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Anti-racism charter: Framework for developing an anti-racist approach

This framework is a response to the Barriers report, which was based on the testimony of over 1,000 Black teachers about the impact of racism in their workplaces.

Black woman writing notes

Race equality

Racism is a structural barrier perpetuated by individuals that lead to discrimination against a person because of their race.

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This framework is a response to the ‘Barriers’ report which was based on the testimony of over 1,000 Black teachers about the impact of racism in their workplaces. To address some of the concerns arising from that report, I discussed with the NEU executive the need to help teachers develop anti-racist approaches in schools and workplaces. After further consultation and a pilot phase, this framework was launched in 2020 to help all schools and colleges in their work for just and inclusive education for children, young people and staff.

The Black school/college population is growing in number and breadth and the continuing discussions of inequalities have centred around disproportionate exclusions and the so-called ‘attainment gap’. However, debates have tended to treat these as if they were stand-alone issues, without a broader structural and power analysis of race and racism and their effects on children and young people. There are many aspects of race that impact education, for example in recruitment, retention and progression of Black staff; an ethnocentric curriculum; racial hate crime – which doubled in the two years after the Brexit vote in 2016; racial harassment and discrimination against staff and pupils and the persistent disproportionality in exclusions of Black, GRT and SEND children. Thousands of students are also excluded every year because of racist behaviour.

Race, racism and the legacy of empire are increasingly being exposed. In 2020, the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement catalysed actions and argument around the world about historical racial injustices and their contemporary legacies. The catastrophic and disproportionate effects of Covid 19 on Black communities; controversies which surround removing the symbols of racism and empire and the horrific racism we see on social media have all prompted critical thinking about race in Britain.

That’s why this framework is needed more than ever to support schools/colleges, teachers and children and young people to address racism. The framework is designed to enable a whole school/ college approach to racial literacy and has five key themes: leadership, teaching and learning, voice and power, wellbeing and belonging and community leadership.

The framework also links to the concept of ‘decolonising education’. In practice, decolonising education means rebuilding a school system that supports all students, staff and teachers. A system that is responsive to the particular needs of each and every child. Decolonising education involves examining the limitations and biases of the current curriculum; the omissions in initial teacher education and training; and examining the political and societal legacies of colonialism and how they have influenced education policies.

Collectively, we must also challenge the political environment (globally and nationally) that is emboldening an anti-immigrant, ‘blame foreigners’ populist narrative. I know most teachers absolutely want to ensure that education is free from any form of discrimination or bullying but many need support to do this. I hope every school or college will find this framework helpful in the quest for racism-free education.

Daniel Kebede

NEU president 2021/22

Getting started

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 such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • 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 antisemitism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.
  • 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.

Making the positive case for promoting race equality through education

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.

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.

Barriers and myths



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

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 are 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.

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