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Staff Blog // Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Curriculum

This blog is based on a recent session delivered at the Girls' Learning Trust Staff Conference 2023 by Maggie D'Souza (Nonsuch High School for Girls).

The focus for this conference session was (1) to address what needs to be considered before starting the process, (2) investigate how to audit curricula using an EDI lens, (3) learn where to find resources and (4) how to create opportunities to work in partnership with different institutions.

We started by focusing on why we are doing this, and also how it should be something that flows naturally in a lesson - ensuring that it does not become a tokenistic gesture. The key ideas for why a diverse curriculum is important are as follows:

  • So that those who have been written out of history can see themselves and their experiences better reflected.
  • It increases understanding of how others see the world and also of one’s place in the world in relation to oneself.
  • It creates a sense of interconnectedness which is important in facing global challenges, like climate change.
  • It is fun and keeps the curriculum fresh and relevant - it enriches perspectives on the existing curriculum.

There are challenges such as: time, finding and implementing resources. Strategies were shared from Professor Fareda Banda’s paper, such as a challenge reaction paper which ultimately gives teachers and students time to reflect on a topic which was raised in a lesson but unplanned for; it helps to facilitate challenging conversations and ensures staff feel they have a potential strategy whilst students feel they are being listened too.

Another consideration was how do staff want to structure EDI curricula development: individual department curriculum EDI, or a thematic approach? For the latter the case study of Henrietta Lacks was modelled with the theme of: the right to benefit from scientific progress, and mapped across four subjects.

The last part of the session focused on EDI curricula auditing. When we undertook this at Nonsuch we asked departments to complete their KS3 EDI document as a way to ascertain:

  • Where diversity fits into their curriculum intent; what a diverse curriculum looks like in their subject.
  • How EDI had already been incorporated into their curriculum.
  • What they aimed to develop.
  • And the support they needed.

When this was completed we reviewed the information focusing on: representation, celebrating diversity, role models, resource considerations and pedagogy. In the session key findings were shared, in particular thinking carefully about stimulus material that is used when EDI topics are incorporated; sometimes they tend to be negative examples- e.g. overcoming oppression.

Stimulus and topics need to be carefully considered so that, where applicable, they are introduced from a lens of positivity. Also, how are role models being incorporated into their curricula? Are role models being celebrated for the achievements rather than the focus being their protected characteristic?

I explained the peer review work my HOD and I had undertaken with a professor from SOAS university, and the importance of changing the narrative. To give some context, when I first started teaching history the curriculum was mostly Eurocentric, with black history being taught in Year 8/9 and focusing on Transatlantic Slavery, and a unit in Year 8 on the British Empire. However, significant work has been done to change the narrative. My HOD has thought carefully about students’ first experiences with cultures and themes which may be unfamiliar to them. For example, rather than the Transatlantic slavery being students’ first encounter with black history, we instead start with a unit in Year 7 called world civilisations- this is based on Empires such as the Mughal Empire, Ming Dynasty, Great Zimbabwe. This unit comes after we have studied Medieval England and is framed around the enquiry question on whether European society was more advanced than other civilisations of the time- this deals with the misconception that the west was a civilising force for the rest of the world. It enables students to see the richness of these Empires and how a lot of their ideas were used by European countries at the time.

We ended the session by focusing on how time to develop the strategy is vital and providing staff with more support earlier on about how to implement the resources and facilitate challenging conversations.

Colleagues shared that they found the audit template and resources useful. I hope that there will be further opportunities for cross-trust EDI collaboration.

Maggie D'Souza

Nonsuch High School for Girls