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Embedding anti-racist and representative practices in your arts curriculum

Date Created: 28th Feb 2022

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Through our Department for Education programme on Creative Leadership, we worked with mezze Eade and Romana Flello of Representation in Drama, who lead The London Theatre Consortium, to present this session for teachers’. We also heard from two schools, Emma Kerrigan Davis, Headteacher of Mount Pleasant Junior School, Southampton, and Reshma Mathurasingh, Co-Head of Drama at Park View School, London, who shared the work they have been doing to address anti-racism in their schools.

The session explored personal and professional responsibilities around representation and gave some great guidance on what to consider and how to get started.

mezze talked about the need for individual and organisational change and emphasised that it was a life’s work rather than a project. They talked about accountability and compassion and how dignity and belonging is at the core of anti-racist practice. We explored what it means to be actively anti-racist and it was helpful to understand that racism is the harm caused by discrimination and anti-racism is about preventing that harm being caused. There was an opportunity to discuss 2 key questions in groups to link this thinking back to individual school contexts: 

  • What is preventing change to policy in your school? 
  • What is preventing change to practice in your school? 

This highlighted a range of barriers that the schools feel they need to address. 

The history of UK culture and how this has created an issue of racism in our society was highlighted.  Equally, the importance of understanding colonisation and a sense of history in Africa, India, Asia, Australia, the Pacific Islands and other countries. Ethnicity is about more than the colour of our skin. 

We talked about the term ‘Global Majority’ and its attempt to be inclusive by minoritizing certain cultures that have become dominant, for example, White British. It is important to ask how people want to identify and be referred to, including children and young people. The language around this is evolving all the time. 

A second task looked at white privilege (embedded advantage) through the following questions: 

  • White privilege protects me when……? 
  • White privilege has enabled me to do or be……? 

These were uncomfortable but necessary reflections at times and helped us to understand our own position and understand advantage in the light of the experience of others. 

The second part of the session was led by our two school presenters. Emma from Mount Pleasant Junior was inspiring in the way she explained how in her school when they talk about themselves, they talk about what connects them. She sees the range of languages spoken in her school as a valuable wealth and something to be celebrated – 98% of the pupils and staff are bi or multi-lingual. They have a Council of Beliefs that celebrates different faiths so it is central to the culture in the school.  

Another key area of development has been around the reading curriculum and literacy. Working with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, they have established a Biblioteca area where the focus is on texts and stories that reflect the pupils and their experiences. This has led to further work on Representation in the curriculum through the kind of materials and resources pupils and teachers work with. It is something that is under constant review and that everybody is involved with. It was a joy to hear Emma sensitively demystify this work through her practical, enthusiastic and determined approach. 

Reshma went on to explain how she too has taken a very practical approach to decolonising her curriculum. She talked about the importance of using diverse and representative images; of ensuring that Schemes of Work and resources are inclusive; and the need to address challenging subjects within them such as Apartheid, Prejudice, and Refugees. Reshma also mentioned the importance of ensuring spoken language and music used in the classroom is representative. Young people need to be helped to value themselves and their own cultural identity and shown what they can do and be.   

mezze and Romana have worked with the Pearson exam board, who since September, have included four plays in their Drama Syllabus from global majority playwrights. Some new writing and some representative reworkings of classics. Reshma has been working with these texts and found them great for supporting diversity and inclusion, although she highlighted the need for teachers to research the themes and topics carefully so they know what they are teaching. 

We covered so much ground in this session and I believe gained a better understanding of why schools need to address representation in the curriculum and a fantastic range of practical examples and approaches to support next steps. 

mezze and Romana  kindly shared many great resources and films that will help you to get started on this sensitive work. They are really worth looking at!   

If you attended the session, do let us know how you are getting on – we would love to hear from you! 

View the resources, presentations and an audio recording of the session here.

Words by Lorraine Cheshire, Education Development Manager – Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth & Southampton


Anti-racism Drama EDM CPDL Equality and Diversity For teachers Primary Schools Secondary Schools Theatre

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