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AHT1: 'Has George Floyd Changed the UK's Educational System Forever?' Twitterchat Summary

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

On Sunday 28th June, I launched my first ever #ActionHeroTeacher twitterchat. Before 7pm last Sunday night, I felt like this...

But there was no need to worry! The response was absolutely incredible! It felt like Avengers: Endgame with everyone turning up to join in! If you were involved that night, thank you so much for joining in - I really, really appreciate it!

This week's blogpost is a summary of the best tweets from our session that really educated me & #EduTwitter community! If you are on Twitter, find these people, follow them and soak up all the wisdom you can get!

Let's dig in!

Q1. Does the way we relate to students from multi-ethnic backgrounds have to change, after George Floyd? If so, what changes are needed?

Here are some of the great responses!

As all these wonderful twitterers (is that a word?) stated, one meaningful change that must happen is we need to look at our current school curriculum.

In late 2013, the then-Education Secretary Michael Gove oversaw some of the biggest and most controversial changes to the UK Education system in a generation.

Initially, Gove's plans included a streamlining of the curriculum that focused heavily on British history and it's achievement through the lens of the British Empire.

Gove's plans were incredibly unpopular and although much of his original designs have been scrapped, we still had a curriculum that did not reflect the multi-cultural society that we are currently in.

As @E326Abey said, BAME History shouldn't be just one month - but should be integrated fully with British History.

Also, when BAME history is studied, a lot of the focus is on slavery, the end of colonisation and the American Civil Rights struggle.

BAME history did not start 500 years ago.

We need to do better and make a more rounded, nuanced curriculum that will help our kids thrive in our global village.

In my 'George Floyd' blogpost, I collated a number of resources that could help teachers 'decolonise the curriculum' around 3/4 of the way down the page. Click this link to get them.

Q2. If you teach students from a different culture to you, how do you create an inclusive environment in your classroom?

There's nothing more I could really add to these superb answers.

All the educators highlighted the need to be open, to allow conversations around culture and not be judgemental when others talk about their experiences.

I loved @ralston_h's idea of bringing different cultures, names and languages into your standard lessons.

It tells your minority students that you acknowledge and welcome their presence. You tell them that your class is a place that they are accepted and they can be themselves.

If you do not have 'warmth' it will be impossible to connect with your kids and you won't have a positive student-teacher relationship.

Q3. Should we encourage students to use their own dialects/slang in the classroom? Does slang harm their learning or enhance it?

This debate has been raging in Education for a while, especially with the rise of Multicultural London English that is very popular with the young teens of Britain.

As @MissBTeaches_ said there is a stigma around speaking with certain accents and dialects. Those who do not talk with 'Received Pronunciation' (RP) can often be frowned upon as not speaking proper English.

I have known many adults from different parts of the UK, who were told by their parents/caregivers to 'soften' their natural dialect because people may not take them seriously - Really?!?

This is felt even more by members of the BAME community who have to wrestle with their cultural identity as well as fit into the norms of British society.

@securlee made a great point about "code-switching" which as the Metro newspaper describes, "is where the speaker alternates between two or more languages, language varieties, or informal mixtures of language – all within a single conversation."

Ethnic Minorities grow up in a world where they have regularly switch between their cultural dialect to a 'British' dialect to fit into Education or Work. Sadly, this can cause them stress, anxiety and issues around identity and belonging.

As all these great educators stated, great teachers allow different aspects of culture and language to thrive in their classroom.

But great educators explain when using certain words and phrases are more appropriate than others, and teach them when to adapt their language.

Language is a box of tools. We have to teach them when to use a spanner or the Phillips screwdriver. One tool is not better than the other - it all depends on the job that needs to get done.

Q4. George Floyd’s death has encouraged many to speak out against injustice and inequality in wider society. Post George Floyd, do you feel more confident to speak out against discrimination in your institution? Or do you feel apprehensive?

The only sliver of hope that has come out of the tragedy of George Floyd's murder is that people now have more courage to have those uncomfortable conversations about race and push for equality.

What warms my heart is people like @joyoung1974, who is a headteacher, are using their positions to create positive changes in their schools.

Words and tweets will only go so far. We need systemic change to make sure that things get better.

But as @naomi_toland has said, we must be patient with each other. Race is a very sensitive subject to discuss and people will make mistakes.

We shouldn't 'cancel' people who are genuinely trying to improve and strive for equality.

We shouldn't 'cancel' people who are genuine but 'counsel' them instead.

Q5. Only 1% of all headteachers in the UK Education system are black. What specific barriers are holding back aspiring BAME leaders and how can we increase representation at the top?

In 2017, the-then-Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a special report called the "Racial Disparity Audit" which was meant to look at how racism disadvantaged the BAME community in the UK in all sectors of public life.

It was damning.

In 21st century Britain, that is simply not good enough.

Like @misskbNQT, many, including me before I did my research, are not even aware of how big the gap is.

More noise has to be made about the lack of black headteachers until it's representational. Simple.

Like @msreidteaches said, more has to be done to retain the talent from the BAME community and as @ralston_h states a centrally funded initiative whether at Government or Local Authority level, must be put together to encourage black teachers to further their careers.

As @E326Abey says, there needs to be more mentors and allies that can help black teachers on the pathway to leadership.

For our BAME kids, they can't be, what they can't see.

We need to show our BAME children teachers and other professionals that are at the top of their professions.

We are more than just rappers and footballers.

We need to show them that the only barrier to their success is their skill and work ethic NOT the colour of their skin and it starts with us in Education.

I hope that you enjoyed reading those tweets - I and so many others certainly did!

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