Tower Hamlets Schools Commit to an Anti-Racist Approach
Towards an Anti-Racist Curriculum | Tower Hamlets (TARCTH)
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement cast a spotlight on the multitudes of inequalities that exist in our society and across the globe. At Global Learning London, we worked to consolidate years of global learning, critical thinking, and community work with schools to create the Towards an Anti-Racist Curriculum (TARCTH) programme.
The BLM movement brought many conversations to the forefront, including the negative impact of a curriculum that lacks historical context and diversity of voices. At school, young people often fail to see themselves reflected in history, in stories and in school leadership – and often their identities and cultures are reduced to a tokenistic ‘Cultural Days’ or Black History Month. This results in lower rates of academic achievement, even at university level, reduced aspirations and an othering of people and communities who have played and continue to play a vital role in British history and society today.
When asked why they volunteered to be Project Lead, two educators shared the following:
“I thought our school really needed to improve its policies, staff diversity and curricula. I have seen how much the children enjoy seeing people who represent them within their learning. I thought it was really important that our whole school was trying to achieve this”.
“It is something I feel passionately about and believe strongly that it is important that the children we teach see people that “look like” them in key leadership roles and their voice is empowered and represented in discussions about how their futures will be mapped out. Also – in discussions where decisions about their learning and what they should / should not learn.”
Tower Hamlets is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country, and as part of the borough’s Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic Inequality Commission Action Plan it was recognised that schools and educators play a key role in shifting narratives and creating long lasting change. Therefore, the Commission funded a year long project for 18 schools across Tower Hamlets to begin their anti-racist journey.
When asked about what they love about teaching in Tower Hamlets, one Project Lead stated:
“The sense of community, I think Tower Hamlets puts a lot into schools and teacher training, the Tower Hamlets School Library Services and training provided at PDC, as well as the links with special schools. I was only able to complete my teacher training due to a grant from Tower Hamlets, so I am ever grateful.”
The programme began in September 2021 with whole school training on anti-racism, which initiated difficult and much needed conversations. There was discomfort felt when exploring systemic racism in Britain and listening to the experiences of young Black people in schools. But there was also a sigh of relief from many educators who have been waiting for a programme that creates space for honest reflection and discussion and gives educators the tools and resources to diversify their teaching.
Two educators shared their thoughts on why they volunteered to be Project Leads:
“As curriculum lead, I spoke to the children, they didn’t see the curriculum and the people focused on as representing them or the school community. I’ve learnt a lot more; curriculum is just one element of building diverse learning cultures, and we are now thinking about our systems and how to empower our staff, parents, and children.”
“Growing up in East London, I was aware of some of the issues faced by some of my friends. I wanted to be more informed of how to navigate these issues, so took the opportunity when it arose.”
A key part of the programme is to create a network of teachers who are leading the anti-racist work in their schools. The Project Leads from each school have had further opportunities to deepen their understanding through termly twilights, and a Level 1 Philosophy for Children training with Darren Chetty which also equipped educators to hold spaces of curiosity, questioning and reflection with both their school students and team.
“Having the network and support of likeminded professionals I have found the most helpful. Sharing information and ideas with other projects lead and knowing that you are not going through this alone.”
The Project Leads are committed to creating change through conversations with their team, taking the time to do the work of educating themselves through use of the TARC Padlet and reviewing their curriculum to find creative ways to embed an anti-racist lens into their teaching. Here are some great examples of what schools have been doing, when asked what element from TARCTH they have implemented into their school/classroom:
- We are looking at ways of starting and supporting the dialogue in classrooms, tying it into our work as a Rights Respecting school. At this point, we are in the early stages of navigating these issues as a staff and working out how to raise and address concerns respectfully.
- We are reviewing our curriculum offer but making sure the drive is coming from the teachers, rather than a top-down approach. It has started some very interesting conversations, so a shared language has been important.
- We are conducting assemblies, Professional Development Training for staff, creating and implementing an Anti-Racist Curriculum, promoting Diversity, providing a wide range of books of different cultures, backgrounds etc.
- We are implementing curriculum change. We have really enjoyed having sensitive discussions with Year 6 classes about systemic racism and colonialism. We have used lots of resources on the Padlet for this.
We have most recently been holding conversations with the Senior Leadership Teams (SLT) of the 18 schools to find out more about the work they have been doing and where they feel that more support is needed. SLTs are focussed on supporting and listening to their teaching staff, reviewing, and diversifying their curriculum and taking a whole school approach to anti-racism.
There is still a lot of work to be done, this programme is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg in creating much needed change in our schools. We have been commissioned to deliver TARCTH for another year, more information will be available on our website in the Summer Term.
Thank you to our colleagues from Bonner Primary School, Columbia Primary School, Marner Primary School, Olga Primary School, Stebon Primary School and Virginia Primary School for sharing their thoughts.
Towards an Anti-Racist Curriculum Tower Hamlets is funded by Tower Hamlets Council’s Strategy, Policy and Performance Team. You can learn more about TARCTH and the schools participating, here. #AntiRacistTH
“Protest – Black Lives Matter – London 2020” by livvya is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.