Recently I have been lambasted in certain quarters because I have been pushing an agenda of equity while in the middle of a global pandemic. I have thought long and hard about this; Yes, the world is amidst a deadly virus which may kill and cause the untold suffering of millions of people. Now is not the time to choose between the virus and fairness. The impact of the crisis is already being felt by those of colour, of lower socioeconomic status, etc.
With regards to education, I wrote about the implications of teacher bias on the calculated grades here. I am honoured to have been asked to write an education section to this rolling paper from Charity So White; it’ll be in the next update.
Please do read the report which covers:
Health inequalities – BAME groups remain over-represented in the “at-risk” communities identified by the Government, which is concerning given the racialised access and treatment within the UK health system
Emergency measures legislation – The lack of guidance around emergency measures, such as police
powers and school closures is already leading to local variation and disproportionate impact on BAME communities
Risk of destitution – BAME communities are over-represented in key worker categories, as well as over-represented in low-income groups with lower rates of homeownership
Hostile environment – The hostile environment and particularly No Recourse to Public Funds is preventing
migrants from accessing basic rights during the crisis
Protection and Enforcement – The concern about increases in domestic violence, the rights of those currently in prison or detention, and increased attacks against East Asians
BLAM (Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health) is a London-based charity. We are committed to ensuring that the Black British community is represented and appreciated. We do this by teaching African, Caribbean and Black British History at schools across London; to ensure young people are taught a curriculum that is reflective of their lived experiences. We also provide school exclusion advocates for parents.
BLAM is committed to improving the well- being and self-esteem of people of African descent globally. We work towards this aim, by discussing issues around racism, racial trauma and how it has affected black people across the world.
The other services we run includes- the Rooted Project- our Black history summer school, The Hub- our quarterly community question time style debate show.
BLAM is currently based in two schools in Lambeth running The Grounded Project, in which we teach African, Afro Caribbean and black British history sessions. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we are now running The Grounded Project online, by providing free interactive worksheets to parents on a weekly basis. Parents then send back to us completed worksheets for feedback and assessment.
Our online project is FREE. Please click the link below to access it.
It’s important for us to make our services as accessible as possible for all young people in the UK. Therefore, anyone can attend if they are interested in ensuring the history and uniqueness of African, Caribbean and Black British culture is celebrated, recognised and discussed.
The Department for Education released this press release on 20th March 2020 (click here).
2020’s summer exam series, including A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, and all primary assessments, have been cancelled as we fight to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled this summer, following our actions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
What is the plan? GCSE, A and AS level examinations will be awarded based on the work that pupils and students have already put in; this will done through a process of teacher assessment and evidence gathering, as the DfE state:
“The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.”
Teachers will be taking into account the range of evidence they have at their disposal including,
Teachers Assessment (judgement/prediction)
Mock Examinations/Other internal Assessments
Then exam boards will look at this data along with the prior attainment (Key stage 2 SATS) and calculate a grade for each student. The calculated grades are due out before the end of July. These grades and certificates will be indistinguishable from other years so that this year’s students do not face a systemic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances.
Students that feel they have been treated unfairly as a result of the procedures may appeal through a set procedure, and if they wish sit examination early when schools return in September 2021. From a school’s point of view, the Government will not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.
What are Stereotypes?
Stereotyping is the tendency to draw on overly simple beliefs about groups to make judgments about individuals. Confirmation bias is the tendency to perceive and seek out information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs, and avoid information that conflicts with those beliefs (Nelson, 2014).
Sterotyping is described by Kahnemann as ‘Anchoring’; This occurs when value is determined for an ‘unknown quantity’ before estimating that quantity. Anchoring is a ubitquitous and a perfectly natural human response; unfortunately this is an implicit process and as a result when it emerges through assessment it can be extremely problematic (Kahneman, 2013). I would reiterate here that anchoring and bias on the whole are completely natural processes.
A stereotype is introduced. Black and poorer people are less intelligent, aggressive and lazy when compared to the majority white population or richer people – these types of stereotypes appear during the first five years of life. This introduces two cognitive biases, the focalism (also know as the anchoring bias) and this is where the confirmation bias starts.
Focalism or the anchoring bias occurs when people are wedded to the constructs they encounter first. If I were to offer to sell you a board marker for £10 today, tomorrow I attempt to sell you the same product for £15. You would think that I am ripping you off. If I offer you the same board marker at £20 today, and then tomorrow I offer it to you for £15, you would think that you were receiving an enhanced price.
The only difference here is the order in which you hear the information. The price you received has not changed. Hence you anchor yourself depending on the first bit of information. In this case it is regardless of any other information i.e. is the board marker good value for money? What is the quality of the board marker?
In confirmation bias, once a bias is introduced people actively seek to confirm this bias. For example: Black people are more aggressive so toxic associations between black people and aggression, weapons, etc are formed. As you can see from the flow chart, the whole process is cyclical and concentric.
Everyone can be prone to these biases including academics. Both confirmation bias and stereotyping leads to over simplification such as ‘women are more risk adverse’. These assumptions are not well-informed in an empirical sense, but have been described repeatedly in economic literature as robust (Nelson, 2014).
“Many are grounded in the premises that stereotypes comprise invariant, homogenous, evaluative judgements of a given group (e.g. income, gender or ethnic group), and that stereotypes enable judgements of group members to be made quickly and with cognitive ease” (Hilton and von Hipple, 1996; McGarty et al., 2002. In Campbell 2015, p1).
Bias is commonly refered to as a habit of the mind; your brain is designed to skip information and rely on information and subsequently associations are quickly made. Therefore it is important to recognise that stereotypes are not an individual process rather they are systemic in nature and the consequences are systematic. Stereotyping processes respond to systematic principles that generalize across different specific instances of stereotypes, these processes are consistent over time, place and out group. (Fiske et al 2002) This is not about you as an individual, this is about how you have appropriated stereotypes through associations.
