Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme - Stakeholder Network Group minutes May 2021: paper - curriculum reform workstream - questions for discussion

Paper for meeting of working group on 27 May 2021.

Curriculum reform workstream - questions for discussion

To what extent do the proposals address the structural and operational issues identified within the curriculum? Do gaps and unmet need remain within the plan that should be highlighted in advance of the Curriculum Subgroup activity? 

The workstream should be clear about the scope of what we mean by ‘curriculum’ and the expanse of it.

Importance of a clear and holistic strategy/ vision for where we want to get to:

  • avoid piecemeal approach/ discrete policy interventions/resources - which clearly hasn’t worked before and won’t drive structural change – change must be systemic
  • importance of being open to innovative and creative thinking
  • consider adopting a unifying framework (critical race theory)
  • be clear about how progress and impact will be evaluated – strong, proactive approach to evaluation, rather than assuming we know what impact is being made

Importance of embedding anti-racist values across schools in a way that transcends individual subjects.

Need to change ethos of a school – leads to personal development/curriculum changes/positive environment. Without positive ethos difficult to implement change – approach needs more on this and how to improve ethos.

SQA position/ approach needs to be established: 

  • role to play in setting which resources are used, but could also indicate clearly which resources won’t be used
  • exam questions are not, and should be, oriented towards an anti-racist curriculum
  • SQA should consider removing prescribed set texts and instead encourage a focus on knowledge and skills. This would allow teachers the flexibility to utilise diverse texts, that are more representative of their communities as well as global issues

Need to have a clear sense of how some areas of interest (anti-racist training, for example) interact with other workstreams. Observation that museum action being taken forward elsewhere.

Need for a new set of Es and Os that address the need to develop racial literacy and race equality. These should not sit as a standalone curricular area, but instead additional outcomes should be added across all 8 existing areas. Only then will teachers and school leaders give them the focus that is required, which in turn will encourage teachers to gain more knowledge in these areas, ensuring all learners are exposed to them, no matter what their school demographic is.

On Es and Os – balancing requirements in specific subjects and the importance of values across the school.

Must be embedded across the curriculum – cannot be an opt out if it is not a diverse school community. All learners need this learning in their life experiences.

Responsiveness of the CfE is valuable – needs to actively support learning of modern and live issues that reflect structural racism and link back to history and legacy.

Are there non-negotiable aspects to be taught in relation to race equality and anti-racism? If so how do we make it so? Role of inspectorate?

Links with other workstreams are important: the curriculum needs supported by confident deliverers hence the need for high quality professional learning to support this. Practitioners need supported past the anxieties of delivering this learning – need to ‘grasp the nettle’. This is clear from the GTCS standards.

How we see the world around us. Emphasise a whole-school approach. In curricular subjects, important that it is not just about knowledge but the skills, values and attitudes that need to accompany the acquired knowledge.

Cultural change and professional capacity remains key for embedding curricular reform. Felt there is expertise in the community from which to draw on to help deliver a changed curriculum. It is a teacher’s pedagogy that is key, not the curriculum itself.  

Needs to be formally built into curriculum and planning at local and school level will follow. Will generate the resources to encourage and grow quality material and practitioner training, development and reflection will flow.

Good quality resources are key. Perspective will also be important e.g not simply a Scottish perspective but also representing those that were colonised. 

Any reform to curriculum should not be completely focused on history and contemporary experiences should also form part of any resources being developed.

Race equality and anti-racism is siloed and side-lined in secondary school if you don’t choose history and modern studies subjects. It needs to be embedded across the curriculum and made mandatory so all receive it. 

Focus on positive and dynamic contributions of Black people to Scotland’s history and to Scotland now.

Important that race is an element throughout the curriculum and doesn’t just appear at certain times of the year e.g. Black History Week, religious festivals as this risks perspective being seen as unusual or exotic/different from normal life in Scotland.

Leadership won’t work if Headteachers still see the solution as needing “tips and advice”. Leaders need to have a nuanced understanding. 

Link to professional learning and leadership – so the system knows what we mean by curriculum and its coverage.

Opportunity to change curriculum to link more fundamentally to the GTC standards – OECD Review – UNCRC work – engage more with Children and Young People.

