“What do you think of the school serving us fried chicken to celebrate Black History Month?”
This was a question posed to me in 2019 by a 12-year old black student at a school in East London.
And it was a big question.
The school was clearly ‘trying’ and ‘well-meaning’ by trying to recognise the importance of Black History Month. But given that the UK curriculum fails to formally acknowledge black history both in and outside of the country, it's likely the school's staff simply didn't know enough to do Black History Month justice.
This is just one example of a poorly executed activity that actually perpetuates a limited stereotype of blackness for all pupils, rather than promoting inclusivity.
Even though the students were able to recognise the bias and weight behind this action as well as others of a similar nature, the teachers and other professionals were unable to because of the natural embedded bias in our education system.
That’s why we need Class 13.
Class 13 is a programme for UK teachers to help them unpack and unlearn their racial, gender and wider biases so that all children in the UK may have access to an education that promotes equality. We identify issues that often go unseen, and work to reduce these practices that reproduce inequality in our classrooms. We do this through an extensive, robust programme of assessment, training and psychological support for both teachers and students.
And we need your support to fund the pilot project. The UK's young people desperately need a more holistic, anti-racist education, because school is where most bias begins and gets embedded in the minds of our young people.
On a global scale, people are waking up to the fact that many of our systems aren't just broken, they were never right in the first place.
Despite the increase in the last few years of conferences, white papers and press releases about that hot topic of ‘diversity’, very few of the institutional issues that exist are being challenged. If we want to work towards an equal future, we need to start with schools. Class 13 is an essential step in making this actually happen.
Class 13 is a team of three: Me (Curtis Worrell), Evelyn Stanley and Sean Rumsey who collectively have forty-one years experience working with young people. Each of us has seen the prejudice in our education system: the racism, sexism and inability of many teachers to deal with complex social class and mental health issues, meaning that large numbers of children start their lives in the wrong way.
And this problem is backed up by numbers: over half of newly qualified teachers self-report a lack of preparedness to teach in a diverse classroom and 64% of teachers in mixed-sex secondary schools hear sexist language in school on at least a weekly basis.
Class 13's approach is intersectional. As explained by the great Audre Lorde we recognise that neither we, nor our young people, live single-issue lives.
For teachers Class 13 combines classroom support, reflection sessions (including counselling for teachers where needed) and action learning. It's truly collaborative as solidarity is the only way we can move forward.
For students we offer one-to-one mentoring sessions, group work sessions and a celebration event. Each mentoring session is anchored by a British activist such as Claudia Jones, Doreen Lawrence, and Paul Stephenson. Our session format allows us to communicate big ideas with young people in an accessible, tangible way, while also shifting the British history discourse to include the contributions of BAME, female, and LGBTQI+ people.
Our radical vision is to be the catalyst to transform schools into dynamic environments that affirm students’ inherent capacity for success. We know that whiteness in statutory education places BAME students at risk of disproportionate exclusion and school failure. Instead, we aim for students to experience education as a ‘practice of freedom’.
Class 13 is new, bold and very ambitious. No one wants to admit that they are a part of the problem, schools are no different. But bias exists within all of us and we need your help to get our message and approach across to school leaders to show that engaging in this work is not indicative of a problem but instead shows that they are willing to be part of the solution.
This is about changing the future for young people across Britain.
Not only would this be a landmark event in the evolution of UK education, but the learnings we gather from this first project can be shared with wider institutions and policymakers to reflect on their own institutions.
We want to raise £4,000 from this platform to contribute to the pilot project which is due to begin in Newham in September 2020. In total, the pilot project will cost £50k.
Here is a breakdown of some of costs associated with the pilot project:
£4,000 = Staff costs for one term
£2,000 = Creation of an app to accompany the programme to ensure ongoing out-of-hours support
£1,000 = Could fund a youth mentor to support a year 8 student for a full academic year
£630 = Could pay for a student celebration event (a key part of the programme)
£200 = Could pay for venue hire for action learning sessions.
£75.00 = Could pay for a therapist session to support a teachers' wellbeing during the project.
Lastly, why 13?
Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child shall have the right to freedom of expression and Class 13 is here to defend this right.
If you work with young people in any capacity please complete our survey here
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