Like all dimensions of human psychology and the social sciences, none of this should be reduced to anecdotes or simple rules. Yes, people of colour are disadvantaged through our society however the intersections of complexity should not be ignored. This brings in inter-group dynamics which are often observed through people holding positive and negative stereotypes – pity targets the warm but not competent subordinates (rich to poor); envy targets the competent but not warm competitors (White to American Asian); contempt is reserved for out-groups deemed neither warm nor competent. (Fiske et al 2002).
Teaching and Stereotypes
By stereotyping, teachers can make judgements of pupils quickly and with cognitive efficiency through preconceived associations about the ability/attainment of lower socio-economic background, SEN, Black Caribbean pupils, and so on.
“The possibility, therefore, is that among the English teaching profession there exist normalised notional templates of pupil attainment, which are premised on pupil characteristics, inform judgements of each child, and skew assessments in line with these characteristics.” (Campbell, 2014. p519).
Teacher assessment, on the whole, is not reliable. Let’s start with some examples. This piece will concentrate mainly on race, however, the same pattern exists for disadvantaged pupils and the intersections between identities (for another day). Educators will be familiar with the terms disadvantaged, BAME, gender groups, FSM and multitude of other labels; the rhetoric in last decade has been about closing the attainment gap between these. However, through all of the key stages and phases, have educators been looking at the gap from a false angle?
That attainment indicators depend so heavily on teacher assessment invites the question of whether these apparent achievement gaps may to some extent be an artefact of the measurement method used. There is an enduring body of evidence which indicates that teacher assessments are subject consistently to a large and significant level of error (Brookhart, 2013; Eckert et al., 2006; Harlen, 2005) … and, more importantly, research also indicates that some of this error may be systematic (Harlen, 2005; Robinson and Lubienski, 2011) (Campbell, 2015, p518).
Burgess and Greaves (2009) look at the teacher assessment versus actual attainment of external exams of 11-year old across 16557 schools, 3 subjects and 4 years. This showed that the past performance of a specific ethnic group directly impacted on the current teacher assessment.
It is worth stating before we go on that key stage 1 SATs are completely based on teacher assessment and are marked in school. Key stage 2 and 3 SATs are, and were marked externally through a process formally known as quasi-blind i.e. with the names of the pupils known to the assessor.
The way society is structured you would expect external markers’ implicit bias to lower the marks and outcomes of pupils of colour. This may skew results positively towards white pupils and those with euro-centric names as they do not have the benefit of an intimate daily knowledge of the pupils themselves.
However, precisely the opposite was found; pupils of certain groups were found to be assessed lower than others by their own teachers rather than external examiners.
English Key Stage 2
TA < External Exam
Difference compared to White pupils
Percentage discrepancy compared to White pupils
In English, all pupils who do not ascribe to the white label have a higher percentage of teachers assessing them lower than via the external test. The rate at which Pakistani pupils are under-assessed (vs their external SATS grade) when compared relatively with white pupils is at a rate of 62.9%. That means you are 62.9% more likely for your teacher to think you are working at a level below which you are actually are.
Campbell (2015) found that pupils had a lower probability of their teachers rating them ‘above average’ for reading for lower income pupils, boys, pupils with SEN, pupils of all Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black Other, Black African and Black Caribbean, male and EAL pupils.
This has obvious implications for pupils of colour, the impact of the Golem effect being pertinent; day to day their teachers have lower expectations of them. Similar patterns (but exactly the same ethnic grouping) with Maths and Science were also found (please do head to this previous piece for further analysis).
What is the impact of Key Stage 2 predictions on the pupils?
Wilson et al (2006) show the difference in Key Stage 2 teacher assessment extrapolated to GCSE, versus actual grades at GCSE using white pupils as the comparison. This is impact is significant as the figures for most group are vastly different and with Black Caribbean British and Black Other British pupils bucking the trend. Which is interesting in itself.
This leads us to the secondary schools setting.
“Research not only shows some persistent patterns of poor educational outcomes for pupils from low socio-economic groups, minority ethnic groups and boys, studies also indicate differentiated experiences of schooling and the over-representation of these groups in low attainment sets” (Gillborn and Mirza 2000; Demie 2001; Singh Ghuman 2002; Mamon 2004; Connolly 2006) (in Muiji and Dunne, 2010, p393).
Muijs and Dunne (2010) analysed setting in Maths and English across 12 local authorities in England and randomly sampled 100 schools and completed a quantitative analysis of the composition of their sets.
They found that white students are statistically significantly over-represented in high sets and conversely that Black student are statistically under-represented in higher sets. Across the Asian subset the only significant result is Bangladeshi pupils being under represented in the high sets.
Wilson et al (2006) presented work from the CLASS thinktank. There are various reasons that black boys spike at 16 years and some of them are covered later – I would be remiss if I were not to point out that the GCSE exams are the first time that pupils are assessed completely anonymously.
16% of A Level pupils achieve their predicated grades and 75% of pupils are over-predicted, with the average student being over-predicted by 1.7 grades. When we look at socio-economic status, pupils from the lowest group who achieve the same grades are under-predicted in comparison, as are higher achieving pupils from state schools in comparison with private school pupils. (Murphy and Wyness 2020).
After describing the impact of the Pygmalion effect earlier, being under-assessed has a day to day impact on pupils with a low socio-economic status (Campbell, 2015; Murphy and Wyness, 2020; Burgess and Greaves, 2005).
