Speakers: Joan Hall – Education Advocate Aaliyah York – Founder of Pupil Power Marguerite Haye – SEND Consultant, NEU member Zahra Bei – Founder of NME and NEU member Alex Temple – Just for Kids Law – Exclusions Lawyer
This submission was created by No More Exclusions (NME), a UK grassroots coalition of over 140 teachers, teaching assistants, trade unionists, social workers, lawyers, youth workers, faith leaders, local councilors, journalists, academics, education researchers, SEND specialists, mental health practitioners, parent advocates, parents, and young people. More than 40 people worked together to gather the first person testimony and academic research that informs this piece, which was written collaboratively after a series of digital meetings.
NME has a race equality and an inclusion focus in education – our work is about addressing institutional racism, unconscious bias, negative stereotyping and low teachers’ expectations as well as the wider structures and practices that create the context within which school exclusions exist.
NME would like to offer a particular thanks to the Pupil Power Campaign, a youth-led organisation campaigning on educational issues, who worked tirelessly to gather many of the first person testimonies included.
We are living in times of change, where the norm has been challenged and going backwards is no longer an option. At the start of the year (2020), no one could have imagined the events that would unfold and change the lives of so many. The Black community has been at the forefront of these changes from the high numbers that been affected by the Coronavirus to the unveiling of the institutionalised racism that has dominated society. But now we are moving towards a new normal; doors have been opened for our children and young people, to find a place in the world and aspire to be whoever they desire.
Reading about the recent success of Raffia Arshad, who has become the first hijab wearing Deputy District Judge on the Midlands circuit, was an exhilarating moment! Raffia is an inspiration to Muslim women in the UK and proof that dreams can be fulfilled! Raffia worked as a Barrister for around 15 years, specialising in private law, financial remedy, forced marriage, FGM and court of protection.
All this success has not come without the hurdles of discrimination faced along the way, mostly from people’s assumptions of her position. She describes her experiences of being mistaken for a client or interpreter by the usher in court! As a Muslim educator, wearing a hijab, I have also faced similar discrimination and remember clearly an incident where a professional, assumed I was the TA and not the teacher. It was an awkward situation for everyone concerned!
Society is quick to make assumptions of Muslim women. In recent years, there has been a rise in Islamophobia with around 50% of religious hate crime being targeted at Muslims with women make up the majority of this figure! So, what does the future hold for our young people? Hopefully change! As Black educators, we are the role models to bring about this change and unlock doors that have been closed for far too long.
Our young people deserve a bright future so now is the time to raise the bar and help them fulfil their dreams. Raffia Arshad is a prime example of this change in breaking down barriers of discrimination.
Secondary and Pupil Referral Unit Recovering Teacher
NEU Waltham Forest: former Black Equality Officer & Workplace Union Representative
NEU Brent: current International Solidarity Officer
Masters in Social Justice and Education. PhD Research focus: School exclusions, ‘race’, Dis/ability, Critical Race Theory, auto-ethnography, Black Feminism, intersectionality, the school-to-prison pipeline, abolitionist teaching, the lived experience of Black excluded children.
Founder of No More Exclusions (an abolitionist grassroots coalition social justice movement with a focus on the race-disparity in school exclusions and inclusive education for all).
For the Attention of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, United Kingdom Houses of Parliament, Submitted on 1 May 2020.
BEA Decolonising Education Group
Covid-19 has highlighted and exacerbated the existing disparity caused by the narrowing of the curriculum for members of the Black Community. Resources and curriculum content produced by schools and organisations are not culturally inclusive of our history, contribution and culture.
Likewise, the disparity continues in the media’s communication and representation of black people’s contributions to the British society. According to recent statistics there were 193,000 BME staff working in the NHS. However, the contributions or the existence of this large number of people to the NHS has been ignored and never been acknowledged or highlighted during this pandemic.
National newspapers recently published photographs which failed to represent the high numbers of Black people working to save the lives of people with the corona virus. There is an extensive list of health professionals who have cared for the sick and injured e.g. Mary Seacole. Over 150 years later, without the contribution of black people the NHS would struggle to survive. Significant contributions by Black communities continue to be undervalued and underrepresented. Many of those who have died have migrated from their homes to work in Britain, some were refugees. Racial disparity must inform political policy. However, we are highly represented in the number of people dying from Covid-19. Politicians need to ensure the reasons are investigated and support put in place to alleviate the impact on Black Communities.
