Anti Racist Schools: Transforming Education

More than forty primary and secondary schools are working with us towards being anti-racist schools. An anti-racist school doesn’t mean a school where racism doesn’t happen (though one day that would be incredible) it means a school that recognises racism in all its forms, it means a school that teaches more than just a White perspective throughout its curriculum, a school that celebrates our history but doesn’t glorify or hide its past, a school that is no longer awkward when it comes to talking about race.

Each of the forty-seven schools have appointed an anti-racist ambassador, and these ambassadors met every six weeks or so in smaller group sessions facilitated by our Anti Racist Cumbria education experts. Together they unpicked situations that had arisen, shared resources, best practice and challenges and worked through the Anti Racist Audit, which is a tool that allows schools to honestly address where racism may be playing its subtle hand in their school. It encourages questioning in the following key areas

LEADERSHIP | TEACHING & LEARNING | POWER & VOICE

WELLBEING & BELONGING | CULTURE & COMMUNITY

The audit asks questions such as;

Do subjects include the positive contributions of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority people through history and in contemporary society?

Do pupils feel safe to express their cultural identities. Do pupils feel like insiders or outsiders? How would you know?

Are there clear and visible guidelines in your school/college for parents to report and record instances of racism, racial harassment or victimisation? Do parents feel confident to report concerns?

The Audit doesn’t have all the answers but creates a starting point for schools to begin to find answers for questions like these (and many more). It is a springboard for conversation and growth. The Anti Racist Audits were handed to us in May 2021, but that isn’t the end. The results from the Audit and workshops sessions, feedback from ambassadors and heads are now being evaluated by us before feeding back to each school individually and using the results gathered to hone the next steps of our Transforming Education programme.

Many schools in Cumbria don’t have any Black, Brown or Minoritised pupils however that is changing rapidly and regardless of colour, all children benefit from anti-racism. A young White person here could quite feasibly not meet a Black or Brown person until later life, or have only fleeting encounters. How important it is then that they are encouraged and educated to acknowledge and respect Black and Brown people’s contribution to society and indeed Cumbria itself. In recent years much has been done to break down damaging gender stereotypes, yet our wonderful young people could go through school without reading a single book with a Black or Brown hero or heroine, or only learn about Black and Brown people in the context of colonialism, slavery and Windrush. We know our history is a richer and more interwoven one than that. An anti-racist education opens minds, builds confidence and encourages all children to be the best they can be and to genuinely have respect for and understanding of our differences.

What impact are we having?

The teachers and schools working with us have already recognised a number of concerns but now feel better equipped to deal with them. The awkward conversations are becoming…conversations.

‘The work of Anti-Racist Cumbria challenges schools to consider their curriculum, language and culture. While not an easy journey for a school to take, this is both timely and essential as the current generation of children in our schools needs to be fully equipped and fully informed to help shape a better world for all’.  – Cumbrian Primary School Headteacher