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Fit for the future: Curriculum and content

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Fit for the future Curriculum and content

Schools across the country are slowly winding down for the last two weeks of what has been one of the most unusual and difficult academic years of every education professional’s career. Staff and children are tired, nerves are frayed, and the soggy summer so far has dampened spirits. Schools needed support more than ever before in 2020-21 and many have found it, but sadly, too few have found it from their government.

Since the first announcement of school closures in March 2020 – educational leaders have been forced to respond and react to the Department of Education’s every whim and late-night dictate. As we emerge from behind our masks and class bubbles 18 months later, education standards are now the new target, led from the front by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

A short while before the pandemic hit, Ofsted had instituted changes to their inspection regime. The emphasis shifted from a focus on results to a more significant consideration of curriculum. Schools in England scrambled to design skills and progression maps to show that children were “knowing more, remembering more” from their learning. Throughout the pandemic, a war of divergent opinions has raged on Twitter as to which pedagogical choices can achieve this goal. With this new focus on Curriculum design, there has been considerable debate about what material should be included in various schemes of work. This professional discussion has coincided with sweeping social change through climate justice, BLM, and anti-legislation marches. 

This curriculum redesign is a moment where schools can make conscious choices about what they teach. Curriculum choices must be made to bind our diverse nation together, rather than dividing us further. It is even more important as it may be one of the last choices schools have left to make independently. As in-person inspections have been paused during the pandemic, Ofsted have spent their time releasing increasingly more restrictive regulations on behaviour, reading, and maths to mixed reviews from the teaching community. Ofsted does set out some broad objectives for curriculum such as:

“If schools can show that they’ve thought about curriculum carefully – that they’ve built a curriculum with appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing, and implemented it effectively – then it’s likely inspectors will judge their curriculum favourably. We’ll also be looking at whether the curriculum is broad for each and every pupil.”

This specific guidance is deliberately vague and leaves a lot of room for interpretation and misinterpretation. What does ‘appropriate coverage’ mean exactly? Appropriate for whom? Classrooms across the country look and feel different according to their location and cohort. There has been a growing concern that, for many pupils, the current curriculum excludes large parts of our nation’s colonial past. We often speak of glory and gain and little of impact and harm caused. The curriculum is often framed around a single racial narrative and fails to address pivotal aspects of the historical experiences of other cultures in the UK.

There are organisations which have designed a more diverse curriculum, such as The Black Curriculum, yet the government has not highlighted this nor encouraged it. Those schools which have made use of such resources have done so from their initiative, which leaves much room for ignoring and sidelining sections of English society. Schools can still, in 2021, choose authors and historical figures drawn only from one racial background, which should no longer be the case. Ofsted, and the government, should take this moment of redefining education and ensure that all sections of England are seen and heard in classrooms across the country. If change is already in the making, it should be inclusive and meaningful and lead from the top.

Only a cursory glance at our feted football team will indicate that England is built on the greatness of its diversity. The history of immigration, inclusion, and injustice is part of the fabric of our lives. True appreciation of our nation is not shown in clapping hands or waving flags; it is built in the classroom on acknowledging experiences of all parts of our country. It is time for an inclusive curriculum. Children cannot know more and remember more if they are not taught more to begin with.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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A teacher, mother and radio presenter. Is interested in education, equality and community relations. Currently
living in London.

Women's Issues

“My Hijab instils British values in schools”

Wearing my hijab as a school teaches educates my students about British values and other cultures and religions.

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Hijab wearing teacher

As a secondary school science teacher who wears the hijab, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of schools – including a state all-girls school, a Catholic all-boys school and a state mixed school. In every school environment I have worked in, I have always been met with respect by both colleagues and students.

Anyone who has worked in a school environment will know that pupils are always intrigued to know more about the personal lives of the teachers around them. This often helps foster a positive relationship in the classroom, and helps students feel comfortable and confident in class. I have been asked numerous questions about my age, my education, my marriage, and (being a visible, hijab-wearing teacher) my faith. I tend not to shy away from questions about my faith. I see it as an opportunity to teach students about the realities of Islam (which are misconstrued in the media). 

