This framework has been designed to help you explore ideas around race equality and plan how to tackle racism with children, young people and staff.

It offers discussion starters in your workplace to help:

  • Empower Black staff and pupils to explore and express what matters to them.
  • Support young people’s right to speak out and engage as active citizens with the issues around racism that they care about.
  • Challenge racial inequalities and oppressive racial norms and assumptions.

Key points to think about with colleagues:

  • Often, we do not immediately recognise racial inequalities, or understand institutional racism because incidents are not necessarily overt or recognised as part of a pattern.
  • The aim should be to explore the patterns of racism and not use a deficit model (such as ‘close the gap’) where solutions are targeted at changing the individual student or group.
  • Black staff and pupils are not homogenous groups. All staff and pupils have identities which are unique to them. These identities include our ethnicity, but also our gender, sex, sexuality, disability, class and religion or belief. There are also differences in the way that different groups of Black staff or pupils are treated.
  • The responsibility and expectation of challenging racism should not fall to Black staff or pupils, but they have a unique perspective and have particular understanding and expertise about exclusionary practices and policies. Their viewpoints and experiences should be considered closely.

Why do we need an explicit anti-racist approach?

  • Race and racism are not well understood – ‘race’ is a social construct, but race is mistakenly and widely used to denote difference.
  • Racism is very real and yet often we deny it affects us, our behaviours or our school/college – whereas it affects every single student.
  • The majority of the people around the globe are not white and yet ideas about white superiority are still deeply influential and prevalent.
  • Black teachers and staff face a range of discriminations, including in recruitment, career and pay progression rates and also in relation to issues such as appraisal and job evaluations.
  • There is a growing ‘blame the foreigners’ narrative for strains on schools and colleges, (and the NHS and all public services), which if unchecked will lead to increasing racism

Why do we need an anti-racist approach within education?

  • Schools can change pupils’ lives which is why it is important that all schools have an inclusive and supportive approach.
  • We face a growth in intolerance and racism, despite anti-racist legislation and agreements such as the International Declaration of Human Rights, all around the world and within the UK.
  • Young people’s ideas about race must be explored and discussed within educational contexts – if not within education, where?
  • Education is a crucial place where we can challenge the ‘normalisation’ of many forms of racism, including Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.
  • Training and other interventions will not be effective unless there is a culture of open discussions about race and racism, where staff and young people are acknowledged as key to developing solutions.

Barriers and myths

This framework is designed to help you create spaces for peer reflection and school/college self-evaluation.

It is not easy to improve anti-racist practice or to develop and embed an anti-racist approach to education without talking through some of the myths about racism and the assumptions that are barriers to equitable practice.

  • We don’t have many Black pupils, so addressing racism isn’t a priority

    All Western media, books and cultures are impacted by racial norms and assumptions of white superiority: every student needs access to opportunities to learn about and understand racism and bigotry, the forms they take, how such beliefs are formed and how to challenge them.

  • We treat everyone the same and educate about respect for difference

    Respect for difference isn’t enough. Currently, society is based on hierarchies about race. Respect is an important value to promote, but anti-racism requires exploration of the history and patterns of power imbalances and discrimination, in age appropriate ways, if we are to change things for the next generation.

  • We are focused on “closing the gap”

    “Closing the gap” is a deficit model based on seeing the group of pupils who are disadvantaged and stereotyped by racism and poverty as the “problem”.

    Very often political debates seek to minimise the impact of racism and even to blame Black communities by discussing them in an oppositional way to white ‘working class’ children. We need to both challenge the poverty and social hierarchies which harm Black and white working class communities and understand the impact of racism on Black children and families.

  • We take a “Zero Tolerance” approach to unacceptable pupil behaviour

    All behaviour policies must support positive behaviour for learning and support young people to take responsibility for their behaviour. However, there are huge racial disparities in exclusions: and zero tolerance behaviour policies are shown to disproportionately harm and segregate Black pupils, working class pupils and children with SEND.

    Your behaviour policy should empower you and your colleagues to make professional judgements. Staff must feel supported and part of a team – but behaviour policies must aim to support pupil wellbeing and understand what is causing or triggering challenging behaviour.

    Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) play a huge part in what contributes to children’s behaviour.

  • We focus on high standards for everyone to support pupils to achieve well

    High expectations for and of every child have been shown to be transformative and is essential. However, much of the curriculum in school/college centres on cultural assumptions, which are driven by white and middle-class norms. The hierarchies and patterns of discrimination created and perpetuated by racism can’t be overcome by high expectations alone – they require an explicit and open conversation about British and Global history, the power dynamics within racism, bias and racial hierarchies.

  • Working-class pupils face the biggest challenges, don’t they?

