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Black History Month and our anti-racism work at Hanover

Black History Month and our anti-racism work at Hanover

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month across the world. 

Many of you will remember that Hanover issued a statement in the summer term about race and racism. It set out our commitment to ensuring that the school develops an actively “anti-racist” approach. 

Each year, Hanover shares four whole-school priorities, and this year one of them is about the school’s anti-racism work. This indicates that the school is putting a significant amount of time, money and thought into this issue. 

We have done a great deal of work since we issued the statement, and today felt an appropriate day to share some of this work, as well as telling you about how we plan to mark Black History Month. Some of the work we have done has already been shared (such as our assemblies looking at colonisation etc). but much has been happening behind the scenes too…

Our strategy

The school has spoken with many experts, and senior leaders have read and researched the best approach towards our goal. Organisations and individuals we have consulted include the BAMEed Network, other local and national schools, academics in the field of race and racism, and Stand Up to Racism. After much consideration, we have decided to work with Orlene Badu and Martin Buck, who run a programme in Hackney called Improving Outcomes for Young Black Men. Both Martin and Orlene are former headteachers, and have extensive experience in supporting schools in developing an anti-racist approach, with the achievement of  children of colour being at the forefront of their work. We have met with them several times, and they have helped us to formulate a strategy towards our intended goal. This will take two years, and begins this year with a focus on developing “racial literacy” amongst our staff.

Orlene Badu

Orlene Badu

We have agreed 5 strands that we wish to work on. They are:

    1. Training staff in developing the language and knowledge associated with race and racism (see This year, below)
    2. Developing our curriculum. This includes “decolonising” the curriculum, ensuring that our planning and resourcing represents a broad range of cultures and experiences, as well as teaching children to be explicitly anti racist.
    3. Developing Policy and governance to ensure our practice at school reflects our values, and that the school is rigorously held to account for this. This work also includes the running of our Anti Racism Working Group.
    4. Improving messaging, representation and consultation to ensure all families and members of our community understand our approach, that we understand and respond to the experiences and feelings of our families, and we share our work openly.
    5. Increasing the diversity of our staff through a more considered approach to recruitment that actively seeks teachers and other staff from a wider range of backgrounds. 

This year

Developing racial literacy

Orlene and Martin, along with writers such as Akala and Renni Eddo-Lodge have helped us to understand that it is through equipping our staff with the language and knowledge of race and racism that all other change can take place. Being able to talk confidently about our relationship to race and racism is key to us being able to actively tackle racism, and this is what we are working on this year. We will discuss history and culture, consider our own bias and deeply-held beliefs and learn how to talk more openly about these issues. 

Because staff will then be better equipped to talk about race, the school will be able to bring about more fundamental change in our curriculum and our classrooms as a result. We held the first of our training sessions for all staff in September, and it went really well. Everybody engaged in excellent discussion about our own experiences, and we looked at what we thought the issues at Hanover were. Then we planned how we might move forward. You can see the slides from that session here. We have set aside a whole day for Orlene and Martin to work with our staff in January, and before that will be having some training on unconscious bias. Further training is planned throughout the year. 

Staff are reading and researching this issue themselves, using a suggested reading list shared at our September INSET day. All staff have also been asked to watch the excellent Channel 4 documentary The School that Tried to End Racism. Do watch this – it’s an excellent insight into the impact of racism in British education.

Anti-racism working group

The Anti-racism working group met in July for the first time. This is a summary from the group, which was chaired by Rohini Pahl, a parent and governor at Hanover:

Just before the end of summer term we held our first Tackling Racism working group. A group of very passionate and committed parents, staff and governors came together to discuss and understand issues of racism that affect the school.

We are at the beginning of a journey to try and tackle systemic racism, an issue which runs through many institutions like schools. It’s never an easy journey to change the culture of a place but it was inspiring to listen to and learn from a group of committed people, striving to make ours an anti-racist school. We had a diverse range of perspectives: from parents whose children had experienced racism, to staff and parents who hadn’t ever experienced it, but wanted to do something about it.

At the working group meeting Jack shared some first thoughts about the strands of work we need to look at, which were received well. We discussed the importance of talking to children and gathering their views, as well as those of parents, carers, staff and governors. Making sure all voices are represented is a big part of the role of the working group, as well as helping to turn the words we listen to, into action. Becoming an anti-racist school is one of the school’s priorities this year, so the group will work alongside the school, follow how the anti-racist work is being carried out and review what’s happening, feeding into the process, regularly. 

If you are interested in joining the working group, please email admin@hanover.islington.sch.uk 

Black History Month 2020

During the next month, children across the age range will be looking at our hidden history – considering those figures who are all too often left out of the history books and the curriculum. They will learn about some of the unsung heroes, as well as at and key moments in history that have changed our society and have led to change for people of colour both in the UK and abroad. We will be keeping our community updated on this work through Instagram as well as through Tuesday and Friday assemblies which are available through Google Classroom. Here is a trailer for next Tuesday’s assembly.

What next?

We are really excited about the work we are doing. Our commitment to ensuring our community is able and determined to tackle racism in all forms is driving real change at Hanover, and we are all keen to move forwards. We will keep you updated with our next steps as we progress through the year, and hope that you will get involved!