More anti-racist learning wanted due to underachievement of black Caribbean pupils
July 10, 2020
A drive to decolonise the curriculum and replace it with ‘anti-racist’ learning is underway in Ealing.
In a meeting between education union representatives and Ealing Council on Tuesday, June 30, the local authority’s director of learning, standards and school partnerships, Julie Lewis, also revealed a “huge amount” of work is being done to tackle the underachievement of black Caribbean students in the borough.
“We selected this issue because it is so entrenched and so significant, and because the barriers for black Caribbean children are so pervasive,” she said.
“However the learning coming out of this work, it’s very deep work, is of much wider and greater significance.”
According to national government data in 2019, black Caribbean students’ attainment was below the average for England in all subjects and at all key stages.
Ealing’s National Education Union District Secretary, Stefan Simms, said more than 300 members from across north west London branches virtually met to discuss “decolonising” the curriculum, with speakers including Brent Central MP Dawn Butler and Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq.
He said, “There is an immense amount of enthusiasm and willingness to look at the curriculum and to ensure it is far more appropriate…. [Michael] Gove insisted that the English curriculum has a lot of dead white men in it, and yet whilst those suggestions are literally very good examples, there is a wealth of other authors and poets that can be studied that would be just as good, just as relevant, and perhaps more engaging for our population.”
Mr Simms also referred to one example of progress being made by one rep who set up a WhatsApp group now with more than 100 geography teachers, academics and professors looking how to make the subject anti-racist.
He added: “With this abundance of good will looking at this, will Ealing and ELP work with the NEU in putting together a curriculum which has been decolonised and has got anti-racism threaded through all parts of the curriculum and not just having a Black History Month?”
A union rep at Twyford High School also revealed a letter had been received from 700 current and former pupils urging the school to “decolonise” the curriculum and support Black Lives Matter. He said a working group is being set up at the school for September and asked for a borough-wide initiative to begin.
Ms Lewis welcomed the steps from the unions and revealed the council is working with partners in Hackney and Brent on changing what youngsters learn in schools, including with unconscious bias and cultural competency training, and peer reviewing and interrogating the current curriculum.
She added: “What we did also find out from the secondary networks that we ran a couple of weeks ago, are very different levels of confidence, awareness and understanding about this whole agenda and there are definitely gaps in teacher training.
“There are gaps in university academic experience, there are teachers very, very well positioned to lead on this but also a huge number of teachers who have quite limited background and understanding.
“We’re very, very keen to bring everyone up to speed and continue to challenge each other.”
Councillor Charan Sharma added that inclusion cannot just be within citizenship or PHSE or politics lessons, but at “every level” of the curriculum and in schools.
She added: “It’s an uphill struggle, there’s a long way to go.”
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter