Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum

A framework to support action

Resources disclaimer
Background
The NASUWT’s position on anti-racism and decolonising the curriculum
Principles guiding the NASUWT’s approach to decolonising the curriculum
Colonisation and decolonising
Decolonising the curriculum: what and how
A whole-school approach to anti-racism and decolonising the curriculum


Background

In April 2021, the NASUWT’s national conference passed a resolution calling on the Union’s National Executive to take action to decolonise the curriculum. This included four broad actions:

  1. work with campaigners to press for inclusive curriculum frameworks and entitlements;

  2. publish materials and resources on decolonising the curriculum;

  3. lobby governments and administrations to secure inclusive curricular entitlements; and

  4. engage with teacher training providers to embed anti-racist teaching.

This framework [1] forms part of our response to that resolution and has been developed to support teachers and school leaders to decolonise the curriculum as part of anti-racist practice in their schools. It also aims to be a useful tool for NASUWT activists campaigning and bargaining for action on decolonising the curriculum and anti-racist practice. Further, it is intended to support activists to engage with all members and improve representation through our structures.

The framework is a web-based resource that includes links to resources which may help teachers and leaders take action to decolonise the curriculum as part of an anti-racist approach. We plan to add to these resources as the work is taken forward.

The NASUWT’s position on anti-racism and decolonising the curriculum

We are committed to anti-racism and to challenging the hostile racist environment that NASUWT members face. Decolonising the curriculum forms part of that work.

We recognise that both the formal and informal curriculum contribute to what is taught and learned about identities, culture, racism, prejudice and hatred, rights and respect, and equality of opportunity. The formal and the informal curriculum have vital roles to play in creating inclusive schools and society.

The experiences of Black [2] learners and Black teachers and leaders cannot be treated in isolation from wider school organisation and the curriculum. The curriculum, along with school policies, procedures and practices, have critical roles to play in tackling and preventing discrimination and segregation, advancing equality and fostering good relations between learners and staff with different protected characteristics.

We recognise that the injustices of today have their roots in the injustices of the past, and decisions and actions taken today have implications for justice and injustice. We believe that action to decolonise the curriculum must start with creating the conditions for a decolonised anti-racist education to exist and flourish.

Principles guiding the NASUWT’s approach to decolonising the curriculum

Our commitment to decolonising the curriculum is underpinned by ‘six R’s’:

  1. Reality: This includes the content of the formal and the hidden curriculum, and being clear about how it operates to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others, including learners and staff.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum Principle 1: Reality - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • Why is My Curriculum White? UCL Student’s Union video. Students talk about how the curriculum reinforces advantage and disadvantage. While the focus is on higher education, and so includes initial teacher training, the issues raised are equally relevant to the curriculum in schools.

  • Decolonising the curriculum. BBC Bitesize video. A group of school students discuss their experiences of the school history curriculum and the need for the curriculum to reflect their histories and identities.

  • In what ways are STEM subjects colonised? The Bristol University article is taken from and a promotion for an online course that it runs, Decolonising Education: from theory to practice. While the explanation draws on examples from higher education, they are equally relevant to the school curriculum. It is also useful for highlighting that decolonising the curriculum is an issue for all subjects, not just history and literature.

  1. Racial literacy: There is not only a need to recognise diversity, but also to be determinedly anti-racist in approach; to foster critical thinking and democratic school communities; and to equip all teachers with critical knowledge, understanding and pedagogic skills.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum Principle 2: Racial literacy - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • The Runnymede Trust explains ‘racial literacy’ as ‘the capacity of teachers to understand the ways in which race and racisms work in society... [and] …having the language skills and confidence to utilise that knowledge in teacher practice’ and stress the need for more racial literacy among teachers. See Race and Racism in English Secondary School

  • Khadija Mohammed, Teaching in a diverse Scotland (three-minute YouTube video). Ms Mohammed talks about the limitations of ‘diversity’ and explains how she talks to trainee teachers about white privilege in order to help them work for equality and social justice in schools. While the video was produced by the General Teaching Council for Scotland and is aimed at teachers and leaders in Scotland, it will be equally useful to teachers and leaders across the UK. The video can also be found on the Wakelet website under Professional Learning and Teacher Representation.

  • Deconstructing white privilege. Dr Robin DiAngelo talks about white identity and how structural racism means that racism is an issue that every white person needs to acknowledge. This 20-minute video may be useful in supporting work with teachers and leaders who question why racism is an issue for them.

  1. Representation, including of Black teachers: Who is represented in the workforce and how are they positioned, recognised and valued? There is a need to be ambitious and to have a teacher workforce that reflects and represents learners and the community at all levels. There is also a need to ensure that Black teachers, learners and communities are able to contribute meaningfully to the life of the school.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum Principle 3: Representation, including of Black teachers - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • NASUWT and Runnymede Trust report Visible Minorities, Invisible Teachers: BME Teachers in the education system in England. The report provides evidence about the under-representation of Black teachers and leaders and their experiences of racism and discrimination in schools.

  • Keeping the door open: in conversation with Michelle. The Antiracist Educator’s 57-minute podcast talks to Michelle Codrington-Rogers about her experiences as President of the NASUWT and her role as an activist. Ms Codrington-Rogers talks about her experiences of racism, including within the trade union movement, and of the need for trade unions to commit to action to eradicate racism, support Black members and ensure that doors are opened. The podcast is available on The Antiracist Educator website, which has a wide range of resources, particularly podcasts that will support teachers and leaders to reflect on their practice and build their understanding of approaches to ant-iracist practice and decolonising the curriculum.

  • Learning Journey: A celebration of gypsy/ traveller communities in Scotland. A practical resource produced by Education Scotland that addresses the history of Gypsy/Traveller communities in Scotland, tackling prejudice through learning and celebrating together. While the resource is targeted at teachers teaching the Scottish primary curriculum, it is useful in highlighting the need to address the racism experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Travellers and illustrates how the issues might be picked up through the curriculum. The Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP) also provides resources to help teachers address discrimination and prejudice against Gypsies and Travellers, raise awareness of Gypsy and Traveller culture and support the education of Gypsy and Traveller children.

  • Anna Freud podcasts, Talking racism and mental health in schools. This is a series of five podcasts, each lasting between eight and 23 minutes, which explore: the impact of racism on mental health and why this is an issue for schools; the importance of involving the whole school community; the impact of racism on self-esteem; why representation in school staffing and the curriculum is important; and ensuring that school policies do not discriminate but celebrate Black British culture. The podcasts are useful for highlighting why school leaders and managers need to ensure that they consciously work to engage with, include and develop Black staff as part of a whole-school approach to preventing and tackling racism and discrimination and advancing equality.

  1. Role leadership: Anti-racist education must not be left on the shoulders of Black teachers. All teachers need to be supported and developed with the skills, competence and confidence to challenge racism and discrimination, advance equality, and take forward an effective curriculum approach. This has to start at the top with effective leadership and management. There is a need to provide leadership training and development.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum Principle 4: Role leadership - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) publication, Introduction to antiracist curriculum development: A guide for teachers in Scotland (pdf), also available under Decolonising the curriculum. The CRER guidance explores three core components to anti-racist practice: decolonising the curriculum, building intercultural competence, and reducing racism, prejudice and discrimination. It examines barriers to change and stresses the importance of leadership on anti-racist approaches to curriculum development. While the publication is written for teachers and leaders in schools in Scotland, it will also be useful to teachers, leaders and NASUWT activists across the UK. The Wakelet site contains a number of useful resources for teachers and leaders. The website is targeted at teachers and leaders in Scotland, but the resources will be useful to teachers, leaders and activists across the UK.

  • Antiracist School Award, Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University. The award supports schools to take a holistic approach to implementing anti-racist practice. The award covers governance, leadership and management; school environment; professional learning and development; the curriculum; and parents, carers and community partnerships. The structured approach to establishing and sustaining ant-iracist practice should also support schools to decolonise the curriculum. The NASUWT has not endorsed the award so it will be important for schools to look in detail at what is being offered. There is also a cost associated with participating in the award.

  • How to be an antiracist teacher in a mainly white school. In this eight-minute video, Taryn Coe explains why it is important to be an anti-racist teacher in a school that is predominantly white and the steps that she is taking to implement anti-racist practice. While Taryn teaches in the USA, the explanations are equally relevant to teachers working in the UK. The video may be useful in helping white staff understand the role that they can play in challenging racism and advancing equality.

  1. Rights of teachers and learners: How teachers are treated impacts directly on the lessons learned by learners. Therefore, it is vital that all teachers have the space to be heard and listened to. A decolonised curriculum experience also includes being critically aware of the experiences and outcomes of Black learners and the implications for children’s safeguarding.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum Principle 5: Rights of teachers and learners - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  1. Redress and reparation: Given the continuing impacts of social and economic injustice, racism and discrimination, the school must be deliberate in its approach to tackling inequality and advancing equality for those who suffer disadvantage, including through the curriculum.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum Principle 6: Redress and reparation - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • The school that tried to end racism. Channel 4 documentary series which follows work undertaken in a school to help pupils understand and eradicate racial biases. There are two programmes each lasting 47 minutes.

  • Professor Rowena Arshad, University of Edinburgh, Learning and Teaching conference. Professor Arshad distinguishes between inclusion, anti-racism and decolonising and draws on her own experience as an educator to illustrate some of the challenges for teachers in transforming their teaching. The video is 50 minutes long with Professor Arshad’s presentation starting about five minutes 30 seconds in. While the video is aimed at university staff, the presentation should help teachers and leaders in schools reflect on how they might take action to implement anti-racist practice and decolonise the curriculum.

Colonisation and decolonising

Colonisation describes the ongoing process where one group of people takes control of another group of people. Decolonising:

  • recognises that colonialism, imperialism and racism have impacted on and shaped political, economic and social structures and institutions in the UK and that curricula reflect and reinforce this colonial, imperial and racist past;

  • interrogates assumed knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and practices and seeks to broaden perspectives. This includes incorporating the views, perspectives and experiences of those who are, or have been, marginalised or oppressed;

  • involves supporting learners to think critically about evidence, equality, rights and justice and to challenge discrimination, disadvantage and injustice; and

  • requires action to ensure that the school environment values and empowers all learners and staff and does not disadvantage or exclude some groups.

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum: Colonisation and decolonising - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

Decolonising the curriculum: what and how

In simple terms, decolonising the curriculum is a process that involves addressing two key questions:

  • What should be taught? This includes curriculum content and sources of knowledge.

  • How should the curriculum be taught? This includes consideration of how content and knowledge are critiqued, as well as wider considerations about pedagogy.

Decolonising the curriculum involves looking at representation across the whole curriculum.  It also involves helping learners understand and engage with issues of representation, rights, power, equality, inclusion and justice.

The following questions are intended to help teachers and leaders reflect on the current curriculum and the changes they need to make. It is important to recognise that decolonising is an ongoing process. Therefore, teachers and leaders may find it useful to return to these questions periodically.

  1. What are the dominant narratives and perspectives saying and what do they ignore or omit?

    1. To what extent does the curriculum content reflect Western, European, white and male perspectives?

    2. To what extent does the curriculum include the knowledge, ideas, experiences and perspectives of Black and marginalised people in the UK and globally?

  2. How do you encourage and support learners to think critically about evidence, sources of knowledge, representation and power relationships?

    1. How are learners encouraged and supported to think critically about matters relating to equality/inequality, justice/injustice, inclusion/exclusion and marginalisation?

    2. How are learners’ backgrounds, experiences and perspectives used to help explore issues relating to representation, equality, rights, justice and inclusion?

  3. What steps can you take to include the knowledge, ideas, experiences and perspectives of disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities?

  4. What further steps can you take to support learners to think critically about evidence, representation, equality and power relationships and to take action to challenge discrimination and injustice?

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum: Decolonising the curriculum: what and how - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • Methodologies for decolonising geography curricula in the secondary school and in initial teacher training. This paper is part of a special edition of the London Review of Education on decolonising the curriculum in schools, published online in February 2022. The paper focuses on decolonising the secondary school geography curriculum and on decolonising the PGCE curriculum. It identifies three broad and overlapping approaches to decolonising geography and uses case studies to explain what decolonising the geography curriculum looks like in practice. While the paper is included in an academic journal, it is accessible and has a strong practical focus. Decolonising the curriculum is a process and this paper should be helpful teachers of any subject to understand how they might approach decolonising the curriculum.

  • What does decolonising the curriculum mean for STEM subjects? Opinion piece by Dr Monica Fernandes in Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, Volume 14, No2, 2021. The four-page article explains decolonising the curriculum, challenges the belief that science is objective and neutral, and uses some examples to illustrate how the STEM curriculum can be decolonised.

A whole-school approach to anti-racism and decolonising the curriculum

Action to decolonise the curriculum should form part of a whole-school approach to tackling racism, discrimination and injustice. This includes recognising the intersectional nature of colonisation, discrimination and oppression.

The following questions are intended to help leaders, teachers and NASUWT Representatives reflect on whether the school provides the environment for ant-iracist and anti-discriminatory education and decolonising the curriculum to flourish.

Leadership of the curriculum
  1. How are representation and matters related to equality, rights, justice and inclusion addressed across the whole school curriculum?

    1. Is this reflected clearly in curriculum aims, purposes and intent?

    2. How do the views and perspectives of Black teachers, learners and communities feed into and inform decisions about the curriculum?

    3. Does the curriculum equip learners with the knowledge, skills and competencies that they need to think critically about representation and diversity, to challenge discrimination and injustice, and to act fairly and justly?

  1. How do different subjects/themes contribute to the vision for representation, equality, rights, justice and inclusion?

    1. Are there cross-disciplinary knowledge, skills and competencies that need to be planned into and across subjects/themes?

    2. How are teachers made aware of the cross-disciplinary requirements and expectations?

  1. What are the barriers to teaching a curriculum that is representative of different knowledge and perspectives, which equips learners to think critically and take action to challenge, discrimination and injustice, and how can they be overcome?