We want to see Black people reflected in the historical future records of Covic-19, the contributions, the lost, the support as keyworkers, as teachers, NHS workers-doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers.
Black coronavirus patients are dying at double the rate of white people in hospitals. We call on the government to urgently speed up a review into who is most at risk from the coronavirus. Over 20,732 people have died to date (April 2020). Black people make up 3.4% of the population, but 6.4% of deaths. Out of the 3,883 patients in critical care, 30% were BAME. Of the nurses who have died, BAME make up 71%. (Pricilla Robinson, Human Rights Barrister, April 2020).
We urge the government to urgently conduct a full independent public inquiry into the disproportionate Covid-19 deaths of Black and minority ethnic citizens.
We further recommend the government put ethnicity on death certificates, so we have a more accurate number of Black and minority ethnic people that have died. Hospitals need to be required to record ethnicity. The review needs to be swift and not just touch the surface. All racial inequalities and social-economic disparities must be addressed immediately.
To date there has been no data on deaths in the prison population and in care-homes. Note needs to be taken of the effect of Covid-19 on prisons where Black men are overrepresented.
Finally, the government need to look at the impact on small businesses as Black women make up a high proportion of the labour in these shops.
BEA Exclusions Group
We are not all in this together – COVID-19 is not a great leveller.
Fortitude and a Churchillian approach ignores the circumstances faced by Black and economically disadvantaged minoritized communities. Lockdown is not a time of reflection for these communities as they face great hardship and a struggle for survival.
The educational impact of COVID-19 is multifaceted and includes the exacerbation of existing structural barriers that limit Black pupils’ achievement, progress, inclusion, representation, voice, well-being and equal access to education. The digital divide has created a huge barrier to these rights as the inability of disadvantaged and marginalised families to access basic IT equipment and reliable internet access and been heavily exacerbated during this time. Excluded children have become the forgotten group in terms of home learning – creating an even larger disadvantaged gap.
The approach to home learning and concern for the well-being of these young people requires more inclusivity. The recent announcement of up to £3 million package to support the so-called “digitally excluded” learners during the coronavirus pandemic is not universally applied and thus not fit for purpose. It will contribute to the attainment gap that is already in place as a result of 10 years of austerity policies that have hit women and equality groups the hardest.
Recent media reports only those identified as ‘disadvantaged’ in year 10 or having a social worker. What about the remainder of the pupils?
We have grave concerns regarding the proposals for awarding students final grades for Summer 2020 exams as very little has been done to counter the existence of unconscious prejudices that affect Black Caribbean pupils and those from poorer backgrounds.
Research continues to show that among a teaching population that is 86% White, black and disadvantaged students continue to suffer the soft bigotry of low expectations in the form of under-predictions that often have lasting effects on their future possibilities.
We are equally concerned with the arrangements made for the appeal process for parents and carers since they will essentially not be allowed to challenge the grades.
Continue to ensure provision of free access to digital learning – laptops, broadband, and training – to ALL children and families as well as paper-based resources without an expectation that learning from home can or should ever replace learning in school.
Listen to the recommendations of Black educators, Black parents and race equality organisations on teacher assessment and unconscious bias to ensure no child is disadvantaged by the decisions made in the Summer of 2020.
Issue Local Authority additional powers to ensure schools are able to adhere to their statutory obligation in providing delivery of National Curriculum subjects to all pupils whilst in lockdown and hold to account those that are failing to do so.
Below is a selection of books by Global Majority Writers chosen by educators at the NEU Decolonising the CurriculumConference in December 2019
Participants who attended a workshop entitled “How to make the English Secondary Curriculum more relevant for the communities we seek to serve “ were asked to list texts written by Global Majority writers that they have used within the Curriculum from Key stage 2 to Key Stage 4.
Our aim was to challenge and widen the resources available to English teachers within the reformed curriculum.
It is April 30th, and the government has reported that there have been 26,711 COVID-19 related deaths across the United Kingdom to date. We are all worried about the recent pandemic and the potential long-term effects on our communities. As Black educators we have become increasingly concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on black communities. We are worried by the high level of deaths amongst BAME staff in the NHS and the wider community.
Reassurances from Gavin Williamson, the government’s Education Secretary, that he is equally concerned about whether black and minority ethnic school staff may be at a higher risk, do little to assuage our worries. With increasing calls for schools to be reopened, many of us wonder whether Education will become the new frontline, in the absence of any clear strategy for the protection of staff and children post lockdown.