The school I currently work at, in Surrey in the UK, has pupils from a predominantly white working-class background. Some of these pupils have never had the opportunity to openly ask Muslims questions about their faith. Since working here I have been asked questions such as: 

“Why do you wear a scarf miss?”

“Do you wear the scarf at home?”

“Why do Muslims pray five times a day?”

“Miss, are you doing Ramadan?”

And my personal favourite was from a student who had picked up the word “Mashallah” (an Arabic word indicating praise or approval which means ‘as Allah willed’) from TikTok and asked me what it means.

Children, by nature, are curious about the world around them. As teachers, we are here to develop that curiosity and understanding. This job is not limited to the subject we teach. If we have a look at the National Curriculum Framework in England (for KS1-KS4), one of the key aims of the curriculum is to provide “pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens”. The Department for Education has also highlighted the importance of promoting British values within schools, which states that all schools “have a duty to ‘actively promote’ the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”

Giving my non-Muslim students a safe space to ask me various questions about my faith and personal life allows them to see that, despite being a hijab-wearing teacher, they can relate to aspects of my life, which shows that I am not that different to them. This helps build a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, develops social integration and fosters those British values (of respect and tolerance) within students.

Hijab wearing teacher helping student
The hijab has a positive impact of society and helps foster tolerance and understanding

Having a hijab-wearing teacher also has another positive impact on Muslim students within schools.

The girls’ school that I worked at was a very diverse school in London, which had a large proportion of young Muslim girls. It was evident that being represented within the teaching staff, and having a teacher “like them” had a powerful impact on confidence, motivation, and (as a result) attainment. I noticed the ‘shy’ girls coming out of their shells, and starting to raise their hand more in class. It was also evident that they felt more confident talking about their culture and faith around non-Muslims. This phenomena exists across the globe, with the Center for American Progress reporting that an increase in diversity amongst the public school teaching force enhances student performance amongst students of the same background.

The power of representation is well known across all sectors of society. There was a particular incident at school where one of my colleagues, who was in charge of creating resources for PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) days, had mistakenly included some false information about arranged marriages and the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract). Upon seeing this, I was able to educate this particular colleague about Islam and remove misconceptions. This led to the colleague asking me to fact-check all the information on Islam she decided to use in her presentations in the future. As a school community, this led to all students and teachers within the school receiving the correct information about Islam and my culture. It is evident that both adults and children reap the benefits of representation.

It would be naïve to assume that Muslims in the workplace do not struggle because of their identity. However, it is only through becoming visible ambassadors of Islam that we can open up avenues to have positive, and educational conversations with those around us. The hijab is my identity as a Muslim woman. Being free to express my identity at work has enabled me to build strong relationships with both pupils and colleagues, which has made me the teacher I am today. We have a responsibility to make sure that all students feel the same confidence regarding their religion, culture, and identity within schools so that they can reach their potential and become ‘educated citizens’ of the future. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

18 Year Old Massacres 14 Elementary Students and a Teacher in Texas

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  • Salvador Ramos, an 18 year old, entered Robb elementary School in Uvalde, Texas with a handgun and shot dead 14 children and a teacher before being taken down by an officer. 
  • The incident occurred at 11:32 am on Tuesday May 24th, 2022. Two reporting officers have also been injured trying to capture the shooter. Ramos has been reported dead as well.  
  • Ramos had also killed his grandmother right before driving to the elementary school. 
  • Investigation is still taking place as the school is trying to make sure all the other students are accounted for and handed off to their parents safely. 
  • President Biden is to speak on the school shooting this evening. Just this year, 2022, alone, there have been 27 school shooting incidents in the United States thus far. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Black Students in England Face Alarming Rates of Exclusions and Over Policing

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Canadian school board says all staff must now take anti Islamophobia training

Education is hailed as the key to establishing a world built upon more just foundations. But while this can definitely be the case, systemic practices in the West mean that educational institutions are not always geared towards being just. A recent Commission on Young Lives report in England shows that it is often in schools that racism and prejudices start, especially targeting Black students.

The report detailed the exclusion of Black students in schools, their adultification and the discrimination they face — from subtle racism to overt expressions of it. It shared the stories of many Black students who had been impacted by discrimination in their schools, and then proposed recommendations that schools should take into account.

