narratives cannot be written overnight.   They are recognising that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong commitment, one that has as much to do with decolonising their own minds as it has to do with decolonising the curriculum.   The legacy of George Floyd: the need to tackle racism in schools   This gives me hope for the future. At long last, teachers and school leaders are beginning to see that, within...
Race, Identity and School Leadership – Podcast

Race, Identity and School Leadership – Podcast

  “This is about educating all of our children to take their rightful place in society. It really is about equipping every school leader, no matter the shade or colour of their skin, to really engage with this conversation and to do the right “inner work” so they can do the right “outer work” and make a change. ”   In this podcast, I spoke with Caroline Doherty from the Key for School Leaders and Colette Morris, Headteacher at Christ Church Primary School around our Race, Identity and School Leadership programme.   Colette and her staff at Christ Church Primary School have been working with us to explore their own racial identities, bring about long-lasting change and impact whole school leadership, learning, policy and practice with regards to race equality.   As part of this discussion, we explored:   – The history of work that has been going on in schools regarding race and how this conversation is now starting to broaden out and involve more schools   – The importance of understanding your own racial identity and how you view the world before rushing to antiracist “action”   – Why school leaders and their staff should become experts in the racial context of their schools and should seek to understand the conversations that take place both in school and outside school about race   – The need for teachers to understand and be comfortable in their own identities before they talk about race with pupils   – How Colette has taken a whole school approach to addressing race and identity, and established specific “lines of enquiry” to work on   –...
What Anti-Racist Headteachers do Differently

What Anti-Racist Headteachers do Differently

This blog comes from Professor in Education Leadership and the director of the Endeavor Antiracist & Restorative Leadership Initiative at  Columbia University, Mark Anthony Gooden.   What does anti-racist school leadership look like? And why would you, a Headteacher, want to pursue it?   These are questions at the heart of my long time work with school leaders. An anti-racist Headteacher commits to seeing how race is used to isolate, disadvantage, and make power inaccessible to Black people and other people of colour in schools.   An anti-racist Headteacher is alert to unequal outcomes since he or she knows that race or culture neutral policies are not enough to level opportunities across racial, cultural, and linguistic groups. An anti-racist school leader’s work must rest upon a strong moral foundation.   These are difficult times, yes. But in the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “The time is always right to do what is right.” With that perspective, the anti-racist Headteacher works to dismantle racism in schools.   He or she supports and shares power with her staff, youths, and families, especially people who have been deemed “minorities.” In those ways, he or she strengthens a sense of belonging and encourages contributions from across her staff, helping to make the school a place of both equity and excellence.   To have impact as an anti-racist school leader, a Headteacher must abandon the idea of merely being good and start doing good. It’s not enough to say (or think): “I am a good person because I don’t speak those nasty racial epithets like a 1960s bigot.” I call this kind of a position “non-racist” leadership.   It’s...
Race in Schools – Why Being a White Ally isn’t Enough

Race in Schools – Why Being a White Ally isn’t Enough

  This blog comes from racial equity consultant, trainer and founder of MA Education Consultancy, Dr Muna Abdi.   What I have found over the last few months; in the wake of the George Floyd murder and BLM campaigns, is a surge in organisations wanting to ‘have the conversation’, about allyship.   There seems to be a willingness now to ‘hear out’ black people’s experiences and ‘do better’ to support them, and this is great, but it is only a fraction of the work that needs to be done.   For structural and systemic change to happen, white colleagues and institutional leads need to carry the burden of racism. They need to openly and honestly unpack what it means to be white, to have white privilege, to work within a system of whiteness. For white people to truly do antiracist work and to be effective allies, they have to look at their own encounters with the system.   Racism is not a black problem, but more often than not it is PoC who carry the burden of both enduring systems of oppression and trying to educate those that actively benefit from these systems.  Antiracism work cannot and should not be the sole responsibility of PoC, this work requires active allies to work in solidarity with us and to carry this burden of responsibility. A black person should not have to tell you of your own privileges.   Allyship is a lifelong process and a commitment to building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability. It is not self-defined work and efforts must be recognised by those you are seeking to ally...