These are just a few of the things that we know for sure.
COVID-19 has only further highlighted the differences and inequalities that exist within education that we knew existed prior to this pandemic.
Black educators in schools found themselves disproportionately being told to come into school to supervise the children of key workers.
The move to online teaching has further colonised a curriculum that we have struggled for many years to “decolonise “
Many black supply teachers found their contracts speedily terminated after lockdown
Black students will be negatively affected by the revised arrangements for the awarding of 2020 GCSE and A level grades.
So, what next? As Black educators, at this time perhaps more than at any other time in our history, we need to know how to reach our communities. We need to re-engage and strengthen our links within those communities. As educators we need to stay in touch with our parents and ask them, where we can , if there is anything we can do to help them through these ‘unprecedented times’.
If there is a sprint towards austerity at the end of this pandemic, we need to be clear about what our response will be to ensure we can safeguard a fully inclusive education system that reflects all of the communities it seeks to serve.
I live in the City of Leicester, one of the most diverse cities in the UK. In 2017, in the area that I live, a Muslim woman was deliberately rammed by a car twice as she returned home from dropping her children to school. We know that race and faith related abuse against black children reached a 3 year high in 2019. These are not isolated cases. Unfortunately, and far too often the positive experiences of black girls and black women are ignored, or (excuse the pun), ‘pale’ in comparison to the experiences of their white counterparts.
We know that in the media black women and girls are pilloried and disrespected any time that they challenge racism in society. Consider how BBC news presenter Naga Munchetty was treated for calling out the racist opinions Trump has repeatedly expressed. Think about the ways in which Diane Abbott MP is vilified in press, public opinion and by some within her own party.
As trade unionists, we should live by our common belief that an injustice to one is an injustice to all. All evidence proves without any doubt there were Africans in Britain long before the idea of ‘England’, or the ‘English’ came here. But you wouldn’t think so, if you look at the National Curriculum, and in particular the English Curriculum.
After many years of a right-wing focus on narrowing the curriculum that continues to only serve the interests of an academic elite, the time has come to disrupt this attack. Our education system claims to be fit for its purpose of preparing all students for future engagement in the 21st century world, at the time of writing, only one exam board has black writers as an option for closer study in GCSE English Literature.
We need to challenge the narrative that tells us that only a curriculum that is male dominated, heteronormative and Eurocentric is the only curriculum, and only resources that we should teach. It is time enough for this to stop. We must be the change we seek – in our actions, in our campaigning, and in our words. Through the direct advocacy and activism of Black educations, the NEU has over the last few years begun to engage with this discourse.
The union has circulated an anti-racist charter for schools to adopt. Information and resources celebrating black women are available to every school. In December 2019, union held its first ” Decolonising the Curriculum” conference, attended by hundreds of educators, activists and allies from all over the country. I led a workshop developing schemes of work for English teachers to better reflect the contribution of black writers and the black experience.
Black educators continue to be at the forefront of a movement that demands all educators ensure that our young women feel valued in a context that is becoming even more racialized, and where the concept of otherness scars the lives of hundreds of thousands who are made to feel that their lives don’t matter. We must embody the change we seek.
City Of Leicester NEU: Past President , Equal Opportunities Officer
I have been teaching in the statutory and non statutory education sector for nearly thirty years, working at all levels from Classroom teacher to Deputy Headteacher in secondary and primary phases. I am an active trade unionist and one of the founder members of Leicester Black Teachers Network. I was voted East Midlands NEU Officer of the Year for 2018- 2019.
I still believe that a good education that has a global knowledge base as its foundation – should be available to all children Our Schools should truly reflect the communities they serve. I have five grown up children and one grandson.
Devon NEU: Past President, Black Educators Officer, International Solidarity Officer
I’m an experienced teacher, senior leader and advisory teacher, and have worked across the education sector in the United Kingdom.
Since 2019, I’ve been researching at the University of Exeter, exploring the implications for rural and largely mono-ethnic secondary schools, of teachers engaging in collaborative evaluations with ‘Black British’ diaspora and cultural communties of dialogic teaching and learning resources.
I write extensively about education, with focus on equitable and inclusive education, Black’ cultural communties, and culturally sustaining dialogic pedagogies in blogs, articles, journals and books.
I live in rural Devon with my wife and two daughters. I tweet at @malcolmrichards