Anti-Racism in Education Programme: factsheet

Information about the Anti-Racism in Education Programme (AREP).

About the Anti-Racism in Education Programme

The Scottish Government’s Anti-Racism in Education Programme was established in 2021 to bring together all of the separate pieces of work already underway to tackle racism in Scottish education.

The programme is made up of four interrelated workstreams, each with its own working group consisting of key education and anti-racism stakeholders:

Why it is needed

All Black and minority ethnic children, young people, teachers and school staff have the right to experience an education system that is free from racism and intolerance. An anti-racist education system also creates an increased variety of perspectives for everyone within it, which we know leads to a better understanding of society itself, creating good global citizens.

Many discussions arose from the Black Lives Matter movement which came to prominence in summer 2020. Many were around Scotland’s Black and minority ethnic young people’s experience of education, as well as that of Black and minority ethnic teachers and school staff. Thousands of pieces of correspondence on the subject were received by Scottish Ministers, which outlined some shocking experiences of racism in schools. This included communications from children and young people who raised specific concerns about their experience of the education system and their desire to see a more representative approach in Scotland. The same correspondence also offered a wide range of suggested solutions to the many challenges and barriers which still exist, and part of the programme’s remit is to identify ways of taking these forward. 

We Are All Special: Newark Primary Against Racism

If everyone is treated the same, racism will end

There are clearly good intentions behind that approach. But treating everyone the same – ‘colour blindness’ – on an individual level doesn’t address the systemic and entrenched barriers which Black and minority ethnic people continue to face on a daily basis.

It is important for teachers to acknowledge the individual lived experiences of all of the pupils in their class and their families. Only in doing this can they ensure that the curriculum and teaching practices are culturally responsive and appropriate for everyone.

Meaning of the term ‘minority ethnic’ within the Anti-Racism in Education Programme

It is important to note that minority ethnic communities are not a homogeneous group, in the same way that any other group of people that share protected characteristics (eg disability, sex, sexual orientation) will not all have the same experience of discrimination. For example a Muslim woman who wears the hijab will experience racism differently to a young man from a Traveller community. Both individuals will experience discrimination and racism based on their ethnic identity but this will manifest itself differently and as such the mechanisms for addressing such inequality may need to be different.

All of our anti-racism work is predicated on the definition of race as set out in the Equality Act 2010 which includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins. For the purposes of the AREP, ‘minority ethnic’ includes anyone with a racialised identity (both visible and non-visible). ‘Racialised identity’ is a term which reflects the process of society placing people in set categories and the subsequent negative effects of that categorisation.

Reasoning behind using the terminology we have

We acknowledge that language and terminology never stop evolving. We are keen that language which most accurately reflects any given experience or situation is used and that it reflects the expectations of those with lived experience.

Concerns that the work of the AREP will disadvantage people of a majority ethnic background

An anti-racist education system, free from racism, intolerance and bias benefits all learners and educators of all ethnic identities, including the white majority. It creates an increased variety of perspectives within the education system which we know leads to a better understanding of society itself, creating good global citizens.

The recent National Discussion consultation, which brought together the views of over 38,000 individuals, highlighted a need for Scottish education to have inclusivity and a celebration of diversity at its core. Read the final report - All Learners in Scotland Matter - national discussion on education: final report

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Ensuring that the work of the AREP itself is anti-racist

Members have developed anti-racist principles, which underpin the work and approach of the AREP as a whole. These are consistent with our overarching approach to anti-racism across all policy areas. The principles are aligned with the following conventions, commitments, strategies and legislation:

Underpinning the AREP with an anti-racist approach means:

  • we recognise that there is no such thing as a race neutral policy, and that every policy or decision we make has the potential to create racial equality or inequality
  • the redesign will empower and liberate those who have been historically disadvantaged by education systems
  • the work of the AREP includes a focus on changing systems, structures, policies and practices and attitudes
  • the AREP seeks to centre the voices of minority ethnic people
  • the AREP seeks to be transparent about the processes involved with minority ethnic people
  • emphasis will be placed on children and young people of colour as learners in the Scottish education system

How people are chosen to participate in the AREP

Membership of the Programme Board and its working groups is drawn from a range of people with different lived experiences as well as educational and anti-racist expertise. Including the voices of children and young people, acknowledging them, affirming their experiences, and creating opportunities for them to have some agency in developing this work and taking action has been of importance to the programme since the outset. There is MSYP membership on a number of the groups and specific and dedicated engagement is being undertaken solely with groups of children and young people, to understand their views on the programme’s emerging ambitions. 

Embedding lived experience throughout the AREP structure ensures that the development of the programme is informed by authentic voices and unique insights, resulting in effective, race cognisant, sustainable outputs and outcomes.

