Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme - Stakeholder Network Group minutes May 2021: paper - race equality and anti-racism in the curriculum

Paper for meeting of working group on 27 May 2021.

The discussions and contributions from the stakeholder engagement sessions and associated contacts to date have been hugely valuable in providing insights and expertise into the curriculum, race equality and anti-racism in Scotland’s schools and education system.

This paper reflects commitments, activity and a direction of travel that will form the basis work to be taken forward, overseen and informed by a Curriculum Reform Subgroup. Views, challenge and alternative approaches are welcomed. This paper:

  • outlines recent Scottish Government commitments
  • suggests key areas of focus and review for this Workstream
  • highlights existing opportunities in the curriculum
  • identifies potential areas for action in curriculum reform
  • poses some questions for the Group to discuss and inform next steps

The issues, suggestions and challenges raised over the course of the stakeholder engagement sessions are captured in Annex A for reference.

It will be critical to recognise the synergies and interactions that exist between and transcend the Curriculum Reform and other workstreams, in particular in the areas of leadership and professional learning, diversity in the workforce, and the provision and value of anti-racism training.

Scottish Government commitments

In recent months, the Scottish Government have made the following commitments in relation to race equality and anti-racism in education (in its current Programme for Government and SNP manifesto for leading Scotland over the next five years):

The Black Lives Matter movement has shone a powerful spotlight on continuing racial injustice and race-based violence, and the need for countries to face their colonial history. We will fund the development of an online programme on Scotland and the UK’s colonial history throughout the world that can be delivered to schools, and we will encourage local authorities to adopt the programme in all schools. 

Taking the widely acclaimed TIE campaign as a model, we will create a new programme of anti-racist education in schools, including support for teachers’ professional development, allowing every school to access high-quality anti-racist education. To track progress, we will improve the reporting and publication of data on racist incidents in schools. 

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and one of the recommendations made by Scottish Government's COVID-19 Ethnicity Expert Group, we will engage with relevant stakeholders to better enable our children and young people to learn about Scotland's colonial and slavery history and the real need today to challenge racism, eliminate racial discrimination and advance equality.

The growing Black Lives Matter movement has shone a powerful spotlight on continuing racial injustice and race‐based violence, and the need for countries to face their colonial history. Scotland, too, needs to address its history. Partnering with Museums Galleries Scotland, in collaboration with race equality and museums sector stakeholders, we will sponsor an independent expert group to make recommendations on how Scotland’s existing and future museum collections we can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland’s colonial and slavery history and what further steps should be taken to ensure people in Scotland are aware of the role Scotland played and how that manifests itself in our society today. This will include how to reflect, interpret and celebrate the wide‐ranging and positive contributions that ethnic minority communities have made and continue to make to Scotland.

Together these represent a commitment to action on important issues and address some key asks from stakeholders. We believe that these commitments should form a part of a broader and more coherent approach to race equality and anti-racism in the curriculum which, alongside the other three workstreams, can generate synergies and ambitions that can effect meaningful and sustainable change.

Breadth of the workstream

Scotland’s Curriculum covers learning across 3-18 years which includes the early years, primary schools, secondary school – Broad General Education and secondary school - Senior Phase/qualifications.

Key areas of focus and review

  • structural change – the Curriculum framework
  • Black and Minority Ethnic history in social studies – specifically history and modern studies
  • diverse and representative global awareness and education across the curriculum
  • equalities, social justice, personal and social education – anti-racism
  • teachers’ race cognisance and access to resources and support
  • whole-school ethos/schools as anti-racist environments – leadership and practitioner knowledge and confidence

Within this workstream the focus will be the learning and teaching across the curriculum. We have identified the following associated aspects of the curriculum which should also be considered:

  • engaging and involving parents and families/the wider community/mentors and sources of support and visible leadership 
  • learner involvement and leadership – encouraging and supporting opportunities for pupils to take a key role in leading issues of race equality and anti-racism
  • careers advice and Developing the Young Workforce (linking to the Diversity in the Workforce ambitions)

Race equality and anti-racism: the curriculum reform workstream

A meaningful, responsive and effective approach to race equality and anti-racism in education will require a whole-system approach and visible leadership at all levels. Within this context, the Curriculum Reform workstream can add substance and impetus to ensure that vital learning and experiences take place from the early years onwards, and that equality and diversity is embedded within all aspects of the curriculum offering empowering and dynamic opportunities for all learners. 

