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Race and Racism

a. Parents feel that schools need to acknowledge the existence of racism and then make efforts to deal with it in schools. Teachers say that parents and pupils are sometimes unwilling to identify their ethnicity for fear of discrimination.

Schools should acknowledge the impact of racism in the education of children and young people from BME communities. Many schools are either dismissive about the issue or under[estimate] its effect. Parent


Racism changes constantly. For example, there is a new and pervasive racism against Muslims now and staff need to be updated and aware of the issues. Teacher


Travellers are often unwilling to declare their ethnicity as, historically and presently, this can attract prejudice, discrimination, bullying etc. Being white, it is quite easy for them to ‘hide' within the school population. This means that problems they face are overlooked and not addressed. Teacher


Uneducated ethnic minority parents may not want to put themselves in a situation where they are vulnerable in terms of their own education and because of bigotry and racism outside of school they may not wish to embarrass themselves or their children within it. Teacher

Cambridgeshire's Race Equality and Diversity Service Team for Traveller Education worked with Witchford Village College, Friday Bridge Primary School and the Gypsy Media Company to produce an audio CD with young people, their families and schools to help improve Travellers' and professionals' understanding of how to combat racism. The CD is intended to be used at local and national level to illustrate issues of racism and strategies for challenging and tackling it. It can be used for training school staff and other professionals as well as being part of a curriculum package for all pupils, linked to the PSHE/Citizenship curriculum. (It costs £3.00. For more information contact

b. Some parents say that teachers don't mix with people from BME or Travellers communities and therefore have a stereotypical view of them. Schools and teachers also underestimate their - and their children's - abilities.

Resistance to change is very strong where there are very few BME students within the organisation or people in the wider community. Teacher


Racism and classism on both sides. Parents don't feel welcome and so resist attempts to involve them. They don't challenge the school or the teachers in a constructive way. Teachers only feel comfortable with white middle-class parents and actively encourage them into the schools whilst excluding others. Teachers have many preconceived ideas about BME parents, which hinders any proper constructive dialogue to address the problem. BME parents also don't support BME teachers. Many find it hard to even acknowledge the presence of a BME. It's like they feel acknowledgement will get them accused of some kind of plotting. Teacher


In all instances where I have had to contact the schools that my children attend when there has been some difficulty, I have tried to do so constructively and without ‘flying off the handle'. I have sensed in both schools, which are very different in relation to the ethnic make-up of the student body, that some staff members perceive that Black parents react to them in very stereotypical ways. I take lots of deep breaths. Parent


We've got underachievement in our black Caribbean and mixed groups. I'm convinced that it's expectation and attitude from school staff and a history of failure and poor relationship between parents and staff. Higher expectations from parents would be good too. Teacher


My son is a gifted pupil who, despite his ability, has been totally turned off school. The school culture does nothing to alleviate the oppressive vibe that Black parents receive when having to approach the school and it is very difficult to challenge a selection system which, by its nature, seeks to exclude Black children in order to not have to deal with any (stereotypical) black issues/problems or the concerns of Black parents. Parent


It's hard to overcome negative stereotypes, especially entrenched ones. I find, both as a teacher and parent, black people, children, adults etc. are invisible until we show we exist, then we just become targets. Teacher and parent


Staff feel unsure about what to expect from parents. Teacher, Nottingham

During the holidays, Argyle Primary School in Camden organises activities such as trips to Hampstead Heath or the British Museum.

c. Parents say that teachers don't have enough know-ledge of BME/Traveller communities and that their culture is not respected.

John Shield at Witchford Village College, Cambridgeshire, believes that differences in culture need to be accommodated. He understands that the Traveller families in his school may want to deal only with the person in authority. He ensures that he is available to meet with them. Staff are also aware that they may want to see staff in large family groups.

d. Parents say that the curriculum is unrepresentative and that schools lack, or don't make use of, anti-racist material.

Resources for a multicultural anti-racist or representative curriculum take a long time to find and are add-ons rather than central to practice in schools. Teacher


Some BME parents feel the call to help in their children's education is tokenistic, especially when the education system/curriculum is perceived as not recognising or acknowledging BME cultures. Parent


My children go to a church school and I feel as though they deliberately use the religious angle to avoid integrating the history and culture of the Asian sub-continent. Parent

George Green's School, Isle of Dogs, is setting up a forum for the parents of African and Caribbean boys as well as a general parents' forum.

In Portsmouth, the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service and school staff jointly plan workshops where BME parents and their children work together on various activities, sharing languages and cultural experiences. Children and parents are at ease speaking in their first language in the school environment and seeing that it is valued by the school. The results of the workshops are shared with the whole school using displays and assemblies with photographs and examples of the work that the children and parents have produced together, celebrating the linguistic and cultural diversity in each school.

At Filton Avenue Nursery School in Bristol, support for BME families begins in the home. Children are visited by nursery staff, including an EAL worker, so that parents can address concerns and needs in their first language. Translation is available for all, making assistance with forms and documents readily accessible. Further support is given by the availability of dual language books for loan. The school also holds "open sessions" to help families learn how to best support their children's education. Parents and staff work together to promote the school's diverse cultures by celebrating local community festivals as a whole school event.