  1. What action should be taken to strengthen representation and the teaching of equality, rights, justice and inclusion across the curriculum?

Staff development and support
  1. How are teachers supported and developed to address representation and matters related to equality, rights justice and inclusion through their teaching?

    1. Do all teachers and leaders receive training and support?

    2. What support is provided to new and early career teachers?

    3. Are teachers encouraged and supported to work collaboratively and to share knowledge, ideas and plans?

  1. How does the school secure and protect the wellbeing of all teachers and staff?

    1. What steps are taken to identify issues arising from curriculum content and representation, e.g. racist content in set texts, that may have an adverse impact on the wellbeing of Black teachers?

    2. What steps are taken to promote the wellbeing of Black teachers in respect of matters related to representation, equality and inclusion?

Culture, ethos and engagement
  1. Do the school’s ethos and values make it clear that the school is committed to advancing equality, tackling and eradicating racism, discrimination and injustice, and ensuring that the school is welcoming to all?

    1. Is it clear that all members of the school community are responsible for creating an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all?

    2. Is it clear that all members of the school community have responsibilities to challenge racism, discrimination and injustice?

    3. Does feedback from Black learners and Black staff indicate that the school’s ethos and values are operating in practice?

  1. How do school policies, procedures and practices support the school to decolonise the curriculum?

    1. Does the behaviour policy make explicit reference to proactively identifying and tackling racism, harassment and discrimination, promoting equality, and fostering good relations between groups?

    2. Does the school record and monitor all incidents to identify issues, patterns and trends and does it act promptly to address issues that are identified?

  1. How does the school engage with parents and communities on matters relating to equality, justice and rights?

    1. Does the school make its position on equality, justice and rights clear to parents and does this make it clear that racism, discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated?

    2. How are Black parents and communities supported and encouraged to be actively involved in the life of the school and how does the school identify and take account of the experiences and views of Black parents and communities?

    3. Does the school seek the support and expertise of community organisations in decolonising the curriculum and wider work to tackle racism, inequality and injustice?

Evaluating impact
  1. How does the school assess and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of its work to decolonise the curriculum, tackle racism, discrimination and injustice, and promote equality and inclusion?

    1. Do Black teachers and learners feel included and valued, including as members of school, staff and learner communities?

    2. Is the NASUWT consulted as part of the evaluation process?

  1. How do the results of evaluations inform plans and decisions about the content of the curriculum, how the curriculum is taught, staff development and support, the involvement of Black teachers, learners and communities, and the leadership and management of equality, diversity and inclusion?

  1. What steps should be taken to strengthen the school’s work to challenge discrimination and injustice, improve representation, and secure equality and inclusion?

Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum: A whole-school approach to antiracism and decolonising the curriculum - Resources: evidence, reflection, action

  • Promoting race equality and antiracist education, Scottish Government website. The site is evolving and includes links to a range of resources to support professional learning and a whole-school approach to anti-racism and race equality. The site is aimed at teachers and leaders in Scotland, but teachers and leaders across the UK may find the resources useful.

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Contributions and Cynefin in the new curriculum working group chaired by Professor Charlotte Williams. The Welsh Government has committed to taking a range of actions, including £500,000 for the academic year 2021/22, to develop curriculum resources that respond to the report’s recommendation and which will be placed on Wales Hwb.

  • A number of organisation run programmes and awards to support and recognise the work undertaken by schools to establish and embed anti-racism, equality and rights. These include: the Antiracist Schools Award, a professional development programme (Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University), the Rights Respecting Schools Award (Unicef), and the Equalities Award (Equaliteach). The programmes offer schools structured support and evaluations, as well as opportunities to network with and learn from other schools. Schools may find an award programme helpful when seeking to implement a whole-school approach, including to decolonising the curriculum. However, there are costs associated with participating in each of the programmes cited above. The NASUWT has not endorsed any of these programmes. Therefore, it will be important for schools to look closely at what is being offered in order to establish whether the programme is appropriate for them.


Footnotes
[1] Resources disclaimer: We have identified a number of resources that may be useful to teachers, school leaders and NASUWT activists undertaking work to establish and implement anti-racist practice and decolonise the curriculum. However, we are not endorsing the resources and the views expressed in the resources are those of the individuals or organisations and may not reflect NASUWT policies.

The resources that we have included provide information and evidence about the experiences and issues affecting Black teachers and learners. Some of the resources are intended to support teachers and leaders to reflect on their practice and to provide prompts and ideas for possible action.

We plan to add to the resources over time. If you have identified any resources that you think other teachers, leaders and activists will find useful, then please let us know by emailing the NASUWT.

[2] The NASUWT uses the term Black in a political and inclusive sense to describe those who self-identify as African, Caribbean and Asian and those with a common and direct history of racism, racist oppression and diminished opportunities in today’s society.