Evidence from a range of sources tells us that despite legal duties, policy commitments, guidance and narratives that set out the importance of equality and diversity in education, they have not been consistently or widely successful in embedding race equality and anti-racism into the curriculum in schools across Scotland. You will have heard this at your meetings with stakeholder in January. The Curriculum Reform workstream takes its starting point from the perspective that previous and ongoing commitments to race equality and education have not been sufficiently effective, and that significant and structural change will be required to address this.

Addressing these issues is of critical importance to Black and Minority Ethnic young people to ensure that their sense of belonging is addressed and their identity and heritage is reflected in and validated by their education experience. It is equally fundamental to Global Citizenship aspirations and to growing a more diverse and integrated Scotland for the future.

Existing opportunities within the curriculum

There is a strong and responsive Curriculum framework in Scotland within which race equality and anti-racism can progress and evolve:

  • race equality and anti-racism education is most likely to feature in the Curriculum as part of social studies subjects, specifically history and modern studies, and also through Personal and Social Education, Religious and Moral Education, English Literature and Expressive Arts and through the experiences and outcomes of Health and Wellbeing and the cross-cutting Global Citizenship theme
  • the Curriculum for Excellence and its underpinning values provide a positive context for schools to incorporate issues of Black and Minority Ethnic history and anti-racism into their curriculum and into the wider ethos and life of the school. School and curriculum values seek to promote and embed inclusion, wellbeing and a sense of belonging for all learners (and their families) and teachers
  • our teachers, at all stages of their careers, demonstrate professional values and personal commitment to social justice and cultural diversity by engaging learners in real world issues. One of the values of the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct is a commitment to “the principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable policies and practices in relation to: age, disability, gender and gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion and belief and sexual orientation” 
  • the flexibility of the framework created by the Curriculum for Excellence is a valued feature of our curriculum in Scotland, whereby teachers use their professional judgement to decide what is taught in the classroom, delivering responsive and agile teaching that takes their learners’ actions, understanding and ideas into account

It is clear however that not everyone is experiencing a curriculum that is inclusive, that respects their identities and heritage and supports them to reach their potential. In some cases there are harmful effects on Black and Minority Ethnic young people where a failure to provide an equitable education experience has impacted their confidence and sense of belonging and, in some cases, physical and emotional wellbeing. It is also harmful to non-Black and Minority Ethnic students not to expose them to experiences that will allow them to understand, challenge and overcome societal prejudices – fundamental to Global Citizenship and to growing a more diverse, accepting and integrated Scotland for the future.

The current work to listen to stories and experiences, and to consider where progress has been made in addressing known issues, has led to a conclusion that current systems, structures and well-intended policies are not in themselves realising change, and that far too many Black and Minority Ethnic young people and people in the teaching profession are being failed.

The flexibility of the curriculum, valued as a strength in many aspects of our education system, in the case of race equality education can lead to the omission of Black and Minority Ethnic history and anti-racism from a young person’s education. Experiences shared have also surfaced concerns about the teaching profession’s collective and individual racial literacy and confidence to skilfully and sensitively teach these issues and impact on learning. The evidence and experiences gathered through stakeholder engagement provided clear accounts of unconscious racism within our norms and systems that need to be addressed. 

Curriculum reform – areas for action: underway and emerging

Within the Curriculum domain a range of potential areas for action have been identified, some of which are already underway, aligned with the key issues raised by stakeholders. 

A Curriculum Subgroup will be established from volunteers in the Stakeholder Network and others with an interest and contribution.

Education Scotland will shortly publish their resource, Promoting Race Equality and Anti-Racist Education: A Resource for Practitioners, created in partnership with CRER and BEMIS and with input from a range of stakeholders. It seeks to provide a comprehensive resource for practitioners that sets out the context and drivers for race equality and anti-racism in education and signpost to a range of information and sources of professional learning and development.

We recognise the need to ensure that race equality and anti-racism are built into the structure of our Curriculum and that current opportunities to address these issues are not guaranteeing that this happens. The Experiences and Outcomes that create the framework for teaching and learning in the CfE are to be reviewed and revised (where necessary), in consultation with stakeholders. Resources and professional learning opportunities linked to the Experiences and Outcomes will support the teaching of Black and Minority Ethnic history. There is a commitment to review Experiences and Outcomes and Benchmarks in relation to UNCRC and LGBTI policy, and officials in Learning Directorate and Education Scotland are developing a process to ensure we have the best chance of effecting change in a coherent way.  

Education Scotland are undertaking a curriculum mapping exercise to identify opportunities, in the classroom and across learning experiences in the wider school community, to promote race equality, identify gaps and consider what professional learning and further resources are required. Glasgow City Council are providing their expertise to help test the documents. 