High achieving, but under-predicted candidates are 10 percentage points less likely to apply to the most selective universities, and 6.9 percentage points more likely to enrol in a university in which they are over-qualified (have grades higher than their fellow peers). It should be noted that the nature of the university attended has been shown to be linked to a students’ eventual earnings (Belfield et al, 2018, in Murphy and Wyness, 2020).
Overall, Black pupils had the lowest percentage accuracy with only 39.1% of grades accurately predicted. This group also had the highest over- and under-prediction rates (53.8% and 7.1% respectively). This under-predicted statistic may seem interesting and to a certain extent seem to cancel out the effects of under prediction, we have to remember you cannot over predict a pupil who achieves an A grade (and now an A*).
Black British pupils of all three categories, Caribbean, African or Other (within the 2009 chort) are predicted A grades a minimum 12% percentage less than white students (this trend is similar for Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils). This is also mirrored in achievement, with Black British Caribbean and Black African students gaining the lowest rates of A grade (in 2009) at 15.2% and 17.9% with similar rates for Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils. (Everett and Papageorgiou, 2011).
Looking at socio economic background, Everett and Papageoriou (p. 20) found that:
‘The Higher managerial group had the highest percentage of accurate predictions of grade A at 69.5% while the Routine group had the lowest percentage at 53.4%. Grade C was the least accurately predicted for all social classes, apart from the Routine group which saw B grade prediction to be the most inaccurate (35.8%).’
This level of inaccuracy seems to pervade age as shown in Muijs and Dunne (2010) study of Year 7 pupils. When looking at attainment via setting, they found that pupils from higher socio-economic status (analysed through the use of ACORN and free school meals measures) are more likely to be assigned to higher sets and less likely to be assigned to lower sets.
The model of pupil self efficacy, pygamalion and teacher bias through stereotype seems to be an unending cycle. Pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to attend a high tariff university than their richer counterparts, even when they have similar prior academic attainment (Wyness 2017). After accounting for degree class, graduates from richer socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to become a professional and consequently higher earnings growth. (Crawford et al, 2016).
What are the possible reasons for this, other than the stereotype model (Behaviour and perception, confirmation and anchoring bias) suggested by Burgess and Greaves 2009? Well, within the same study Burgess and Greaves note that when teachers who assess pupils are the same teacher that teaches them, this will cause issues such as teaching to the test. This leads to teachers focusing on certain pupils, as they know that teacher-pupil day to day interactions can improve the external grade with greater transmission of knowledge (T Campbell, 2015).
Sievertsen (2019) in Murphy and Wyness (2020) studied a reform which led to some students’ grades being recoded and ultimately their GPA (Grade Point Average) being downgraded. They found that students who were downgraded by the recoding performed better on subsequent assessments, indicating the importance of incentives. The only reason to keep the current system is that these students react more positively to predicted grades, although this incentivising could be problematic on a number of levels. (Murphy and Wyness 2020). This does not fit stereotype model but heralds questions around high stakes accountability around exams for teachers and leaders alike.
Wilson et al (2006) investigate non-stereotype factors on two national cohorts after delivering and analysis across four key stages:
Ethnic minority pupils go to worse schools than their white counterparts.
Language acquisition of EAL pupils, meaning pupils catch up as their language does.
Does the disadvantage start in the early years so school has little impact on the result?
Ethnic Minorities go to Worse schools
Wilson et al’s analysis of their results were found to be pervasive (across the whole school cohort). Ethnic minorities do not segregate in school nationally.
‘Over the country as a whole, attendance at substantially mono-ethnic schools is not the norm for members of the non-white groups (though it is for whites in many areas). Half of all non-white secondary students in England attended schools where more than 75 per cent of the total enrolment comprised whites’ (Burgess et al, 2004, p1)
As pupils of colour go to wide range of schools in the main this not a huge factor in the phenomenon.
This may be a factor, due to the fact that as pupils who speak English as an additional language become more and more proficient, their attainment in school assessment increases. Demie and Strand (2006) found in their paper which looked at 10 secondary schools in the inner London borough of Lambeth that bilingual pupils who are proficient in English performed better than their than solely English speaking peers on average (although their finding was not statistically significant).
Both Demie and Strand (2006) and Wilson et al (2006) both found that pupils make better than expected progress during key stage 3 and 4. Wilson et al interestingly found that pupils of colour with English as an additional language were found to have on average around 0.9 extra GCSE points; both EAL and non EAL pupils of colour gain 3 GCSE points when compared to the white population. Wilson et al (2006) suggest that the impact of language acquisition accounts for up to a third of ethnic minority rise at Key Stage 4. There are still 2 thirds unaccounted for.
Yes, there are arguments around ethnocentric testing typically against Black students and poor students (Gipps, 1992; Murphy & Pardaffy, 1989 in Burgess 2009). I wholly agree there are issues with the content of external assessment, however, this would lead to teachers inflating pupils over the external examination. This is not the case as the converse is true.
Behaviour and the Perception of Behaviour
Muijs and Dunne (2010) completed a quantitative analysis of the composition of classes. Leaders were presented with a qualitative survey about the rationale behind their setting choices.
Words in Rationale
Percentage of Surveyed
Attainment or Test Results
Attitude and Behaviour (+Other)
Words in Rationale
Percentage of Surveyed
Attainment or Test Results
Attitude and Behaviour (+Other)
Even within schools there are inter-department variations on the basis of setting. This raises questions about bias being introduced through an ideological basis. Bearing in mind that ability (through teacher assessment), Test results and attitude and behaviour (teacher perception) are all prone to bias. Attitude and behaviour are critical in the day to day experiences of pupils and teachers in the classroom.
Can the behaviour of pupils impact on teacher assessment? We know that a disproportionate amount of British Black Afro Caribbean pupils are diagnosed with SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs); a social construct which judges pupils’ behaviour against a standard set of expectations.