    Yes. Social class is the biggest predictor of outcomes in our education system today. Working class children and young people - which as a group includes white and Black students - can face a range of barriers. Schools need to think about the stereotypes around race, class and gender that may impact on children and young people and can limit their experiences and ambitions. Drawing on your local community and representing the community in school is important.

Whole school/college approach for creating an anti-racist perspective

  • Each school/college has a different local context, in terms of community.
  • Each school/college will have a different context in terms of your number of Black staff, parents and pupils.

Every student is affected by racism, but the impact and consequences of racism for Black staff and Black pupils can be largely invisible to white staff

A whole school approach

Anti-racism framework. A whole school approach.

Anti-racist framework


Does the leadership have a commitment to anti-racist values and a whole school/college approach to race equality?

Work with NEU members in your school/college to establish which are the priorities for your setting.

Human Rights Education diagram

Teaching and Learning

Is the curriculum being used:

  • To challenge race inequality
  • Achieve cultural inclusion
  • Respond to the differences in children’s lives caused by racism, poverty and discrimination

How can the concept of global citizenship be helpful to engage your students?

Global citizenship education provides a chance for young people to reflect on their roles and responsibilities regarding issues of equality and justice in human development – individually, locally and globally.

This is not an additional subject area but rather an overarching approach to classroom practice that is best embedded across the curriculum (core, extra and hidden) and life of the whole school and its community.

The UNESCO framework for Global Citizenship Education (2018) has 3 dimensions:

a) Cognitive: supporting pupils to acquire knowledge, understand and develop critical thinking skills to analyse and assess global issues and the interconnectedness and interdependency of countries and different populations

b) Socio-emotional: supporting pupils to have a sense of belonging to a common humanity; sharing values and responsibilities, sharing empathy, solidarity and respect for differences and diversity

c) Behavioural: supporting pupils to act responsibly for a more peaceful and sustainable world

Power and Voice

  • Whose voice is heard in your school/college?
  • Do Black staff feel valued and safe?
  • Do Black parents feel valued and respected in school/college?

Work with NEU members in your school/college to establish which are the priorities for your setting.

Decolonising Education

What does ‘decolonising education’ mean?

Decolonising is a way of thinking that interrogates how colonisation shapes the way we think, our education system and the curriculum. The legacy and ongoing impact of the ideas that shaped colonisation and the actions of the British empire contributes to contemporary racial inequalities.

Discussions about decolonising education is one essential step to developing anti-racist educational spaces.

Understanding the context for today’s immigration debates is impossible without understanding that large numbers of people who came to the UK didn’t actually come as migrants; they came from colonies and former colonies as citizens.

A representative and relevant education system should reflect Black children’s histories, achievements, culture and politics. All children deserve to see themselves reflected in their books, schools and communities and to achieve this we must re-think both curriculum and assessment .

Wellbeing and Belonging

  • Which pupils feel a sense of belonging? Why?
  • Is student wellbeing seen as a priority?
  • What are the links between racism and wellbeing?

Work with NEU members in your school/college to establish which are the priorities for your school/college.

NEU Research on Place and Belonging

A sense of place and belonging: a transformative whole school/college approach

  • Is this school/college a place where everybody feels like they belong? If not, what are we going to do about it?
  • What approaches on wellbeing and belonging could help you look at the challenges pupils face in their local context and identify new possibilities?
  • Using the powerful concept of ‘agency’ – think about and identify what agency means for teachers and young people.
  • Develop a model of evaluation that puts belonging at the heart of school/college life.
  • Find case studies and research about how to build a sense of agency, place and belonging.


  • What is the local history in your area?
  • How can you use it to discuss protests, struggles or campaigns led by Black communities in your area?

Work with NEU members in your school/college to establish which are the priorities for your school/college.

Migration and ‘the hostile environment’

Many pupils will hear the misconception that Britain was once exclusively white. Some adults believe that racial and cultural homogeneity in their part of Britain has been disrupted by migration. In fact, there has always been racial and cultural diversity throughout Britain’s history. The UK does not have a ‘white’ or monocultural history. This is not a country unsettled by migration, it is a country made by migration. Without giving every student a knowledge of this history, the UK’s understanding of itself will always be mythical and inaccurate – and it will allow migrants to be scapegoated by various politicians. The UK’s migration history- and how we all think about migration today (as teachers and pupils) – can’t be understood without looking at how migration and immigration legislation relates to race and the colonial project.

Our Migration Story: The Making of Britain

You will find an excellent resource from The Runnymede Trust and the University of Cambridge. This website presents the often untold stories of the generations of migrants who shaped the British Isles. It is designed to support teachers and pupils studying migration to Britain.

