An Anti-racist Approach to Education
While our work to support schools and teachers is centred in an anti-racist approach to education, it takes a holistic and intersectional approach that recognises every young person as an individual.
of young Black people feel they are prevented from being their authentic selves at school
A systemic problem
These statistics are a snapshot from a handful of recent reports. They don’t illustrate an inner-city problem. Or a deprived area problem. Or an aspirational problem. They illustrate the systemic problems alive in the education system throughout the UK. Yet the narrative when discussing issues like this often defaults to pitting different groups of young people against each other and seeing them as individual challenges to be tackled, usually at the expense of one another.
Changing the focus
Unlike other projects, our approach is not focused on working directly with young people to build their resilience, as we don’t believe resilience should be necessary to access education. The burden of changing an inequitable system should not be the responsibility of young people. This is why we instead work directly with teachers and schools to challenge teacher perceptions of young people, and change school policies.
of young Black young think the biggest barrier to attaining success in school is teacher perceptions
of newly qualified teachers self-report a lack of confidence teaching young people from ethnic backgrounds (DfE, 2017)
Understanding the cause
There is an explicit link between teacher perceptions, pedagogy and the school environment to the current issues affecting young people that are highlighted in these statistics. Currently, the majority of decisions, actions and thinking occurring in schools is coming from a place of deficit ideology. And when this informs policy, curriculum and community engagement, it will inevitably produce inequitable outcomes for young people.
Creating the solution
We believe that continual critical self-reflection is crucial if we are going to change the whole school experience for teachers, parents and all young people. This begins with supporting teachers to recognise, understand and dismantle deficit ideology in both their practice and school policies. Only then will we be able to create a more equitable education for all young people.
We support schools to promote a practice framework that is rooted in equity. We utilise the three concepts of deficit thinking, equity literacy and democratic education to ensure this practice framework serves the whole school community.
of secondary school teachers are unsure or unaware of the existence of any policies and practices in their school related to preventing sexism
(NEU/UK Feminista, 2019)
more likely to be
permanently excluded if you are a young person in primary school eligible for free school meals (DfE, 2019)
Deficit thinking is the idea that young people from various “at risk” groups fail in school due to their own “internal deficiencies”. This could be several different factors: home life, social and economic status, gender and race. Deficit thinking plays out in many subtle and overt ways in the school environment. And it’s safe to say that it’s impacting most young people in the UK today.
Equity literacy is a commitment to cultivating knowledge and skills that enable us to recognise, respond to and redress conditions that deny young people access to education. While the solutions to redress this could be both mitigative and transformative initially, if they are only mitigative nothing will be transformed. We are currently working on an audit tool that will support schools to assess their practice and policies that will be available for download soon. Sign up now to be the first to hear about this.
more likely to be excluded if you are a dual heritage girl from a mixed white and Black Caribbean background
“Whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever learns teaches in the act of learning.”
The concept of democratic education is central to cultivating a reciprocal learning environment built on collective accountability, and ultimately what we are trying to achieve. This means that teachers, parents and the whole school community are equally contributing to the whole school experience. It’s a continual cultural exchange of understanding that rejects assumptions, is engaged in deep listening and creates possibility that extends beyond the classroom.