Curriculum Reform Subgroup - minutes: October 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 7 October 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Khadija Mohammed, Chair, University West of Scotland
  • Jovan Rao Rydder, Deputy Chair, Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS)
  • Carol Young, Deputy Director, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER)
  • Nuzhat Uthmani, Primary Teacher, Glasgow City Council
  • Munibah Ghani, Biology Teacher, Holyrood Secondary 
  • Titilayo Farukuoye, Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS)
  • Crisantos Ike, MSYP, Rutherglen
  • Hakim Din, Education and race consultant
  • Sadia Hussain-Savuk, Biology Teacher, Dollar Academy
  • Asif Chishti, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Katie Hunter, History Teacher, St Thomas of Aquin’s High 
  • Pavithra Sarma, Anti-racism consultant and Co-founder, Scottish Anti-Racism Education 
  • Theo Ogbhemhe, RME teacher, Kirkwall Grammar School
  • Matthew Sweeney, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Peter McNaughton, Association of Directors of Education (ADES) 
  • Michael Roach, Head of Education, Inverclyde Council
  • Annette Foulcer, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Stephen Green, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

MSYP support

  • Rosy Burgess, Scottish Youth Parliament 

Scottish Government Learning Directorate

  • Zarina Naseem, Curriculum Unit
  • Laura Ross, Curriculum Unit – Lead Secretariat
  • Stuart Downes, Support and Wellbeing

Education Scotland

  • Lynne Robertson, Social Studies Curriculum Senior Education Officer
  • Mélina Valdelièvre, Professional Learning and Leadership (+ Anti-Racist Educator)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Khadija welcomed all to the second meeting of the Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Curriculum Reform SubGroup and, in particular, Theo Ogbhemhe who has recently been invited to join the Group. 

Apologies were received from Frank Thompson, Lewis Hou, Daniella Faakor Damptey, Victory Ekpekurede, Fiona Nicholson, Denise Dunlop and Jacqui Nimmo.

Khadija advised that the meeting would be in two distinct parts – firstly to follow up on the discussion at the last meeting to consolidate the process aspects of how we will work introduced in the first meeting in order to ensure that everyone on the group is comfortable with the way we are operating. The second half would focus on the first priority for the SubGroup – the Curriculum Framework, and how it can evolve and adapt to meet the needs of learners, educators and communities in ensuring that race equality, anti-racism and global citizenship are embedded and established in a progressive and responsive curriculum for a diverse and fairer Scotland.

Note of meeting, terms of reference, vision, principles and language paper - updates and discussion

Jovan led the Group through the following papers:

  • note of meeting one
  • who are we, what we are doing and how will we do it/Terms of Reference
  • framing our purpose through principles and language 

Note of meeting one

The actions from the previous meeting were updated:
Action: Secretariat to update the Terms of Reference and circulate - done
Action: Secretariat to revise the vision and circulate for comment/sign off – done
Action: Chairs and Secretariat to consider the point raised about representation and follow up and feedback – the SubGroup is already large and includes considerable lived experience and expertise on race equality, anti-racism and education. It does not seek to be fully representative of all racialised groups but is committed to engaging widely to ensure that the output from the group includes meaningful community involvement. Networks already exist to support that and additional opportunities will be created. This is established as one of the principles of the SubGroup.

Who we are, what we are doing and how we will do it/terms of reference

The paper had been updated with a focus on accessibility and clarity. In response to a suggestion from a SubGroup member, it included a suggested change to the Vision to recognise the impact of the SubGroup’s work on people and communities beyond the learners and practitioners in the early years or school environment. It is suggested that ‘those that support them’ captures this given that the early years and school community is used later in the sentence.

Comments were raised about broadening the vision to include explicit reference in the curriculum to the historical influence on society and culture and the contribution of People of Colour and people with a racialised identity in a positive and empowered way in addition to content on enslavement and other human rights violations. The Vision will be updated to reflect this.

Issues and questions were raised about: accessibility for people with neurodiversity and who are differently-abled; the value in considering whether we are reflective of the change we want to see and embed in education; the privileges we all hold; recognising diversity within parents and the wider community, for example the Gaelic community and home educating groups; avoiding gendered and sexist language.

Action – update the Vision with further comments received

Framing our purpose through language and principles paper

This paper had been amended with the aim of accessibility. As outlined at the first meeting, clarity around purpose, language, principles, ways of working and what we aim to achieve over the coming months will be key and this discussion was intended to ensure that all members had an opportunity to reflect on these critical issues.