Racial literacy is so important and how we deliver that – How to get everyone to do it? Through ITE provision (accredited programmes), Prof Learning via GTC/Ed Scot, Ed Scot endorsement of programmes and use RICs to share effective practice.  

Need to think about ways to engage and encourage teachers to choose race equality and anti-racism within the new refreshed GTC focus on social justice, as teachers can pick the standards they wish to focus on each year.

How can the Personal and Social Education review support this? anti-racism needs to be taken in to account with the status of PSE raised.

The question of balance – how do we balance the fact that we have CfE flexibility interacting with the prescriptive nature of SQA exams?  SQA have huge sway over the curriculum.   Similarly, to what extent do we support empowerment vs using the most directive parts of the curriculum to support change?

How can we better diversify our existing and new resources?  And make better use of existing opportunities and share good practice more effectively? 

Using the TIE model is welcomed – TIE resources have received positive feedback from practitioners but important to recognise distinct issues and approach for race equality and anti-racism. Good starting point but the model would require review and refinement.  

Agreement on the importance of defining curriculum (consideration of the power of the informal curriculum presented through school posters, assemblies, traditions and celebrations).

Decolonising the curriculum is not just about banning some texts (e.g. Of Mice and Men). Canon texts can still be taught, although where there is harmful language and representations, teachers need to safeguard their pupils to ensure nobody experiences racial trauma. The racial comfort of white pupils/teachers needs to stop being prioritised in classrooms. Decolonising the curriculum is about looking at the broader curriculum (e.g. collection of texts alongside Of Mice and Men), considering which perspectives are missing and valuing knowledge that is produced from the Global South, not just the West.

Looking at the entire journey of the pupil in a school can help us understand how much of the knowledge they are taught as a whole is White and Eurocentric.

Ensure robust evaluation to ensure accountability. 

Be stronger about values: concepts of ‘power and privilege’ are missing?  Needs to be framed in a deeper understanding of values.

Lots of positive activity currently happening in the STEM space and decolonising science. 

Involve young people in partnership with communities – many aspects of the system can support this – guidance, inspection etc

Personal achievement activities – need to take account of culture, diversity in the school so they are culturally sensitive and responsible

Peer-to-Peer education – could be included more strongly – space for it to happen

Need to involve communities and parental engagement in curriculum delivery. 

Are there data gaps in the Curriculum workstream plan that should be prioritised?

Collecting data around racist incidents shouldn’t be viewed negatively – we need to flip the thinking, it’s actually a positive that we’re calling it out.

General agreement that more, and more detailed, data would be helpful, paying attention to how to disaggregate it to best effect.  

Need a positive data gathering measure – qualitative – not just on data on racist incidents – to track impacts of curriculum 

How can we meaningfully involve young people in this work over coming months?

Importance of listening to young people - co-construction is key.

  • potentially speaking to current S6 pupils about their expectations and how far these have been met
  • needing to create opportunities for young people to speak
  • value of engaging with SYP and other organisations/ school bodies with a democratic mandate
  • reiteration of the importance of the shadow group to the network 
  • student-led inquiry important
  • BLM has empowered young people
  • they are keen to feel a sense of belonging in curriculum and school
  • Edinburgh City Council have an equality group made up of staff and pupils which could be used

Suggestion to develop a panel of young people, across different stages to review the changes/development of resources/training etc over a period of 12-24 months to feedback any changes required, this should be an evolving process.

Be alive to the possibility of simply mapping young people and their activity on to what we’re already doing, instead of engaging with them in their own right.

Ensure that young people aren’t being overloaded in their engagement with us.

Be clear that the aim of this is to identify solutions and ways to implement them, it is not for young people to relive trauma.  

On the issue of engaging young people who do not identify as being from an ethnic minority group: this should be done, as the onus is not on ethnic minority individuals and communities to solve these problems.  However, context is everything and if there is potential for trauma to be relived then this should be done in an appropriate setting. 

Formats: face-to-face (when restrictions allow) is good, but online enables many more people to participate. 

Young people’s voices: how can they be strengthened? Who would facilitate this and support this dynamic? Dialogue to be in the framework of anti-racism.

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