How the work of the AREP fits into the wider Education Reform agenda

The AREP working groups have contributed to the recent Education Reform consultations, with that input reflected in All Learners in Scotland Matter and It's Our Future: Report of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment The reports make clear that diversity, tolerance and inclusivity must be at the heart of Scottish education’s reform ambitions.

Removal of barriers faced by LGBT and disabled teachers, and those who share other protected characteristics

The barriers faced by minority ethnic teachers are distinct and specific, as a result of entrenched and systemic racism. The vast majority of those teachers will also share other protected characteristics such as sex, sexual orientation, disability and age. The number of minority ethnic teachers facing discrimination solely on the grounds of race will be very, very small, and as a result, the work of the Anti-Racism in Education Programme is viewed through an intersectional lens.

Diversity in the teaching profession and education workforce

Explanation of the commitment to ensure that by 2030, at least 4% of Scotland’s teaching workforce will be from a minority ethnic background

According to the 2011 National Census (most recent data available) 4% of people living in Scotland identified as coming from a Black or minority ethnic background. Early analysis of the 2021 National Census data, which is beginning to emerge, indicates that the percentage will increase. In 2022, the percentage of Scotland’s teachers identifying as coming from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds was 1.8% Annual Data Report. demonstrating that Black and minority ethnic teachers are chronically underrepresented in the profession, particularly in promoted posts.

The recommendation to meet the 4% target was made by Professor Rowena Arshad in her 2018 Teaching in a Diverse Scotland report. The report is clear about the benefits to all learners of having a teaching population that reflects the communities that it serves. These include:

  • children and young people having role models that are representative of their lived experience
  • increased engagement from children and young people as they can identify more readily with teachers who share their cultural, religious or linguistic traditions
  • an increased variety of perspectives within the education system - more perspectives lead to a better understanding of society itself, reflecting and responding to the needs of all involved
  • the breakdown of stereotypes and negative misconceptions about minority groups
  • an increase in diversity of language and thought reflecting the knowledge and experience of colleagues, children and young people and families
  • breaking down barriers and ultimately creating cohesion among different ethnic groups, creating a more tolerant and fair society, free of racism

The Diversity in the Teaching Profession and Education Workforce (DITPEW) subgroup of the AREP is taking forward actions aimed at supporting the education sector to meet the 4% by 2030 target. The DITPEW’s focus is on addressing barriers to recruitment and retention, with a hope that minority ethnic teachers are not lost from the education system due to racist experiences they endure. Some work is being carried out around positive action, as a way to address recruitment and retention issues. Read detail regarding progress to date and the broader work of the DITPEW subgroup under the ‘Ongoing Ambitions and Next Steps’ section of the Diversity in the teaching profession: annual data report.

What positive action is

In Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) an employer can choose to take positive action measures under the Equality Act 2010 to help people to overcome barriers and to improve representation within their workforce. Positive action allows measures to be taken to address barriers within the system for those who share a ‘protected characteristic’ (in the case of the AREP ‘race’) in order to level the playing field.

Additional information on how an employer can lawfully utilise positive action measures can be found here - Positive action in the workplace

Education leadership and professional learning

The Building Racial Literacy Programme, and why it is needed

As part of its work programme, the AREP seeks to address the issue of racism and racial discrimination within school settings. Anecdotal evidence is clear that experiencing racism and race-related discrimination are key contributors to the decision of minority ethnic educators to leave the teaching profession or teacher training. As such building an education system that is cognisant of, and able to discuss and address race-related issues and with a workforce that is racially literate is essential.

Racial literacy provides educators with the language to acknowledge racism and begin to address it, both personally and professionally.

The Anti-Racism in Education Programme funds Education Scotland to deliver the ‘Building Racial Literacy’ programme. This is a programme that is open to individuals from across the education workforce in Scotland, regardless of previous anti-racist knowledge. It seeks to improve their racial literacy and encourages them to develop an anti-racist action plan that can then be taken into and implemented within their own setting.

Curriculum reform

Breaking the mould - Our Curriculum must be an Anti-Racist Curriculum

Pupils in Scotland Call for Change: It's Time for an Anti-Racist, Decolonised Curriculum

Is My Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk? | Beverly Daniel Tatum | TEDxStanford

Racism and racist incidents

The primary role of the Racism and Racist Incidents working group

The primary role of the working group is to develop, in collaboration with the other Anti Racism in Education Programme working groups where relevant, resources for schools to prevent and respond to racism and racist incidents, including strengthening approaches to recording and monitoring.

The group is co-chaired by Learning Directorate’s Support and Wellbeing Unit; CEMVO Scotland, and Intercultural Youth Scotland.

The focus of the actions of the Racism and Racist Incidents working group

The actions of the group focus on strengthening resources and approaches to prevent and respond to racist incidents, and developing guidance on a whole-school approach to anti-racism.

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