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Following race relations legislation such as the Race Relations 1976 Act and the Race Relations Amendment Act of 2000, it is the duty of all staff to tackle racism. As a teacher, you have three key responsibilities:
Embracing cultural diversity
There is substantial cultural diversity in modern Britain, as in all other European societies, and this is reflected in most schools. Awareness of diversity has also increased due to the processes of globalisation that have drawn Britain into a single global economic system.
Working within multi-cultural and diverse communities raises a number of challenges, particularly for those working in education:
These questions sound highly abstract and theoretical, but in actuality, they relate to the daily work of every teacher and every school.
It might be helpful to look at six key principles put forward by Bhikhu Parekh, Chair of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain which are relevant for the curriculum and ethos of schools.
The six principles for society and schools
Source: Bhikhu Parekh, The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, 2000.
The concept of shared humanity is an essential component in education. However, it is important to recognise that every human being belongs to a tradition, a culture or a story. As a consequence, being different from others, in terms of where we belong, is a fundamental and inescapable part of being human. To be human is to be different.
No single individual is just one thing. This is vividly demonstrated by the young woman in Ken Loach’s film Ae Fond Kiss: "I am a Glaswegian, Pakistani teenage woman of Muslim descent,” she says, “ who supports Glasgow Rangers in a Catholic school…I’m a mixture and I’m proud of it.” No one individual belongs to one place, therefore divided loyalties are not uncommon.
Just as each individual is a mixture so is each group, community, culture, society or civilisation. All communities change and all are complex, with internal diversity and disagreements. Neither ‘minority’ nor ‘majority’ communities are static; they change in response to their own internal dynamics and as a result of the interactions and overlaps that they have with each other.
Britishness and belonging
Virtually all pupils currently in British schools will spend the rest of their lives in Britain. It is therefore important that they should feel that they belong here and that Britain belongs to them. In this sense ‘Britishness’ should be an important part, though not the only part, of their identity. All pupils need to be comfortable with terms such as ‘Black British’, ‘British Muslim’ and ‘English British’ and with the fact that there have always been several ways of being British. Pupils also need to feel comfortable with the fact that ‘Britishness’ is continually evolving.
A Home Office consultation exercise on citizenship in 2004 asked three key questions, which set a professional agenda for all teachers.
Ideas around identity when planning classroom curriculum
A useful approach to curriculum planning is to ask: ‘What’s the big idea?’ With regard to issues of race and culture, for example, what are the key concepts and broad generalisations we wish all pupils to meet and learn?
Teachers in an East Midlands local authority considered this question a few years ago and came up with the following six ideas: shared humanity; difference and belonging; the interconnections of local and global; achievement everywhere; conflict and justice; and race and racisms.
Human beings belong to a single race, the human race. At all times in history, and in all cultural traditions, they have had certain basic tasks, problems, aspirations and needs in common, there has been a shared humanity. Because we all have the same underlying humanity, we should all be treated fairly and have the same basic human rights.
Identity and belonging
Throughout history, across the world and within individual societies, there have been different ways of pursuing the same values and human needs; every individual belongs to a range of different groups and therefore has a range of different identities. Also, and partly as a consequence, all individuals change and develop. It is important to feel confident in one’s own identity but also to be open to change and development, sometimes be self-critical, and engage positively with other identities.
Local and global
Countries, cultures and communities are not cut off from each other. On the contrary, there has been much borrowing, mingling and mutual influence over the centuries between different countries and cultural traditions. Events and trends in one place in the modern world are frequently affected by events and trends elsewhere. It is not possible to comprehend your own community without seeing it as part of a global system, which has a range of interacting sub-systems: ecological, cultural, economic and political. There are benefits of globalisation, but also dangers and disadvantages, for example, economic dislocation and increased anxiety concerning national and personal identity.
Examples of high achievement are to be found in a wide range of cultures, societies and traditions. They are to be found in all areas of human endeavour: the arts and sciences, law and ethics, personal and family life, religion and spirituality, moral and physical courage, invention, politics and imagination.
Conflict and justice
In all societies and situations, including families, schools, villages and nations, there are disagreements and conflicts of interest. As a consequence, there is a never-ending need to construct, review and uphold rules, laws, customs and systems that all people accept as reasonable and fair.