“A frequently proposed explanation for the over-representation of Black pupils with SEMH/MLD is an inappropriate interpretation of ethnic and cultural differences including teacher racism, low expectations and a failure of schools to provide quality instruction or effective classroom management” (e.g. Artiles et al, 2010; Waitoller et al, 2010 in Strand and Lindorf 2018).
Even when controlling for socioeconomic difference (this only explained 50% of the disparency) Strand and Lindorff (2018) found that Black Caribbean students have an odds ratio of 2.29 and mixed White and Black British Caribbean student have a slightly lower ratio of 1.94; this means that if you are a Black Britsh Caribbean student you are 2.29 times more likely to be diagnosed with a SEMH than a white British student.
“Is it that these young people from this [Black British Caribbean] ethnic group are more confrontational with their teachers because of gang culture or is it a perception of their behaviour?”
Behaviour (well, perception of behaviour) is impacted along racial lines and this is likely through the process of toxic association and positive prototypes (more here). Is there evidence that this impacts on the teacher assessment?
‘We divide the 61 neighbourhood types into the poorest third, middle (omitted category) and least poor thirds, and introduce indicators for these in the analysis. The results suggest the same factors at work’. (Burgess and Lindoff, 2009, p. 16).
This is reinforced when pupil bodies groups in schools are in smaller numbers, as this means that the association has not been built from numerous interactions but from wider society. These stereotypes are standalone and intersectional; hardly surprising considering the nature of toxic stereotypes.
What behavioural factors are involved in under-assessment looking at self reporting from pupils?
Reporting praise from your teachers is significant negatively correlated with probability of under assessment in all subjects.
Pupils who report working hard and like school also less likely to be underassessed (but there is not a statistical significance here)
Causing trouble in more than half of their classes leaves you 3.5% more likely to be underassessed.
Suggested from non-age specific analysis (Burgess, 2009).
The survey data suggest that non-academic factors impact teacher assessment and adverse behaviours have a greater impact on teacher assessment.
“In summary, whilst the survey data shows that student behaviours and attitudes do have an influence on the likelihood of under-assessment, such adverse behaviours are if anything more common among white pupils”.(Burgess 2009, p.23).
There is no open and shut answer. But is there a systematic underassessment of pupils of colour and those of lower socio-economic background? Yes. Is there a bias when assessing pupil behaviour? Yes; of course the factors involved here are complicated, and Burgess describes the conclusions as having a two fold impact:
1. Pupils disengaging from school as a result of teacher interactions as they feel under valued
2. This undervalue reciprocating by under valuing education and qualifications (as per the earlier flow chart).
Critics of setting, point to the possibility of harming a student’s self-concept when that student is put into a lower set, to the fact that it is extremely difficult for teachers to have high expectations of low set classes, and to the loss of opportunities for lower-achieving peers to be peer-taught by higher achievers in the subject (Muijs and Reynolds, 2005. in Muij and Dunne 2010).
The stereotype model is based on a wider view of the factors and as you can see both of these factors are cyclical. I would as a practitioner like to add that teacher expectations can contribute hugely to pupil achievement and so can the converse, as per the Rosenthal and Golem effect again; all feeding into a cycle where certain pupils do not feel valued, teacher don’t expect as much, the pupils disengage and the teacher is vindicated in their original stereotype through an anchoring and confirmation bias.
That is hard data, research and literature on teacher assessment being biased heavily, and this is maybe caused by the perception of behaviour. This already has an impact on the self efficacy of pupils leading to disproportiante exclusions.
Intersectionality – Multiple Disadvantages
Special Educational Needs
Eligibility for Free School Meals within the past 6 years
Parental engagement in the young person’s education (based on whether they discussed school reports, attended parents’ evenings and talked about the young person’s plans for future studies).
A measure of the relationship between the main parent and child based on the frequency of arguments between them.
Whether the young person had access to an internet connected computer.
Ofsted rating of the young person’s school
These were defined as the linear factors by the EEF in their report into multiple disadvantages. The impact of each factor is shown below.
There is a linear relationship between the factors, so having more means you have a greater attainment penalty as a result. Although race is not disaggregated into the report, it does state that,
‘Young people whose ethnic group is Pakistani were more likely than White students to have three or more disadvantages and two or more disadvantages. Young people from the Bangladeshi, Black African and Black Caribbean ethnic minority groups were also more likely than White students to have two or more disadvantages.’
It could be argued that every factor could be exacerbated by a teacher stereotype model.
What is in Current Legislation?
The broad range of elements include teacher assessment and prior attainment. These are both biased against pupils of colour and disadvantaged students. What does the law actually say about discrimination? Well, the Equalities Act 2010 states that race is a protected characteristic, and any public sector body is bound by the public sector equalities duty. This means that any public sector body should not discriminate directly, indirectly, harassment or victimisation against groups which hold the protected characteristics. Indirect discrimination is normally enacted through the medium of policy, criterion or procedure (PCP).
Socio-economic status is not a protected characteristic, however, section 1.1 of the Equalities Act 2010 clearly states that.
“An authority to which this section applies must, when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise its functions, have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.”
Unfortunately, consecutive governments have failed to bring the section into commencement.
I know I may be jumping the gun here and being overly cynical as the DfE guidance suggests that a fair and robust process will be developed. The fact this guidance was released late afternoon on Friday, when the Secretary of State said:
‘We have a preferred method for examinations but that will be released tomorrow on Radio 4 on Thursday 19th March 2020.’
Was that delay to stem out roar? To stop a coordinated counter protest? Is the guidance deliberately vague for a reason? One thing is for sure, this conversation needs to start.
