Following the tragic death of George Floyd, which I am saddened and appalled by, and the increased media around Black Lives Matter, it has given me time to reflect and have those all-important conversations with both my family and colleagues.
Having been in education for over 30 years two questions I have asked myself is:
“Are we preparing our students for the realities of life and the workplace and is our curriculum ‘future-proof’?
“Do I have a workforce that is comfortable about talking about racism and in equalities?
I am acutely aware of my colour, my privilege as a white woman and my position of influence. However, I am conscious that there is still room for me to learn and understand better and in my position, I must do what I can to support and educate others.
If I am honest, I do not find it comfortable talking about race, I am sure this is echoed by my colleagues, but I feel it is the right thing for me to be doing. We should all be encouraged and given the opportunity to talk openly about race and racism, myself included, no matter how uncomfortable this might be for us.
For the first twenty-five years of my life, I was brought up in a rural area of Shropshire, surrounded by British institutionalism, prejudice and unconscious bias. I was unaware of the word racism and grew up in a community where there were just white people. The only black people I would see would be on the TV or in another community. Thirty years on and Great Britain is a very different place, or is it?
In terms of how we live our lives with the use of technology, learning and travel opportunities and diversity, perhaps. But what about racism?
For the past 30 years, I have been living in Birmingham and working in education. This has helped me become conscious of working and living in a diverse society. Living in Birmingham has allowed me to become immersed in diverse cultures and has shaped my views on lots of things. Teaching within these communities also makes you look at things within a wider perspective
Is having most of the workforce from BAME communities an indication that I have done enough? Is including Black History Month on our newsletter, social media, or notice board or even a session in our curriculum enough? Of course not!
You could argue that I have only done this to tick an E&D box. You would be wrong, having a diverse workforce has many benefits and I believe not only enriches the teaching of our curriculum but enriches other staff too. Having a safe, open space for discussion about race and racism between all staff of different ethnicities can only benefit our workplace.
Back to education, there is so much more we could discuss about the intent of our curriculum. How do we develop our students to leave us and become successful contributors to society? How do we get to a place where student mental health improves? How can we begin to fix some of the issues in our society, such as crime, poverty, and sustainability? How can we teach and celebrate diversity and equality without ostracising young people in our communities?
Further Education is fortunate not to have to follow a national curriculum. We should use this flexibility to develop a curriculum with content that is applicable to our students lives outside of the classroom. We must understand and educate our young people to know more about the real issues in our world and empower them to set off into the world with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. Amongst other things this includes raising the profile of equality: Religion, gender, age, disability, religion, beliefs, and race as part of our curriculum.
Sue Fielding - Managing Director