The Senedd is in the process of passing a new curriculum for Wales’ schools. On the subject of history, the Senedd resolved that Estyn should take full account of Welsh, and wider, BAME history, identity and culture.
Giving our learners an education that accounts for and celebrates Wales’ diverse history is something I wholeheartedly welcome. But we must do even better to ensure all of our communities feel welcome and valued, and this can begin in the classroom.
The charity Show Racism the Red Card Wales (SRtRC) has recently produced some striking findings on the extent of racism within primary and secondary education in Wales. Of the roughly 1000 teaching staff surveyed, 25% said they had observed or responded to a racist incident in the last 12 months in their school. More shockingly however, 63% of the 428 pupils surveyed said they or someone they know has been a target of racism in school.
This disparity should be a big cause for concern, because it suggests our teachers do not feel adequately trained enough to call out racism. This matters, because a failure to challenge everyday biases and stereotypes leaves open the possibility for serious escalation and discrimination. In the comments submitted for instance, SRtRC found evidence of a year 7 pupil repeatedly refusing to sit next to a black pupil, and a group of year 5’s pulling a girl’s Hijab off and running away with it.
Education is without doubt the most effective tool for combatting persistent racist attitudes and stereotypes in society. It is genuinely shocking that SRtRC found evidence of teachers afraid to teach anti-racism because of the attitudes of fellow staff, and a general reluctance to ‘stir the pot’. These are undoubtedly difficult and thought provoking conversations for everyone, but however uncomfortable they might be, experiencing racism remains a far more painful everyday reality for people across Wales.
So as the new curriculum takes shape, there remain huge cultural challenges within education and wider society when it comes to racism. This is about so much more than history, but I hope that by telling a more comprehensive story of how Wales came to be, we can bring an end to the discrimination that continues to persist in 2020.