The Government Guidance and what can School leaders do?
“How will you address the fact that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to have their grades under-predicted?”
We are not awarding students their predicted grades. Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator, will develop a fair and robust process that takes into account a broad range of evidence, including teacher assessment and prior attainment. Ofqual will make every effort to ensure that the process agreed does not disadvantage any particular group of students.
Pupils who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again.”
The immediate concern is the grading for cohorts in year 11 and 13 and this is an urgent concern. The only controllable factor is teacher assessments, as predicted grades, schools and pupils’ prior data is out of the locus of control.
I am currently in discussion around assessment models and universities admissions around an equitable approach. I’ll keep you updated.
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Daniel Muijs & Mairead Dunne (2010) Setting by ability – or is it? A quantitative study of determinants of set placement in English secondary schools, Educational Research, 52:4, 391-407, DOI: 10.1080/00131881.2010.524750
Department for Business, innovation and skills. BIS, RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER 37Investigating the Accuracy of Predicted A Level Grades as part of 2009 UCAS Admission Procese JUNE 2011
Everett & Papageorgiou (2011), ‘Investigating the Accuracy of Predicted A Level Grades as part of 2009 UCAS Admission Process’
Claire Crawford, Paul Gregg, Lindsey Macmillan, Anna Vignoles, Gill Wyness, Higher education, career opportunities, and intergenerational inequality, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 32, Issue 4, WINTER 2016, Pages 553–575, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxrep/grw030
Julie A. Nelson (2014) The power of stereotyping and confirmation bias to overwhelm accurate assessment: the case of economics, gender, and risk aversion, Journal of Economic Methodology, 21:3,211-231, DOI: 10.1080/1350178X.2014.939691
Kahneman, D. (2013), Thinking Fast and Slow.
Lessof et al (2019), Multiple disadvantage and KS4 attainment: evidence from LSYPE2,
This blog is a collaboration between Ashish Kundi and myself. As the whole system of Hinduism is based around a collection of beliefs. There will is discrepancies between individual and cultural points.
Baroness Floella Benjamin receives her damehood from Prince Charles and is greeted with the Hindu greeting of Namaste; This is due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID 19. Some may argue I’ve made a tenuous link to current affairs, however, I believe this demonstrates a ‘By George, they’ve got it’ moment. Something that 200 years of Indian occupation couldn’t achieve, a global pandemic produced within days. An understanding of foreign and exotic methods.
History has shown that there has been a mixed bag of perspectives on Hindu philosophy. Examples include Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who acknowledge that many modern say scientific theories can be credited to the Vedas. Albert Einstein had great respect for the Bhagawad Gita. At the same time, we have the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, who described Indians as ‘a beastly people, with a beastly religion.’
There are frequent misunderstandings that many have about the philosophy. An anecdote that springs to mind is an occasion my wife had told me about her education whereby a RE teacher asked students to bring in something that represents their Identity. My wife, being a Hindu, took in The Sauwastika. A Hindu symbol for divinity, prosperity and the four Yugas (time-periods). Unfortunately, the teacher mistook this for the Nazi symbol, The Swastika. As a result, she was told to take it back home as it wasn’t appropriate. Ignorance is quite a regular occurrence for ‘Hindus’. It is essential that when teaching about Hinduism within our schools, we do so through the right lens.
The colloquial name of Hinduism is Sanathan Dharma. The word Hindu was attributed to a group of individuals living near the river Sindhu in the Indus Valley, by invading imperial empires. A rough translation of Sanathan Dharma is ‘eternal law’. In the UK the Sanathan Dharma is often taught through the lens of Abrahamic thought. Through this ubiquitous lens, religion suggests a system of beliefs and a joint faith. Hinduism doesnt really exist as a religion in this construct; Even in co-writing this blog there have differences in beliefs and practices. Religion, when viewed like this, is a wholly colonised concept. When people talk about Hindu faith that doesnt really exist either. Faith in anything is a non-obligatory it has absolutely no part in our belief system.
Abrahamic thought would perhaps claim absolute truth from start to finish within its scripture. Sanathan Dharma rejects this as a concept and rather than a religion; it is probably more accurate to refer to Sanathan Dharma as a philosophy. God is also used when transposing an Abrahamic lens on Sanathan Dharma. God does not fit with Paramatma; it is an entirely different concept; the conflation is merely not authentic.
What is Paramatma, if Atma is described as the soul, then Paramata is the source of all souls the ultimate soul. Everything that lives has an atma, all living beings from bacteria, grass and blue whales all the Atmas are of equal value as they are the same.
The often culturally appropriated concept of karma is the idea that an Atma sin and deeds are essential as the consequences are wrought to the bearer.
I am not this body but this body in mine.
The atma picked up bodies like we put on clothes the destination of the soul is dependent of the deeds. The aim of the human existence is to equalise one’s karma and through spiritual enlightenment achieve Moksha where the Atma returns to the Paramatma, and the cycle of birth and rebirth is broken.
If we were to break down the word philosophy to the Greek words, Philo and Sophy, Philo means ‘to love’ and Sophy meaning ‘knowledge’. Philosophy translates to a love of ‘knowledge’. As we know, this is fluid and is ever adapting with time and to love ‘knowledge’, we must respect this quality. If life is to be Sanathan (eternal), then naturally aspects of Dharma (law) evolve through time. This can be seen through various scripture within Sanathan Dharma.
If you were to ask followers of Sanathan Dharma what the Manu Smriti (one of the first scriptures of the philosophy) is, you will often see a perplexed look on their faces. If you were to mention the Ramayana and Mahabharatha to them, the overwhelming majority would be able to outline at least the story to you. This is because followers of Sanathan Dharma will happily discard wisdom which is outdated and apply relevant philosophies to their lives. Scripture is a discourse, not an instruction.
