Anti-racism: how to review and re-frame your curriculum
Learn how to make diversity central to your curriculum, not just a bolt on, and make sure BAME history and achievements are taught all year round. Use our review tool to question and adapt what you’re teaching so your curriculum accurately represents Britain's diverse past and the society we live in today.
This article focuses on how to improve your curriculum in relation to race. You can, and should, apply similar principles to improve diversity in terms of gender, disability and sexual orientation.
Download our subject-specific primary or secondary review tools
Our anti-racism curriculum review tools will help you review all National Curriculum subjects. The questions and prompts will help you pinpoint where the weaknesses or gaps are in each subject, and the next steps explain how you can address them.
3 aims: representation, re-framing and anti-racism
Your review should have 3 aims:
- Improving diversity and representation across the curriculum: this is about asking whose stories you tell and who tells these stories. It's also about making sure BAME pupils see themselves reflected in your curriculum, all year round. For example, including Black Tudors in history lessons or talking about the Arabic origins of algebra in maths
- Re-examining how certain subjects are taught through a western or colonial lens, and re-framing this: also known as “decolonising the curriculum”. This isn't necessarily changing what you teach, but how you teach it. For example, teaching the British Empire as “invading and exploiting” rather than “exploring and settling”
- Teaching explicitly about racism and anti-racism (past and present) within your curriculum: it's important to teach this in a British context, and do this all year round. For example, teaching about the Bristol bus boycott, not just Rosa Parks
Consider adapting your curriculum intent to include your commitment to equality and diversity – this needs to be central to your whole curriculum, rather than just an add-on.
How to carry out the review
Create a cross-curricular staff working group
- Subject leaders or heads of department should lead this review and ask the questions and prompts for their subject – they know their curriculum best and will be best placed to make granular changes
- Create a cross-curricular staff working group to share expertise and ideas. This is especially important for primary schools, where subject leaders aren't necessarily subject specialists. This group should include:
- The subject leader or head of department for each subject
- Any other members of staff who are interested in this work and want to take part. They don't have to be teachers – they just need to be passionate about improving diversity in your curriculum
- This is a big piece of work, so it shouldn't fall to just a few people. Make sure it doesn’t just fall to BAME staff – this is everyone’s responsibility
- This working group should meet regularly to discuss how the review is going, and share resources and ideas. Even though their subjects are different, the kinds of questions they'll be asking and their overall aims (see above) should be aligned, so encourage them to work together and support each other
- Certain subjects might want to work more closely together (where there are more direct links between their subjects), e.g. English and history, maths and science
- When carrying out the review, the working group should look at curriculum maps, short and long-term plans, and sometimes individual lesson plans and resources (you won’t always need to go into this level of detail, but you might want to look at a few examples of lesson plans or resources per unit to get a good idea of how content is taught)
- The working group should also take into account cross-curricular events/days, trips and assemblies
- How often the working group meets is up to you, and will depend on how much time your staff have. Aim for at least once a term, but half-termly would be ideal
Give staff time to educate themselves on anti-racism
This isn’t going to work unless people are engaged and believe this is important. Before carrying out the review, you'll want to improve staff's 'racial literacy'.
- Make sure the staff carrying out the review are well-read on the most important issues using our anti-racist reading lists for staff. Give them some time to reflect on this reading and discuss it together before jumping into the review
- Share the following free webinars with staff and give them time to watch these videos and discuss them as a group:
- Challenge Partners – Diversity within the Curriculum with Shalina Patel
- Chiltern Teaching School Alliance – An Inclusive Curriculum, facilitated by Lorraine Hughes
A working group of staff, parents and governors should oversee this work
A separate working group of staff, parents and governors should oversee this work, alongside any whole-school work they're doing to improve your school's approach to anti-racism, such as a whole school anti-racism audit.
Find out how to set up a working group and use it to improve your approach to anti-racism.
Include the whole school community and let them know what you're doing
- Consider running an INSET or CPD session for all staff to “kick-off” the review (using the webinars above, or extracts from them, as a starting point) so everyone is engaged and feels involved, not just staff in the working group
- Encourage all staff to feed in suggestions or ideas of what needs to improve, via their subject leader
- Include pupils and parents in these discussions, even if they aren’t in the working group. Tell them you’re going to review your curriculum and why you’re doing it. For a great example of how to do this, see Hanover Primary School's statement about their anti-racist strategy (see the document on the left-hand side of the page)
- Let governors know you're carrying out this work, especially any curriculum link governors. Let them know how they can get involved with the working group if they want to
Don't expect this to be a quick fix
This isn’t a quick piece of work – it may take up to a year to do the full review, and once you've completed it the working group should keep meeting to discuss how it's going and any ways they want to adapt the curriculum further. In a sense, this work will never be "finished" – it's likely to be an ongoing process.
- Your cross-curricular working group might want to meet at the end of each term or half-term (depending on how often they're meeting) to review what’s been taught that term/half-term and how they want to re-frame/teach the content differently the following year – this way the whole review will be completed in 1 year
- Give staff time to get this right, and don't expect them to complete the review in their own time. You could consider setting aside all your INSET days for a year for those staff in the working group to dedicate themselves to this work
- Ideally, you'd review all subjects simultaneously. But if time or capacity is limited, good subjects to start with are history, English, RE and geography – this is where the biggest changes may need to be made and where you can add the most value. We’ve set out the subjects within the review tools in a suggested order, but don’t forget to review every subject eventually
Next steps: support staff to deliver this curriculum
When you've reviewed and adapted your curriculum, you need to support your teachers to be confident delivering it.
- The cross-curricular working group should continue to support staff in delivering the curriculum once they've adapted it
- Use our anti-racist reading lists for staff to help get all teachers up to speed
- Consider staff training – for example:
Many thanks to the following experts who helped us write this article and compile the review tools:
- Gulshan Kayembe is an independent consultant with extensive experience of school improvement. She is passionate about the curriculum and its potential to inspire the best from our learners. Gulshan provides training and facilitation in a wide range of areas including teaching and learning and diversity
- Pran Patel is the founder of Decolonise The Curriculum. He has 16+ years of teaching experience, working recently as an assistant principal. He currently consults with schools nationally and internationally on decolonisation of the curriculum and different aspects of pedagogy and leadership
- Shalina Patel is head of teaching and learning and a history teacher at Claremont High School Academy. She has recently run training for Challenge Partners on diversity in the curriculum and has written for Teach Secondary on why schools should teach students about hidden and marginalised figures
- Sufian Sadiq is director of teaching school at Chiltern Learning Trust. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors and holds various roles with awarding bodies. He is experienced in curriculum planning and design