Sunday, 15 July 2018

Diversity: Check

It’s been a hectic year in many respects for me: moving to lead a department in a new school and moving to a different (and very picturesque) area of Yorkshire has meant that blogging has taken a bit of a back seat.  However, being sat here facing the remaining six hours of a sweaty train ride home after #TENC18 leaves me wondering about the curriculum I put in place in September.

Before I starting leading my current  department in September, I already had some clear ideas in mind about the texts taught at KS3, as it needed some clear updating.  After consulting my new team, we decided on Prince of Mist for Y8 and Trash for Y7.  Both texts aren’t set in England, both texts offer a multitude of opportunities to engage students in both reading and writing.  Yet something still hasn’t sat quite right and a recent discussion with other subjects leaders near me made me realise: my department’s curriculum lacks diversity, someone that is vital in the ‘hidden curriculum’ (a term borrowed from Hywel Roberts) when our intake reflects where we live: predominantly white and middle-class.  This was highlighted in a recent A Level Literature lesson on post-colonial theory when my students struggled to name writers who weren’t white and - in most cases - dead.

With this in mind, I was delighted to see that @benniekara was leading a session on diversity in the curriculum at #TENC18. I went in, hoping to walk away with a reading list of BAME writers so that I could tick the box of diversity and feel like I was giving students a more balanced diet.  How wrong I was.

Here are my main findings from @benniekara ‘s session:
  • Diversity isn’t about ticking boxes; it’s about the links between the boxes and how they reflect society
  • Diversity isn’t about a checklist BAME writers; it’s about all of the different ‘labels’ we use in society and understanding how representation of different groups has developed over time
  • Diversity isn’t about re-writing the curriculum; it’s about using the curriculum to introduce a wider understanding through set texts, but also extracts (fiction and non-fiction) to develop a critical understanding of the questions surrounding race, gender, sexuality, disability, religion and social class
So, although I will be looking at ways to introduce a broader diet of writers to my students, I’m also going to think about how I can teach students about the development of literature from different angles- especially at KS4.  Planning a new scheme of diverse extracts for Year 10 Language seems like the perfect opportunity for this.