Many young people who do not find racism acceptable still engage in sexism, homophobia or disabilism, by name-calling or bullying. All schools need to have an ethos where all children feel welcome and safe. The school should challenge racism, disabilism, sexism and all forms of prejudice and promote equality through measures such as these:
- Teachers need to promote an ethos in all classes where children feel able to talk about their lives and feelings, where the class are encouraged to support one another and work collectively. The effects of racism, including anti-semitism, disabilism, sexism, homophobia and prejudice, should be explained and discussed so the children develop empathy, are able to challenge discrimination and include those who may feel excluded, supporting them within and outside the classroom. Young children can be taught this by drawing on their great sense of fairness.
- Being aware of harassment is essential. It can take many forms, from moving slightly away from a child on the carpet to physical attack. Seemingly minor incidents should be discussed and brought out in the open so the victim is supported and the whole class understands the effects.
- Understanding that children have different styles of learning and multiple intelligences and need different styles of teaching and learning in our classes. Valuing the teaching of art, music, drama, dance and PE as much as other subjects, and understanding that skill and achievements in these areas, and the consequent self-esteem, lead to greater ability to achieve in all subjects.
- All members of staff should challenge stereotypical and prejudiced comments used in lessons, the playground and the surrounding environment. For example, challenging name-calling; reporting and clearing offensive graffiti.
- Supporting pupils who encounter harassment in the community, understanding that children who live in fear cannot learn. Supporting and campaigning for families who face deportation.
- Using opportunities, through assemblies, to deal with issues of prejudice eg Kick Racism out of Football; understanding why people are disabled or refugees; Jewish Resistance to fascism in the East End; disabled people struggling for their rights.
- Using opportunities to celebrate the richness and diversity of different cultures eg Black History Month, Refugee Week, Eid (from an anti-racist perspective). being aware that multi-cultural education on its own does not challenge racism; European Disabled People’s Day (3rd December) from a rights, not charity, perspective, International Women’s Day (8th March). Make sure to include white working-class children, eg teaching about the writing, art and struggles for social equality that give dignity to working-class people, so that they do not feel they need to look to extreme right-wing groups to reinforce their identity.
- Drawing parallels between racism, sexism, disabilism and discriminatory practices, based on social class: to foster solidarity between boys and girls, black and white, disabled and non-disabled, working class students. Challenge the use of normative testing in relation to race, class, gender and disability.
- Exploring opportunities throughout the curriculum to promote anti-racism and inclusion, eg visits to community organisations, circle time, circles of friends, use of the media, visiting speakers from local minority ethnic communities and disabled people’s organisations.
- Displaying work from all pupils with achievements in any areas of the curriculum in and outside the school. Ensuring the materials and content of lessons cover a wide diversity of different cultures and people.
- Purchasing and reviewing resources, such as books, posters and ICT software to ensure they are inclusive.
- Providing accessible school structures where pupils, parents and staff have a voice.
- In studying media images, ensure images from different cultures are available (see Bollywood and disability).
- It is important that all staff fully understand all these issues so that they put them into practice daily in all areas of the curriculum. If teachers feel ill-equipped or uncomfortable to deal with these issues, they should hold staff meetings and seek INSET opportunities.
These points were developed for schools by Susie Burrows and Michael Vance of Hackney.