Challenging racism in education, avoiding quick-fix solutions and redeeming PowerPoint are this week’s top picks of the education topics, as chosen by Robin Conway
This powerful piece by Shuaib Khan draws on his own experiences to reflect on the responsibilities of teachers to address racism. He challenges the ideas that 2020 is already too tiring to tackle systemic racism and that not knowing how to confront the issue or being concerned that it is not our place to speak out are valid reasons for silence. Khan makes a powerful case that “the faith BAME teachers, parents and students place in the system must now be reciprocated through dialogue and change”.
Mary Meredith focuses on exclusions and patterns that show a clear imbalance between ethnic groups. “A black Caribbean boy, eligible for free school meals and who has SEND, is 168 times more likely to be excluded than his white female counterpart who is not eligible for FSM and who is not identified as having SEND.” As shocking as such statistics are, it can be easy to disassociate one’s own work as a teacher from this larger picture. However, Meredith astutely uses one child and one teacher’s experiences to illustrate some of the underlying causes of this terrible reality. As she acknowledges, while we may not be able (as individuals) to change the law “one thing is absolutely within our power as educators, and that is to examine our own unconscious biases, and to advocate for the marginalised”. Reflecting on a time when she has failed to do this has shaped her thinking and led her to bravely share a story from which we can all learn.
Sarah Olubunmi reflects on her experiences as a pupil in state and private schools and as a teacher who experienced racial abuse from students and colleagues. Whether you find some of her stories shocking or whether you find them sadly all-too-familiar, this piece is worth reading and reflecting on. As Olubunmi powerfully argues: “we are not just talking about over-policing of black bodies in the US, we are talking about the institutions that exist here in the UK too!”
We are all aware of the overwhelming likelihood that lockdown is going to hugely increase the disadvantage gap. The Education Endowment Foundation’s rapid evidence assessment on the impact of school closures on the attainment gap suggests that the progress of the past ten years could be reversed. In this piece, headteacher Jeremy Barnes reflects on the implications, arguing that proposals for quick-fix solutions, such as summer opening, understate the depth and seriousness of this issue. He says that with “innovative thinking and strong, principled leaderships” education can play a powerful role in closing the disadvantaged gap. However, the issue deserves deep thought and focus, not glib solutions.
It can at times be a little hard to distinguish between ideas that should be constantly challenged and those that are not inherently harmful, but should be used in an evidence-informed way. Kirsty Pole provides a powerful counter to those who want to ban PowerPoint from the classroom. Without proselytising, she outlines some of its many benefits for workload, organisation and lesson delivery. She also recognises some of its weaknesses when used badly, particularly when downloading others’ resources without thought. If, like me, you have many years’ worth of resources stored on PowerPoint then do not despair that it has fallen into some teachers’ bad books. If you follow Miss P’s advice, you can be reassured that “you can use PowerPoint and be a really good teacher”.