Exclusions are a form of discipline practiced in schools across the West, but they often disproportionately impact Black students. Across England the report found that over seven years, there was a 55% increase in the number of students being permanently excluded from schools. Similarly, there was a 40% increase on temporary exclusions.

The upward trend in exclusions handed out to young Black students later leads to the criminalization of Black people and their overrepresentation in the country’s jails. Statistics prove that many of those who receive cautions or sentences for offences have previously been excluded from schools. For some Black students, when going to school is off of the table, they must find another way to sustain themselves. Stefan, someone who was excluded from his school, testified in the report that this was the case for him. “When someone gets kicked out of school [they are] pushed right into the groomers’ hands.”

Instead of teaching a child a lesson, like school discipline is supposed to do, the disproportionate rate of exclusions among Black students sets them up for failure and criminalization.

For some Black students, however, their exclusions have nothing to do with crime at all. Instead, they come from the discriminatory discipline policies that target Black pupils like the banning of black hairstyles, kissing teeth and fist bumps, among other things.

These policies do not only directly impact the education of Black people by kicking them out of school all together, on the basis of cultural identity, but they further the injustice against Black students by giving it an excuse to continue. When the school administration can penalize Black students for their forms of expression, students follow suit in teasing, bullying and discrimination against Black children. In the long run, then, instead of eradicating prejudices, the unfair treatment of Black students perpetuates them.

There is also significant evidence of over policing of Black students in British schools, leading to the adultification of young Black children. The term “adultification” describes a form of prejudice in which children from a minority group are made to seem less innocent based on their racial or ethnic identity.

The over policing of Black students comes as a result of the stereotypes that they are more aggressive, less innocent and the type of people to be protected from instead of the type of people to be protected.

In many cases, police have been found to treat young Black girls in a horrifying manner when called to schools for investigations, strip searching them at such a vulnerable age. It was found that although black Caribbean children make up only 5% of secondary school students, over 17% of strip-search cases are related to them.

The fact that the police and educational institutions are involved in the harmful treatment of Black students means that there is no one at an authoritative level that is taking a step forward in protecting minor Black children the way they should be. Subsequently, the disproportionate rate at which Black students are mistreated continues to skyrocket.

The unjust treatment of Black pupils in the education system means that they are not able to receive the same quality of education as the rest of their classmates. It was found that of all boys aged 15-17 in Youth Offender Institutions, only 50% have literacy rates above the average 7-11 year old.

When they are forced to spend more time worrying about the consequences of displaying their cultural identity or the implications of being treated way older than they actually are, Black students face statistically proven disadvantages. Down the line, Black adults find less job opportunities, are more highly criminalized, and have lower rates of graduation/post-secondary acceptance. 

It is not enough for schools to simply be responsible for teaching students justice. The teachers, staff, environment, curriculum, policies and community will all have to exhibit behaviours that exemplify justice.

Educational institutions will have to take a step forward in the protection of Black children. That means understanding that there are differences in treatment towards Black students that are harmful. That means introducing better policies, race equality teaching for staff and students, ending policing in schools and hiring more Black staff in schools. 

That means that Black children must be seen as children. Black children must be seen as learners. Black children must be seen

We cannot only leave change up to the future, it’s got to start in the present. If education is where the change in our world is going to start, then the change must start with schools.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.

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Society

OPINION: We Need to Tackle Misogyny and ‘Incel Culture’ in Society not Just in Schools

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via Creative Commons

Discussions of misogyny in the workplace has always been a topic. From women being treated unfairly at work, unequal pay to sexual harrassment by their male colleagues.

Society has progressed significantly over the past few decades, from when women were not allowed to vote or own property to seeing successful women in powerful positions such as Angela Merkel, Kamala Harris, Jacinda Ardern etc. 

However, there are always incidents that make one question whether society really has progressed to the extent like we think it has.

A recent article in the Guardian has claimed that 70% of female teachers have faced misogyny in UK schools. 

The article describes that female teachers have been subjected to misogyny and even sexual harrassment by their male colleagues and male students.