Race and racisms
All human beings belong to the same species; there is a single human race. However, there is a widespread false belief that differences in physical appearance are significant, particularly with regard to skin colour, and that physical appearance is an indicator of entitlement to one society or another. Intertwined with prejudices regarding colour and appearance, there is prejudice based on culture and religion. Both kinds of prejudice are expressed indirectly through practices, behaviour and systems, as well as directly through language.
Closing the gap: equality of achievement and the role of the school/classroom
An essential component of promoting race equality in schools is closing the gap between the performance of certain communities and national averages, at all key stages. There is substantial evidence that individual schools can make a marked difference in tackling inequalities in attainment between different groups. Much can be done to promote equal outcomes.
Reports by Ofsted, local authorities, academic researchers and by individual teachers and headteachers evaluating their own practice show some key common factors regarding the key ingredients of success in closing this attainment gap.
In successful schools the headteacher and other senior staff are clearly committed, not only by their words but also by their actions and their practical priorities, to raising the achievement of pupils from minority communities. Amongst other things, this means that they are not colour-blind; on the contrary, they explicitly prioritise and talk about closing the achievement gap between national averages and certain communities, and take practical measures to ensure it happens.
More generally, they are 'transformational’ leaders; their qualities include empathy, openness to criticism, a degree of judicious risk-taking, enthusiasm, an aptitude for articulating a vision of how the school could be different and better, and a readiness to challenge and shape the opinions of colleagues, parents and governors.
Listening and empathy
Staff at all levels make time to listen to and learn about the feelings, perceptions, stories and concerns of the communities represented in the school and show by their words and actions that they have empathy with them. For example, they know and empathise with the conflicting pressures on many young people as they form their personal identities and futures.
Monitoring and records
Successful schools ensure that data is gathered on ethnicity, gender, special educational needs, socio-economic background, attainment in each curriculum subject, and sanctions, including permanent and fixed-term exclusions. They analyse the data to identify trends and take action to rectify whatever inequalities they find.
As many staff as possible receive training in ways of defusing and resolving conflict, including teacher/pupil conflict and pupil/pupil conflict. Behaviour management approaches are not colour-blind and should be centrally aware that for a range of reasons, including institutional racism in British society and history, young people from different backgrounds have different experiences in schools. Furthermore, pupils themselves can be trained in skills and techniques for reducing, defusing and resolving conflict.
The language of the curriculum
Pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL) quickly acquire conversational skills in English, although often their oral fluency masks difficulties with formal, academic English. It is academic English that is required for success in the national curriculum. In successful schools, the development of academic English is not left to chance and focused attention is paid by subject and class teachers, as well as by EAL specialists, to this matter involving much use of structured oral work.
All school subjects are involved in teaching ideas and concepts to do with shared humanity, difference and belonging, the interconnections of local and global, achievement, conflict and justice and race and racism. Staff should be confident that there is no contradiction between striving for high standards and striving to teach a multicultural curriculum.
Discussion and collaboration skills
In all curriculum subjects there is a focus on the teaching and practising of discussion skills: listening, talking reflectively, summarising, affirming others, taking turns, keeping to the point, using examples and anecdotes sensitively and giving a fair hearing to others and their points of view.
Working with pupils from diverse backgrounds is about taking a holistic approach to pupils; an approach which regards them as multi-faceted and complex individuals. It is about recognising the fact of ‘hidden’ or not visible ‘identities’ amongst pupils. It is also about exploring your own assumptions and attitudes, and recognising and working with the assumptions and attitudes of others, both adults and pupils, within the classroom. It is about engaging in inclusive practices within the classroom which give pupils a voice. It is about the building of a classroom or school community with a common sense of values and purpose which recognises the individual and diverse values of those within the community. It involves learning about the worlds in which your pupils live outside of school, through their own narratives and through the development of your understanding of the communities within the school area.
Your first teaching job marks an incredibly exciting time ahead but as well as excitement you may also feel apprehension.You certainly won't be alone in this. Knowing where to turn for help and advice before you start work will assist you to thrive, not just survive, in this all-important year. That’s why we’ve created this booklet for you. Not only does it include tips on things like parents’ evenings, writing reports or disciplining pupils, it also guides you through the various ways ATL can provide advice and support.