The site is organised through stories of individuals and groups. These stories are told through a diverse range of historical source material and are arranged into four time-period categories: AD43-1500; 1500-1750; 1750-1900; 1900-2000s. Across each period, you will find images, quotations, newspaper clippings, Parliamentary reports, videos, poems, extracts from novels, and many other materials that present the successes, challenges, obstacles and surprises faced by Britain’s migrants over more than a thousand years.

Most case studies end with potential questions and classroom activities, and there are excellent lesson plans and classroom activities.What could you do differently to teach about the fullness and the richness of the contributions made, and lives lived, by Britain’s many migrant groups?

The power of language

What does ‘race’ mean?

Race is a socially constructed concept- it is what is sometimes called ‘a social construct’.

We all have an ethnicity but there is no biological merit or accuracy in the concept of ‘race’. Some anti-racist organisations place race in inverted commas (‘race’) to remind us that ‘race’ has been created and used differently across history.

We are all influenced more than we realise by racial discourses which link supposedly biological characteristics to racial groups and such characteristics are sometimes misunderstood to be genetically inherent.

Throughout history, ‘race’ has been used to categorise different groups of people based on perceived physical differences- and has been the basis of supposedly biological categorisations behind genocides.

What is ‘ethnicity’?

Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably.

An ethnic group generally refers to a community which has a long, shared history of which the group is conscious of as distinguishing it from other groups and the memory of which keeps it alive; a cultural tradition of its own including family and social manners; sometimes associated with religious observance; a common, however distant, geographical origin and a common language and literature.

We all have an ethnicity. ‘White British’ is used to denote an ethnic group, although this obscures regional differences in terms of how people feel and identify and ignores the existence of social class.

There are many different white minority ethnic groups and their experiences of access to education are different - for example, some Jewish, Irish and European people who may face many barriers, discrimination and forms of stigma. Additionally, racism may affect some Gypsy, Roma or Traveller people who may not identify as white.

Why do some reports and organisations use BME or BAME?

BME (Black and minority ethnic) and BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) are used widely but have significant limitations:

  • They suggest that individuals are a homogenous group.
  • They can appear to be convenient descriptions but are not generally identities which people have themselves chosen to identify.
  • They overlook the fact that African, Asian and all non-white people are actually a global majority.
  • The terms can pathologise certain groups and implies the putting down of a group as ‘’less than’’

How to use the right language?

It is important to talk about ethnicity, perceptions about race and what needs to be done to challenge stereotypes so that we can advance race equality.

The more often racism is talked about the more comfortable staff will become in having these discussions, thinking critically about our perceptions and where they come from and examining our unconscious biases.

Involve and engage your staff and pupils in discussions about language and this will signal your awareness of the sensitivities and complexity around how we identify. Discussing language and terminology can help open up wider discussions about race and the importance of monitoring by ethnicity and improve disclosure rates in monitoring exercise- a clear commitment to taking action will increase engagement.

Why is Black a political term?

This framework mainly uses the term ‘Black’. Black is used in its political sense to denote a solidarity between Asian, African and Caribbean and all people of colour who identify with political ‘Blackness’.

‘Black’ was first used by white people to describe colonised and enslaved Asian and African people as a derogatory comparison to White.

This term was reclaimed in Britain as part of the struggle of working-class African Caribbean and Asian communities against racism in the 1970s.

While many anti-racist organisations continue to use Black as a political term, the understanding and unity of action symbolised by this term has been declining.

Black members in the NEU have determined that they want the term Black used, to re-assert the unity intended within the term and to get teachers talking about the origins of racism.

Be clear about what you are doing and who you mean

The NEU Black Members conference agreed that the NEU should use Black in a political context to encompass “all members who self-identify as Black, Asian and any other minority ethnic groups who do not identify themselves as white”. This includes Gypsy and Roma non-white people. The NEU recognises that the term Black is not universally accepted by African, African Caribbean teachers, Asian or non-white people, and won’t be understood by all.

Have a conversation about language in your school/college and use terms that are accurate for each group of pupils.

If you have a project on Roma pupils, say that.

If you have a project involving African/Caribbean girls, say that.

Discrimination and which terms are used in legislation

The Equality Act 2010 protects staff from discrimination on the grounds of their skin colour, nationality or ethnic origins. The Equality Act 2010 also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

(Adapted from the HE Race Equality Charter)

Values that support anti-racist education


Fairness in access, opportunity, experience and outcome.


Fairness and non-discrimination, safety and security.


Belonging and feeling relevant and involved.


Representation, participation and the power to affect decisions.


Enabling and protecting personal, community and cultural dignity, enabling truthful histories, destigmatising communities.


Improving physical, mental and emotional wellbeing that is so often damaged by racism.

Black Teachers
NEU anti-racist charter

A framework for developing an anti-racist approach.