Contributors have reported some incidents on SKY news:

  • “Year 9 boys asking in class if I’d had breast implants. I have had my backside grabbed in corridor by pupils.” Another said: “My mentor when I was teacher training said he was going to ‘tie me up and rape me’.”
  • One said that a student had asked “Is it your time of the month miss?”, while others reported sexualised remarks about their appearance.
  • Another responded said pupils had exposed themselves or made sexual noises or gestures during lessons

The article also reports that: Teachers have raised concerns about the influence of “incel” subculture on teenage boys, as a survey revealed that seven in 10 female teachers have been victims of misogyny in school.

What is Incel culture and how does it link to misogny at school?

The definition of Incel culture is: “An incel is a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one”.

There are online forums on various social media platforms where men, mostly younger men and teenagers come together and discuss their frustrations and hatred towards women.

Root causes for why men join such a group may possibly be the lack of self-esteem, self pity and rejection by women, early exposure to pornography and witnessing unhealthy relationships at home.

Other causes could be the distorted expectations and pressures that have been set on relationships by society, on social media and the oversexualisation of women in mainstream media.

These ideas are not reality and can lead to men being disrespectful to women, treating them as objects and not giving them the respect they deserve.

The sanctity of relationships especially love relationships has been contaminated which is why as a society we need to reform the objective and purpose of relationships.

What can be done?

The numbers of women in schools or any other work environments reporting such high numbers of misogyny and harrassment is concerning. 

The fact that people of the Incel culture have been involved in several crimes towards women is also worrisome. 

This raises the question of what sort of actions can be taken to reduce this number. 

One such thing could be to educate young men and women much more in school environments. 

Teach the importance of treating everybody equally. 

More severe laws need to be passed that protect the dignity of women in the workplace and more. 

There need to be real consequences for such actions in conjuction with destigmatisation of women who come forward to report such events.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

OPINION: Teachers to Explore “Dehumanising” Impact of Pornography on Pupils – Why not on ALL of society?

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This week during a national conference in the UK, teachers will discuss and explore the “dehumanising” impact that pornography, showing “humiliation of women”, has on students, but is this not a conversation we should be having about its impact on our society as a whole?

The conference is arranged by the National Education Union’s (NEU) in Bournemouth, UK. Educators are expected to discuss concerns over “the prevalence of pornography which shows the harmful and humiliating treatment of women”.

Additionally the conference will deal with the question of whether the current education of sex and relationship is enough to deal with more serious issues like misogyny, sexism and consent. The idea of NEU is that being unable to deal with such issues properly, can leave students vulnerable to being “miseducated” by watching porn.

The Ofsted report in 2021 found that 90% of girls and 50% of boys had reported that either they or their peers had received explicit pictures that they did not wish to see “a lot” or “sometimes”. This report was very concerning for NEU and pushed it to raise the question at the national conference. 

The thousands of disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual violence involving state and independent schools, as well as universities on the website Everyone’s Invited, triggered the review. 

Disclosures made by students include more than 51,000 testimonies, shared on the website. Hundreds of education settings across the UK and a full spectrum of abusive behaviour in them was reported. 

The evidence that pornography “predominantly features young women being subjected to acts of violence such as strangulation and choking as well as racialised tropes, all of which dehumanise women”, will be looked at the conference by NEU. And there will also be debate about the increasingly sexualised nature of social media.

The question that begs to be asked though is when we as a society recognise the vulgar and morally corrosive impacts of pornography, why are we only discussing it in the realm of children and students? Instead, there is a dire need for us to have serious conversations about the place of vulgar and explicit content of this sort in our society at all, with the aim of stamping it out for all, not just our students. 

Material that degrades and dehumanises women, does not suddenly become acceptable when we turn 18. Easy access to this kind of vulgar material continues to plague our society, so it’s about time we put an end to porn.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

Lockdown and it’s Impact on Child Development

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The Covid-19 pandemic has touched the lives of people around the world, and one effect has been on children. When schools closed, unless their parents were key workers, children were forced to stay home and study. For very young children this involved relying on parental attention which could have been shared with working their jobs from home as well as household chores. A recent report by Ofsted has shown significant negative effects of the pandemic, with Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, saying, “We are seeing difficulties with social interaction and social confidence… And also in physical development”

Children’s development, particularly in terms of language, should not have been overly affected by the lockdowns. Some difference can be expected in terms of interaction with people children didn’t meet until after restrictions were lifted; they may be more wary of sharing, and with physical contact – but this can be changed as they adjust over time.