The key issue on language is the suggestion that where broad terms are required that instead of Minority Ethnic is used that we opt for People of Colour and people with a racialised identity. The consensus was that whilst this wasn’t the preferred terminology of all individuals and organisations represented on the SubGroup that there was agreement to the proposal with the aim of moving forward and not becoming ‘bogged down’ in terminology.

The key issue on principles is that all output will centre People of Colour and people with a racialised identity in its design and development, and that lived experience, the voice of young people and anti-racist expertise will be the driving force of the SubGroup. The importance of centring our approach in Critical Race Theory was raised.

Update from Scottish Government and Education Scotland

Zarina and Mélina provided brief updates as follows:

  • the process of establishing the young people’s group to inform the wider Race Equality and Antiracism in Education Programme had been met with delays but there is confidence that a group would be in place shortly. The use of the phrase ‘shadow group’ was highlighted as implying something of lesser importance. The secretariat will address this issue with colleagues and feedback
  • the Scottish Learning Festival (Education Scotland annual event for educators) included a session on the recently-published guidance on embedding anti-racism in education. The session went very well and is available to view online
  • Education Scotland are in discussion with the Scottish Council for Independent Schools to deliver input on embedding anti-racism in education for their network of independent schools
  • Education Scotland’s website containing guidance, resources, links and the curriculum mapping will shortly be available and will be discussed at the next SubGroup meeting

Action – feedback re comment on young people’s group
Action – Scottish Learning Festival session recording link to be shared with members

Curriculum framework review and reform

Papers relating to the discussion are the Curriculum Background paper and Embedding Antiracism in the Curriculum Framework a discussion paper.

Khadija thanked Lynne Robertson from Education Scotland for the Curriculum Background and Discussion Paper and invited her to present it to the Group.

Following the presentation was an opportunity for questions for Lynne and a Group discussion on whether the options for reform met with individual and collective expectations, the SubGroup vision and what else the SubGroup might wish to add as an option. Khadija emphasised that this was the first discussion on the Curriculum Framework and that we’d need further consideration to move to a position where we want to make our recommendations to the Scottish Government.

Lynne advised that Education Scotland would be happy to arrange small discussion groups to further explore the curriculum background issues for anyone that would find that helpful.

Group discussion (and follow up comment received) covered the following points:

  • welcome the options from Education Scotland and feel they attempt to address points raised in previous meetings and discussion sessions
  • the four options as a package seemed a good start but needed more work and discussion. A holistic and comprehensive approach was required
  • query over ‘compulsory’ application of any change to the curriculum framework
  • it was noted that the guidance approach can feel optional and easily ignored where it doesn’t ‘fit agendas’
  • local authorities are responsible for the provision of education in Scotland, which makes 'compulsory' an issue
  • query over whether option 4 would work for all curriculum organisers in all subjects e.g. modern languages
  • option 3 needs to be broader that the slave trade dimension of Black history with a range of content and positive contributions covered
  • agreement that the inclusion of anti-racism and the positive impact/achievements of Black People and People of Colour should be highlighted across all curricular areas, not just in social studies – need to be interdisciplinary
  • inclusion of Black People and People of Colour (eg, authors, historical figures, scientists, mathematicians, etc) should be normalised across the curriculum – there’s no reference in any of the four options about this
  • there should be broader reference to contemporary issues, and not just the slave trade / colonialism – for example, 2020 has been such an important year in terms of Black Lives Matter and the impact of Covid on BIPOC people (both medially and in terms of intersectional inequalities / social mobility / economic impact etc)
  • there was reference to existing teaching practice on African kingdoms histories and an IYS module delivered at s5 level which added external support and expertise to support school subject expertise on pre-colonial histories and enslavement with a focus on empowerment
  • content for all curricular areas in terms of acknowledging contributions of other communities to the world should be available. For instance in science acknowledging developments made by non-white scientists or communities
  • support for the idea of development of understanding in a Personal and Social Education unit so pupils understand things like microaggressions by the time they leave school
  • interaction with the ongoing wider Reform work feels critical, and provides risks and opportunities. Suggestion that the work of the SubGroup in this area feeds into wider group led by Ken Muir
  • Khadija flagged her role on Ken Muir’s group and assured that the issues were already part of these discussions
  • the secondary perspective of the Options paper was highlighted with a request that early years and primary have a similar focus. Additionally it seemed to focus on curriculum subject areas when this is about transcending the curriculum
  • where are the opportunities for progressive learning? Where do we want to go and can we work backwards?
  • what is the role of the SQA? And of other assessments?
  • the early years was highlighted as a key influencer and a specific approach is required there
  • curriculum mapping from the early years onwards setting out their contribution to anti-racism would be helpful
  • the critical interaction of curriculum content and pedagogy was emphasised
  • input from young people in Inverclyde about being on the receiving end of teaching of Black history highlighted the repercussions and potential harm of not getting this right
  • wider historical context and local connections important in curriculum design
  • desire to know more about work in the rest of the UK and beyond
  • it was reiterated that the options were currently looking at content. Clear we need an ‘across the curriculum approach’
  • some schools are already doing this – how do we capture? What did and didn’t work?
  • recommend an intermediary curriculum anti-racism audit - administered by councils, so that teachers can feel the movement emerging
  • simply providing anti-racist education information doesn't work, and many common techniques have been shown to backfire. Needs to use behavioural psychology and social research findings on anti-prejudice work effectiveness
  • the implications on teacher workload and pressure from new Experiences and Outcomes were highlighted
  • before something is fully implemented do we need a pilot approach and review?
  • this feels like more than curriculum change. Is there a need for a theory of change? System change, how best to influence, what works best, what doesn’t work?