Due to this ethos, the philosophy is pluralist in nature. This can be seen through the quotes in the Upanishads, such as ‘Ekam Sath Vipraha Bahuda Vedanti’ meaning ‘Truth is one and wise people have called in different names’. Also, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam translating to ‘The world is one family’ because of truth being one and everyone being one family a belief in a god is not essential, but a belief in each other is.
God is a value system to aid you in achieving self-realisation. The realisation that you are the Aatma. Some basic values:
You are a part of Paramatma
The atma eventually achieve Moksha (release from the cycle of birth and rebirth) through many lives.
Life is often misled by Maya (illusion) which disturbs our karma and understanding of all our oneness.
The focus to achieve moksha needs to be on karma rather than pure belief in God.
An analogy to clarify this could be if we were to look at the sun (Brahman) through the cracks of a cave (Maya). The light shining through the cracks would give the illusion of separateness. When we remove the cave of Maya through our karma, we see the oneness of the sun, all of our ultimate source, Brahman. So, therefore, an exclusivist way of thinking does not fit with the logic of a follower of Sanathan Dharma, as you are limiting the Atma with Maya. As a result, a follower of Sanathan Dharma should encourage a follower of any religion/philosophy to be the best follower of their chosen path they can be. We are all regardless of background from and going back to the same source of, Paramatma. If ‘God is on top of a hill, all paths lead to that destination.’
This is the lens that should be utilised when teaching Sanathan Dharma in schools. I believe that Swami Vivekananda summed it up best when speaking to the world parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 when he said;
“I am a Hindu; I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but accept all religions as true.”
Practices and ‘Rules’:
As karma dictates the consequences of daily life, there are no such ‘rules’ your actions will direct the outcomes. Hindu’s live in a no religious rule philosphy, this being said it is worth mentioning that many people will attempt to reduce the pap (sin) their atma carries. Reducing sin is achieved means through seva (selfless giving) and minimising the sin we commit to other souls – This leads to the concept of vegetarianism as plants feel no pain and so the sin not as high. Yes, even in eating sin incurred as we have to kill a living being to do so.
Please do ask question in the comments, although bear in mind neither Ashish or I are the authority on anything other than our own minds.
Recently I (Pran) tweeted that kindness is a force of oppression. It is not like me to be contentious or controversial at all. As an educator and activist, I struggle with the idea of kindness in multiples of different settings.
You challenging my actions is unkind.
As a person of colour, I feel the wrath of racial oppression every day. When I or any other person of colour challenges the action of our oppressors, it is an act of kindness. No matter how uncomfortable it makes anyone feel, this is an act of kindness.
Huh? Pran, that’s not nice.
It may not be nice, but it is kind. I am working on the premise that all people come from a place of morality and that they believe that they are good people. As a good minded person, would you not want to be told about the systemic damage your words and actions (or silence) causes? No matter how the message is delivered, I am sure you would prefer to have the knowledge to make more informed moral decisions.
Yes, there may be an argument to say this challenge should include a degree of civility even a collegiate approach; maybe that is true for allies. Some of us feel that oppression, the physical, mental and emotional abuse. Are people of privilege really expecting them to be measured? When we are propagating the damage which impacts their lives on a day to day basis.
Personally, I’ve been spat at, struck, systemically disadvantaged (this is the worst) and verbally abused. Will I accept critique from those in my shoes? Absolutely. When the analyse comes from people who benefit from those acts through their privilege (as described by Zeus Leonardo). I’m minded to remind people to stay in your lane.
I’m a good person I’m kind to everyone I meet.
When the societal structures are so maligned the act of existence is an act of oppression. Yes, you and I are part of the problem. For me to exist in the global north means that people in the global south are oppressed.
“Huh, but I didn’t do anything”
There are a finite amount of resources in the world, for me to take more than one seven billionth of those resources means that someone else has to have less.
Usually, when I am on my soapbox or more recently a stage, This is the point that I’m challenged with:
“That’s the meritocracy people work harder get more”.
Well, we know the people who work the hardest don’t receive the most, looking at your schools no one works harder than an NQT or site staff/cleaners. Even if the meritocracy were enacted equitably (I’m not going to rant about bias here head to the equity section for more), are we all okay with people living in abject poverty as a result of people deserving because they work ‘harder’?
Now if your answer to the last question is yes please stop reading.
You have better things to do with your time as do I.
As we live in a society where the structures are geared one way; Any inaction is an action, being silent or just being kind leaves us all complicit in all of those atrocities. Yes, I am holding us all responsible, yes, that feels not very pleasant. Kindness is not niceness; it’s action.
“I’m kind, I give to charity”
Here I have a floating position, to be honest, all my views are salient maybe liminal is a better word.
‘But I was only trying to help’
‘I gave up my summer to build a school’
‘My charity work cost me a lot of money’
All of the above statements have come from people believing they are being kind through charity . Although the statements may all be completely true, I would first ask who benefited from those experiences. If you have photographs of you ‘helping’ people of colour and are circulating them across social media, you are propagating the myth that people of colour need white people (intervention) to save them (we can swap race here for any other oppression), this means you are part of the problem, this is not kind.
Is this kindness directed outwards but really is solely based on personal platitudes?
Charity in the form of time or even money without challenging the structures actually exacerbates the problem. It stunts the need for systemic change, and I’d also ask who it serves more, we are all prone to the above saviour trope.
One without the other is problematic at best.
You’ve seen the tweets:
“Spread Kindness Like Confetti”
“If you can be anything at all, be kind”.