For the Senior Phase, Curriculum Unit officials will work with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to review content and subject matter in National Courses  Again this will focus in particular on social studies subjects but will aim to be consistent and thorough in creating opportunities across the curriculum.  

Further work is required, in partnership with Education Scotland, race equality bodies, education-focused organisations such as The Anti-Racist Educator and The Black Curriculum, and young people to explore current resources for teachers and young people with the intention to enhance their quality, access and impact.  

Further work is planned, in partnership with Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Government Developing the Young Workforce officials, in relation to careers advice and other school coordination roles. 

We plan to explore developments and capacity-building opportunities for young people (and teachers) such as the delivery of anti-racist sessions in schools, mentoring schemes and anti-racist groups and forums for pupils that would provide further space and purpose to explore key issues and develop racial literacy and insights.

The Curriculum Unit currently funds the five Development Education Centres (DECs) in Scotland to provide resources and professional development on Learning for Sustainability for teachers. Within this, the Global Citizenship and migration theme  presents many opportunities to promote race equality. The DECs already provide anti-racism training as part of EU-funded workstreams and we are working with them to create a specific anti-racism education role into their remit with models for anti-racism training modules. 

We are working with colleagues in Culture Division to ensure that the Empire, Slavery and Scotland’s Museums: Addressing our Colonial Past programme of work, led by Museums and Galleries Scotland, is aligned to the Curriculum. The programme has an education subgroup which is meeting regularly over May and June and involves membership from this Stakeholder Network.

The Curriculum Unit will use their current programme budget lines and work with partners to introduce and embed race equality and anti-racism across programmes run by, for example, Maths Week Scotland, the historical visits for schools managed by Historic Environment Scotland and school libraries activity.

The Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Stakeholder Network Group will be asked for further actions that can enhance and amplify race equality and anti-racism in the curriculum and we will appraise and pursue suggestions as they arise. The Curriculum Subgroup will bring a paper to the Network for discussion and review at an agreed point.

Questions for group discussion

  • to what extent to these 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? (please reference the Annex for issues identified by stakeholders) 
  • are there data gaps in the Curriculum workstream plan that should be prioritised?
  • how can we meaningfully involve young people in this work over coming months?


Curriculum reform

  • embed education on the past diversity of Scotland, historic and contemporary migration and the multifaceted contributions of minority ethnic people through the introduction of a Social Studies experiences and outcomes measure that addresses Scotland’s historical role in empire, colonialism and transatlantic slavery, and the diversity of Scottish society in the past.
  • the establishment of a national museum, archive and learning centre to illuminate the history outlined above, as a vital resource for schools and the wider community (including CLD and family learning)
  • meaningful inclusion of minority ethnic voices and identities in the curriculum to create a learning environment where all students are nurtured, respected and included, as set out in the SHANARRI wellbeing indicators within GIRFEC
  • creation of mechanisms to encourage more diversity in mentors and employer engagement with schools
  • availability of further professional learning and support for teachers and school leaders around the teaching of Black history and diversity within Curriculum for Excellence
  • a whole-school approach to anti-racism to effect meaningful and sustainable change with a commitment to promote the approach and create capacity building for professionals. This approach includes a focus on the four contexts for learning, all ages 3-18, and emphasises the key role of the learning across the curriculum and of parents and learners in the wider life of the school community
  • teachers and school staff to experience exemplary values-driven leadership on creating a culture that promotes anti-racism and diversity across the curriculum to deliver responsive and relevant teaching. Teachers and school staff must be provided with support and training on how to use resources confidently and effectively
  • a range of good practice examples would be very effective in promoting more consistency and quality of teaching and learning on Black and  global history and culture, as well as recognising achievements and the positive role of Black people and other ethnic minorities across UK and Scottish history, and should be visible across curriculum learning, not just in history
  • embedding a culture and an understanding of race equality issues, led by race cognisant teachers, into teaching and learning across the curriculum.  For example, fiction being covered in English literature, pioneers and influencers being used in expressive arts, all need to be explored
  • anti-racism, separate to Black history, should be built into the curriculum with good quality resources that need to be designed to support all ages and stages, right from the early years so that race equality is addressed in a systemic way and built into the whole curriculum – it should not be ad-hoc or depend on individual teachers championing it. Young minority ethnic people should be central to the process of creating resources
  • schools should be supported to seek the involvement of people with lived experience, possibly via Third Sector Organisations, as a way of addressing some of the workforce visibility and positive role model issues highlighted
  • there should be diversity in texts and resources used across the curriculum and the SQA course work and exams
Back to top