For the Globetown Action Zone Project in Tower Hamlets, Somali pupils interviewed their parents about their experiences in Somalia and migrating to the UK. The aims included strengthening links between Somali pupils and their parents and schools, and for Somali families to feel that their culture is valued and given status through publication. When you lived in Somalia...: Somali pupils interview their parents has been distributed to all schools in the borough and some other schools are now undertaking similar oral history projects.

The Randolph Beresford Early Years Centre in Hammersmith & Fulham working with the EMTAS (Ethnic Minority Traveller Achievement Service) EAL (English as an Additional Language) Home School Project, started a parent library with information books on the countries the parents came from, dual-language books and teaching posters so that parents could help to teach their children at home. There were also books to share with the children. Parents now run the library. It opens once a week and has become a social event. Parents have started to organise mini jumble sales where parents bring in toys, clothes, videos and books to raise funds for the school. Staff at the Centre also borrow books and buy posters to extend their own understanding and teaching

Northumberland Park Community School in Haringey worked with the Museum of London to organise activities that focused on an exhibition of photography following the lives of three black men in '60s and '70s Britain. Parents had the opportunity to look at the photo exhibition and then discuss them with the artists. The intention was to promote an atmosphere where black parents could discuss their own personal journeys with their children.

A Family Language Project was set up in Hammersmith & Fulham in which pupils and parents could study their home language together after school for a GCSE qualification.

In Liverpool, the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) has been running the Black Achievement Project in a number of schools, using a grant from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. This provides support for Black British pupils, including Black history programmes of work and activities, to promote the development of positive identities. Children from Black and dual-heritage families research their family history and interview relatives in order to create a dossier of their own heritage to share with their peers. In St. Hugh's Catholic Primary School's Year 5 Project, pupils conducted research on a local Black role model (the principal of Liverpool Community College) in order to present a mock lesson for the rest of the school, parents and community representatives as part of Black History Month celebrations. These programmes have had the dual effect of bringing learning activities into the home and enabling children to share their heritage with their peers. After the introduction of the Black Achievement Project, data has shown marked improvements in the participating pupils' academic performance and schools have reported an increase in self-esteem and motivation.

At Bordesley Green Girls' School in Birmingham, parents are sometimes asked to lead acts of worship.

Wormholt Park Primary School in Hammersmith & Fulham set up a ‘Language of the Term' project to increase the understanding between different ethnic groups, to encourage all children to have a sense of pride in belonging to a multicultural school and to increase EAL (English as an Additional Language) parental involvement at the school. Each term the whole school learned a few phrases, such as ‘hello', ‘goodbye', what is your name?', ‘My name is...', ‘How are you?', ‘I am fine', in one of the main additional languages spoken at the school. Posters were made for each class and teachers were asked to practise the phrases for a few minutes a day, three to five times a week. In order not to interfere with teaching time, it was suggested that teachers and children could greet each other during register time and the children could be asked, ‘How are you?' after break-time. Children who spoke that particular language were asked to help their teachers to teach the language to the class. Parents also came into school to cook, read stories in their home language and to offer pictures, music and artefacts from their countries.

Greenside Primary School in Hammersmith & Fulham working with the EMTAS (Ethnic Minority Traveller Achievement Service) EAL (English as an Additional Language) Home School Project, held an International Week in which parents, some with quite limited English, went into classrooms and talked to children about their countries, taught them some of their own languages, told traditional stories and showed them how to cook traditional dishes.

What parents can do:

a. Ask the school to incorporate multicultural materials into lessons and other activities.

b. A key worker from a BME community organisation might offer the school an insight into sensitive religious and cultural needs that should be respected.

c. Consider letting the school know about community events happening in your area and perhaps invite staff.

d. Parents could think about forming a group or association to represent their - and their children's - interests in school. Some schools actively help parents to do so and will provide facilities such as a space to meet.

e. If your child attends a supplementary school, does it have links with your child's school? Could links be encouraged?

Know your rights. Ask to see the school's race policy and ask what they are doing to positively promote race relations in school, particularly through the curriculum. Parent, Blackpool


I have enlisted the help of some BME friends and relatives who are, or have been, teachers. This has proven to be useful. Parent, Solihull


Visit the school from time to time and monitor your child's progress. Do not feel ashamed to tell the school what your expectations are. Some schools are known to encourage black children to pursue certain subjects; however, this should not discourage you from encouraging your child to take things that they are good at. Parent, Manchester


By talking to the head teacher and then eventually getting BME-specific organisations to liaise with the school on how to work positively with BME young people, it has worked positively and the school has gone from justifying racist behaviour to dealing with it appropriately. Parent, Chelmsford

Where social barriers are hard to cross, unless staff are prepared to go more than 50%, then division remains. Teacher


I have always done the black perspectives at home with my son as we discovered centuries ago that we can't rely on this white supremacist, capitalist dictatorship to educate, love and nurture our black and dual heritage children. Parent, Northants


We arm our children with positive feelings about themselves and support their learning needs and the needs of parents in community settings. Parent


I am a white parent of a black child. It is important that people like myself are included as we have to challenge institutional and cultural racism from our position as parents. Parent

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