Sure, on their surface, those sticky-sweet platitudes feel good. I mean, hell, who doesn’t want to be a kind? But what is happening in society of viral memes and motivational quotes, is that some of us are redefining what it means to actually “be kind”.
Brene Brown said it best in her book, Dare to Lead, “clear is kind. Unclear is unkind”. When we throw kindness like confetti, we are throwing it on top of unfair systems and practices and not acknowledging systemic cracks in structures that have been unkind to marginalised folx for years.
For example, when we tell folx to hold bags for the elderly, are we considering why an elderly person would even need to struggle with their grocery bags every day. Is there a delivery service available for this demographic? When we suggest that buying the person’s coffee behind you is an “act of kindness”, do we ever stop and think about poverty, or how some of us are privileged enough to buy a $4 cup of coffee while others can’t even consider it.
Kindness is lovely, but it shouldn’t it be the bare minimum of where any of us start? Instead of throwing kindness like confetti, let’s have real conversations, hard ones, ones that make us uncomfortable, because when we truly want to look at what it means to be kind. Let’s consider that it has far more to do with the impact on unkind things in this world then simply smiling and holding open a door.
I have put together a selection of over 30 picture books that children and families might find helpful at the moment. They support the key elements of social and emotional learning and, as learning happens best when children see themselves, I have tried to be as inclusive as possible. I have also included additional resources; songs, sketches, shorts with similar themes and aims.
The bulk of the material came from CBeebies and Sesame Street (via YouTube) which are definitely worth exploring if you haven’t before.
Please note this was created, quickly, for use with pupils and their families for digital story-times during school closures or to support PSHE delivery at this difficult time. I have used YouTube links to enable equity of access; I hope authors and illustrators are okay with this. I am sure that many readers will be inspired by what they read and will buy a book or two if they can. Any suggestions of additional books (with digital version) or resources will be gratefully received. 😊
Her wonderful TV series aires tomorrow, Monday 16th March 2020 at 5:30pm and it will be available on iPlayer. PoC are rarely represented in children’s literature or the children’s screen, this is important for every single person regardless of race.
JoJo & Gran Gran, based on the popular characters by Early Years specialist Laura Henry-Allain, is to feature among the new season’s offer on BBC’s pre-school channel, CBeebies.
JoJo & Gran Gran is an animated TV series aimed at children up until Year 1 that is loosely based upon the relationship I had with my grandmother. A total of 44 episodes have been made, each of which are 11 minutes long. The episodes will play every weekday on CBeebies. They will also be available on BBC iPlayer.
JoJo & Gran Gran, based on the popular characters by Early Years specialist Laura Henry-Allain, is to feature among the new season’s offer on BBC’s pre-school channel, CBeebies.
Watch the launch below and watch the show tomorrow.
All staff should be tolerated for their individual differences; I’m going to swap a word there ‘All pupils should be tolerated…’ I find a disconnect between the connotation of tolerance and what happens in schools. So let’s all embrace each other’s differences and uniqueness as a start.
Equality, this grates the aim is and was never equality. If we treat everyone the same in an unequal society, all this will serve to do is make society more unequal. Let us look at your school as an unequal microcosm of social practices, in the classroom; we all make adjustments for pupils to achieve their potential treating them equally, all the same, is not an option. As a profession, do we treat staff in the same way?
Women are less likely to apply for roles where they do not match 100% of the job description.
‘Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.’
The conclusion initially came from a Hewlett Packard internal report and quoted in various confidence-building literature. Now if we continue to treat people the same through the same processes, this will be replicated in the applications you receive. Consequently, leading to the organisation missing out on new talent and mismanaging the swathes of talent already within your school body.
The Equalities Act 2010
What are these differences? What does the law have to say? The protected characteristics as per the equalities act 2010 are:
marriage and civil partnership;
pregnancy and maternity;
religion or belief;
The act is in current legislation. There is a legal and moral duty not to discriminate through Direct, Indirect, Harassment and or Victimisation.
Direct discrimination is when people are treated less favourably because they have or there is a perception that they own a protected characteristic. Direct discrimination can also occur through association with someone who possesses or is perceived to possess protected characteristics.
Indirect discrimination is usually to do with whole school policies, practices or criteria. If any of these procedures adversely impact those with protected characteristics; it may be viewed as indirect discrimination.
Harassment is unwanted conduct regarding a protected characteristic it may have an impact on the person’s dignity equally creating an intimidating, hostile and humiliating environment for them.
Victimisation is when a person is disadvantaged, and their lives are put at a detriment because of alleging, participating or supporting in the process of making a complaint or grievance of discrimination.
It is worth noting here that intent is not a requirement; this means that even if discrimination occurs unintentionally, a claim can still be successful.
The Public Sector Equality duty
The state schools public sector equality duty which means that schools have a responsibility to consider all individuals when carrying out their day to day work, in shaping policy, in delivering services and of course in relation to their own employees.
It also requires that public bodies have due regard to the need to:
advance equality of opportunity
foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities
More than the legalities mentioned above, there are other advantages. Why diversity matters (Mackinsey 2015) states that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform financially, and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% when comparing the top to the bottom quartiles for diversity.
In 2018 Delivering Through Diversity report (Makinsey 2018) stated
‘The statistically significant correlation between a more diverse leadership team and financial outperformance demonstrated three years ago continues to hold true on an updated, enlarged, and global data set.’
Diversity is not only the right thing to do morally and legally but leads to gaining the best expertise and talent. There are real advantages in looking at the retention rates and HR records of staff who possess protected characteristics, the longer a member staff stays in your organisation, the better it is for everyone.
Simply objectively analysing records such application for CPD and acceptances of CPD, grievances and recruitment records may throw up some trends that you may find need action. Part of my consultancy work includes analysis of these trends with regards to:
Who applies for your positions
Who you long/shortlist
Who do you appoint?