Additional comments received on the options following the meeting:

Option 1

  • there is no specific reference to anti-racism
  • by focusing solely on ‘equalities’, is there potential here for teachers (etc) to miss the point? For example, might they choose to focus on other equalities such as gender or LGBT+?
  • is there a standard definition of ‘equalities’?
  • there is a very high risk that if there is not a specific requirement [in Es and Os, for example], teachers will avoid it / do the bare minimum, either because they don’t have confidence, knowledge, or experience (for example)

Option 2

  • support for this, but anti-racism also needs to be embedded across the curriculum

Option 3

  • the focus of this is too narrow – while the role of Scotland in the slave trade and colonialism is important, there should be a broader focus on the experiences and influences of BIPOC individuals
  • in line with the SYP motion on anti-racist education, this should be expanded to: “more accurately reflect the experiences of [BIPOC] individuals; and to ensure their historical influence on Scottish society and culture, as well as Scotland’s role in the slave trade and colonisation”
  • it is important that education reflects Scotland’s diverse population and the influence of that population. As part of learning about the slave trade, some young Black people and People of Colour have been made the subject of the same racist ideas and are often forced to represent or defend an entire culture (which may not necessarily be their own culture!)
  • Option 4: 
  • of the four options, this feels like the most holistic (but again, it should be done in conjunction with cross-curricular / interdisciplinary anti-racist education)
  • in the disadvantages section, it says teachers might not be happy about having more Es and Os. However explicit reference in the Es and Os to anti-racism and Black history would signal that something young people care about is being prioritised

Review and design group on the curriculum framework

As previously discussed, Jovan identified the need for a smaller group to hone these issues and work through the practicalities of them to create draft recommendations for further consideration by the SubGroup. The Education Scotland paper and the points made by members in discussion would be a good starting point.

The suggestion that this smaller group be largely formed from teachers and young people on the Group (that wish to/are able to contribute) alongside some specific curriculum and anti-racism expertise was agreed. Experience of delivering and receiving the Curriculum Framework would be key and additional sources of curriculum and anti-racism expertise would be identified where required, for example academics that lead on race, anti-racism and literature. Discussion will be arranged with MSYPs and Intercultural Youth Scotland on how to make this an accessible and productive space for young people’s contributions. How it works alongside the Children and Young People’s Group will be discussed and agreed at the earliest opportunity.

Action - Secretariat to follow up.

Planning for next meeting

Meeting three will focus on the resources to support the meaningful inclusion of race equality and anti-racism in the curriculum. This will be the second major strand of work we plan to discuss as a Group. Key issues for discussion will be where resources exist, where there are gaps, what the priorities would be for new resources and how to quality assure resources.

A paper will be developed for discussion at the meeting that starts to scope out what we know, and all members will be invited to contribute their experience and expertise to this. The new Education Scotland website will have been launched and will be presented for discussion.

Any other business or reflections and close

Jovan briefly summarised the key areas of the meeting and noted the transition into action-orientated work through the Curriculum Framework developments and the positive response to the options paper.

It was reiterated that it rests with all SubGroup members to effect the change, language and principles that we wish to see going forward.

The next meeting is scheduled for 18 November 2021.

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