According to the theory of language development by B.F Skinner, children learn completely by imitation of adults, so all the speech they use has been copied from those around them. If this was the case, it would be completely understandable for children born during the pandemic to have limited language capabilities. One of the main issues with the theory, as put forward by linguist Noam Chomsky, is the “poverty of input”. Adults don’t often have enough variation in their vocabulary, or speak in grammatically correct sentences, which would reinforce the idea that children’s speech has been affected by lockdown.

However, if abiding by the ideas of Chomsky, it would mean believing that children have an innate ability when it comes to language, and he called this inborn instinct for grammatical rules the “Language Acquisition Device” or LAD for short. Obviously, since limitations in the language abilities of children born during the pandemic has been noticed, this theory already has many issues. If it was totally true, then children would have no problems at all in their language development.

Psychologist Jerome Bruner proposed a development on this idea of children’s innate language skills. He argued that the key factor in children’s language development is interaction between children and parents. It is not enough for a child to just hear their native language being spoken, there has to be a two-way interaction. He was interested in the language used by adults when speaking to children, for example, the use of more limited vocabulary and simplified grammar, and the expansion or recasting of their children’s sentences.

Bruner was also influenced by the psychologist Vygotsky who thought that all learning involves interaction with a “more knowledgeable other”. Bruner used this to build his idea of “scaffolding” i.e. that the innate ability to learn language is matched by the parent or caregiver’s skills in adapting their speech to support development. He built on Chomsky’s concept of the LAD and suggested that the interaction between parents and children forms a Language Acquisition Support System, or LASS.

Of course, no theory will be without its issues, but Bruner’s seems to come closest to how children develop language skills in real life. Cases such as that of Jim, a son to deaf parents who didn’t teach him sign language, believing that input from the TV and radio would be enough to help him learn how to speak, show the importance of interaction with parents when it comes to the development of language skills. Jim’s speaking abilities were heavily impacted by the lack of communication with his parents, and only after intense speech therapy, was he able to develop speech.

This shows that the pandemic shouldn’t have severely affected children’s ability to form words unless they were having very little interaction with parents or caregivers in the home. If this is the case, then the issue is much bigger than simply lockdown being at fault. Even if the child is only at home for weeks, it shouldn’t have such an impact on their speech skills because, in terms of the legal Covid restrictions, nothing was preventing or limiting interaction within the home.

In a recent Guardian article, a preschool teacher wrote about children that were “struggling to articulate” and “missed out on physical development opportunities” such as five year olds crawling instead of walking. interesting but concerning observations when it comes to the development of children’s skills, however, how much is Covid-19 or Lockdown restrictions responsible for this? There is a deeper problem here. Nurseries and schools shouldn’t be responsible for teaching “foundational skills” like speaking and walking. Of course, being around other adults and children is important when it comes to development, but even when this is not possible, as during lockdown, the growth of these basic abilities shouldn’t be stunted as much as this. The real question is, why are parents not speaking to or encouraging their child in physical milestones?

However busy life would get with working from home, and various household chores, parents should still have found time to talk to their child so they know how to be part of a conversation, and to help them with balance and steadying themselves so they get used to walking. Ms Spielman said “For some children they’ve not much interaction at all if they’ve spent all their time looking at screens. Children have been talking in the funny voices of cartoons they’ve been spending enormous amounts of time watching.”

Lockdown may have been the reason for children having to be at home, but their development shouldn’t be reliant on schools only. Such a detrimental amount of screen time is the responsibility of the parent; why was the child spending so much time watching TV that they picked up the habits of fictional characters instead of the people in their household? Instead, family members reading stories or even having a conversation with the child while carrying out household tasks would provide the child with the necessary interaction as well as distraction. Studies have shown how an early exposure to language and conversations helps with their later skills and academic achievement, and is something every child should be given the advantage of.

Schools and nurseries play a vital part in teaching young children life skills but they should only be one element with the first responsibility being on parents. The pandemic created a difficult situation but we can learn from it and ensure our children grow up healthy and with properly developed social skills. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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