Who applies for CPD?
Whose CPD requests are accepted?
Practices which ameliorate discrimination are often over overlooked; The NASUWT and Runnymede’s Visible Minorities, Invisible Teachers 2017 report ‘showed that twice the proportion of BME teachers reported they had experienced discrimination in the workplace in the last 12 months (31%)’
“It may not be deliberate racism on the part of an individual…”
but institutional practices discriminate against a particular group of teachers.” (Gus John, visiting Faculty Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde)
You may be reading this and thinking that I am calling you a bigot, racist, sexist, etc. and or that you willingly discriminate against people. I am not. We line in a world where specific negative associations are perpetuated through every outlet and facet of our lives. So much so that, leadership prototypes and toxic associations are formed in all of our minds. It is our duty to appoint the best people for the job by accounting for our own biases in the process.
While recruiting leaders find this extremely difficult, how many of us have appointed on that feeling,
That the candidate will fit better into the team.
We’d work together well.
These are all examples of obvious bias at play. When appointing people, the only question is can they do the job defined in the job description.
There have been some steps in this process. Often teachers are appointed through a recruitment process which excludes names and age and other parts of the application; This process is referred to as blind recruitment, I would be remiss if I did not point out the ableist language here. However, this is not always the case nationally. Most application forms are cumbersome and not fit for purpose.
Leaders look at the why of your recruitment and what sort of applicants you will attract. If the aim of your application process is to find a field of people who can have excellent English skills and can craft a beautiful supporting statement then stick to the traditional systems in place. Decide what is important to you as a leader and what is essential for the school. Many headteachers will say it is the candidate who matters, their impact and their passion, so if that is your aim, are we all asking the wrong questions?
I would advocate a process which asks direct questions around the specifics of role would be a much better method. The process can be made more equitable by the removals all proper nouns pre leaders individually assessing each answer (against the job description) in isolation and only collating the full CV after the shortlist has decided. We are currently in the process of developing a package which makes this process more manageable; iI you are interested in more information, send us a message through the contact us page.
During the interview process, this is where we have to disrupt the habits of our mind. A first step is an acknowledging that you hold common biases and then concentrating on solely assessing your candidates against the job description and nothing else. This check on my preferences necessary for every single leader, even as a man of colour, I also have an implicit bias toward white males.
I don’t really know where to begin with this. Shouting back and forth definitely isn’t working. So why don’t we try something else. Kindness maybe?
This poor woman is clearly very angry, having been in hospital last week, perhaps she is dealing with some looming health issues for her and a loved one. Imagine being believing you could lose a loved one because of “foreigners”? /2
Now, it’s not true of course. As @AyoCaesar put it “facts don’t care about your feelings.” – health tourism is about 0.1% of the NHS budget, we spend more on stationary – the infrastructure to have “pay points” in all hospitals would likely cost more than that anyway /3
But what about her feelings? This narrative is driven by feelings and bereft of facts, essentially a broth of headlines from newspapers and social media. She feels under attack. That’s fair enough- public services have been “attacked” by, austerity. Not people. /4
The services she is angry about: interpretation and signs in other languages- are to save money, so patients who need treatment understand it and don’t miss appointments (very costly) and have complications (very very costly). /5
As health professionals we need to treat the patient in front of us. It isn’t up to us what their level of English is. Or level of education either. These measures are tiny portions of the budget and save money. That’s why we do them. /6
This lady clearly feels their is a conspiracy against her. She shouts “rubbish”, when told simple facts: – the old age dependency ratio is rising (due to a baby boom in 50s and drop in fertility in 70s) – migrants are younger and more educated than the native population /7
She’s saying “rubbish” because she is thinking of anecdotal newspaper stories to the contrary, the singular examples that aren’t really news at all but serve to sell papers to this same narrative. Like “Immigrant family on benefits has a million pound house”. /8
We have realised over time disease can be prevented by treating it as a public health issue, not a moral choice. The smoking ban, needle exchanges, alcohol caps. All serve to reduce disease. Maybe we should think of this as a public health issue as well? /9
We live on an island, with strict non-EU visa requirements and the ability to deport EU immigrants without work. There has been no “flood”. And yet that is what is the prevailing narrative, which never follows it through to its logical end. /10
How much would it cost to “close the borders”? That wouldn’t help this lady’s perceived problem of foreign languages in hospitals. So forcibly deport all immigrants then? How much would that cost? £trillions? /11
And how would you then fill that £trillion hole in the public purse? Not to mention the civil disobedience, perhaps even civil war over the attempt? Every public service you are talking about would be decimated. What would happen to your loved ones then?
And even if overnight all the “immigrants” could magically be “disappeared”, we don’t have enough people then, in fact we have 750,000 unfilled jobs right now. Underemployment. The newspapers so rarely mention it, don’t know why🤔
It isn’t this lady’s job to understand immigration facts, or infrastructure policy. We don’t know why she’s so angry, but to get on TV with a rant like that came from somewhere personal and we should respect that.
It IS the job of the politicians and journalists and newspapers to understand these things, AND TO COMMUNICATE THEM ACCURATELY.
This is where we have had abject failure in the last decade or so.
If newspapers will say anything to get sold, and politicians will say and do anything to get elected, then the natural common denominator will always be the worst instincts in us, as these are the most universal and powerful.
imagine the issue was smoking, and we were trying to resolve it by shouting at people in the street smoking cigarettes. How many would quit? How many would smoke more? This is a public health issue and needs to be treated like that. Thank You for coming to my TED talk. /end
Lots unpack here but I would absolutely encourage you to engage with your pupils around those ‘facts’.