“…the more different perspectives you hear, the more you can review and understand the world around you.”

The government recently introduced new guidelines for the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education – stating schools must not use materials that promote ‘victim narratives’ or make certain accusations against state institutions. Marsha Garratt, an anti-racist researcher, educator and lecturer, explains why the Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators has launched legal action to challenge the guidance. Here she explains why…

“One of the beautiful things about education is the more different perspectives you hear, the more you can review and understand the world around you. When I was seven years old, an adult racially abused my brother and I, stating, ‘Why don’t you monkeys go back to Africa?’ The experience threatened not only my sense of safety but also my sense of self. It was education that helped me navigate racist experiences like these so I did not believe it.

You see, the more you are told you are less than, the more likely you are to believe it. Education can and should challenge that so that all our children grow up believing in themselves, building a better world. This is why I run education programmes that challenge racism in all its forms. Teachers have thanked me for discussing the history and realities of racism, having these difficult discussions to bring positive change in society.

In light of the government’s new guidance for schools, our aims are now under threat. The Department of Education’s newly announced measures, which outline what can be taught in Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education, threaten free speech, and the ability for schools to work with some external agencies.

Anti-racist educators like myself are concerned. It says that schools may not use materials from groups that promote ‘divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society’ – but one of the ways I connect with students is by sharing personal stories of racism. These stories are not divisive, self-victimising or harmful to society – they are simply the lived experience of a number of non-white people in Britain. We should welcome the sharing of these stories, after all we cannot bring change if we do not know or understand what needs changing.

Boris Johnson has been pulled up more than once over his definition of ‘victimhood’. In 2004, in reference to the Hillsborough disaster, Johnson wrote in the Spectator that the grieving people of Liverpool were ‘wallow[ing] in victim status’. This summer, he was criticised once again for stating he wanted to end the ‘sense of victimisation’ in response to British people protesting the reality of racial inequality.

It is because of these threats that the Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators (CARE) and Black Educators Alliance (BEA) have launched legal action against the Department for Education. Our grassroots groups, made up of teachers, workers, students and parents within primary and secondary school settings, know that these guidelines are anything but democratic.

Great educationist Paulo Freire noted that education systems that censor the truth make it impossible to bring change. Education is about inviting students and educators to share their real-world experiences so we can build a better society. For these reasons, we must resist the government’s new guidelines.”


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