Leading systemic change

The vision, values and drive of the leadership team at both local authority and setting level are central to promoting and developing anti-racist education in Scotland. Whether as an employer or employee, care must be taken to ensure that legal obligations are met. In settings that successfully embed anti-racist practice, the leadership team works with staff, learners and parents to ensure that the ethos and vision of the school strongly promotes equality and challenges all forms of discrimination. Leaders at both local authority and setting levels should support professional learning in anti-racist education for staff. There is a designated lead person to take forward anti-racism, ensuring it is embedded across the curriculum and learners have an important role in leading change.  They ensure that there are robust systems in place to respond to racism.

Scotland’s Breaking the Mould Principles for an Anti-Racist Curriculum include 8 principles for educators and leaders to promote anti-racist education and lead systemic change, such as:

Educators and leaders will demonstrate personal and collective leadership across the education system, both in actively promoting an anti-racist culture and in supporting people who experience racism. (Anti-Racist Curriculum Principle 16)

Further information and guidance can be found in the website’s section on Anti-Racist Curriculum Principles.

Responsibilities as an employer

It is well documented that Scotland’s teaching profession does not reflect the demographics of the population. This lack of diversity is likely to be reflected in the profile of staff within learning communities. Research has demonstrated that Minority Ethnic learners’ attainment is positively impacted when their teacher is from a Minority Ethnic background. A national working group published recommendations to improve the diversity of the teaching profession and local authorities have developed initiatives to address the lack of diversity in education staff.

At setting level, leaders have a responsibility to ensure recruitment practices adhere to equalities legislation which explicitly references the need to be proactive in advancing equality of opportunity. Once recruited, it is important to ensure that Minority Ethnic staff feel a sense of belonging in the workplace;  EIS research on teachers and lecturers’ experience of Islamophobia (2018) found that a significant majority of respondents had experienced racism in their capacity as a teacher or lecturer. All approaches in Section B will help to create a setting where Minority Ethnic staff feel valued. The pro-active tackling of racism displayed by staff or learners will also help Minority Ethnic staff to feel able to be themselves in the workplace. The promotion of staff from these backgrounds further underlines that these staff are valued and their contribution to the learning community is recognised. More information can be found in the website’s section on Diversity in the Education Workforce.

Responsibilities as an employee

Staff are best placed to promote anti-racist education when they know their own school community well and understand fully its racial, religious and cultural diversity as well as having a broader understanding of Scotland’s diversity and colonial legacy. Confidence is required to deliver anti-racist education, including responding to racist incidents.  (Please see Racism and Racist Incidents for further information.)

Opportunities for professional learning are important. Staff benefit from support to reflect on bias and racism, including structural racism, through professional enquiry and dialogue with colleagues. Anti-racist professional learning programmes exist in Scotland, such as the Education Scotland’s Building Racial Literacy programme. Community partners may well be able to offer learning opportunities for both staff and learners.

Educators taking part in professional learning and discussion.When practitioners do not recognise and counteract the ways that bias, stereotypes and structural racism influence their practice, racism can go unnoticed or be dismissed. For example, a study in 2018 of 46 English schools by the UCL Institute of Education and Queen’s University Belfast, found that Black learners were significantly more likely to be put in lower maths sets than their grades merited. In Scotland, the exclusion rate of learners broken down by ethnic background shows significant variation. Staff have a responsibility to educate themselves, so that they, in turn, can educate learners and promote the development of an environment that meets the needs of all learners.

More information on professional learning is available here.

Reflective questions

  • To what extent do leaders provide a clear strategic direction for the promotion of anti-racist education?
  • How is the whole school community, including young people and the local community, involved in setting this direction? In particular, how are young people and families from Minority Ethnic communities involved in this decision-making?
  • How effectively do leaders evaluate their setting’s approach to this work?
  • How is a diverse workforce actively promoted?
  • How do leaders seek and develop productive relationships with parents and all community groups?
  • To what extent do all staff have the opportunity to explore and discuss racial equality and bias with colleagues?