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The importance of equality and diversity in education was highlighted in The Swann Report 1985, which introduced the concept of 'Education for All'. It stated that ` Britain is a multiracial and multicultural society and all pupils must be enabled to understand what this means' and went on to say that `the problem facing the education system is not how to educate children of ethnic minorities, but how to educate all children'.
Attitudes & prejudices are already beginning to form in children by the age of three and research shows that these are likely to be negative towards people who are visibly different from themselves (Brown 2001). `Experts say racism in schools reflects what children are hearing in their homes and communities' (Roberts 2009) and it is therefore fundamental that we educate children on equality and cultural diversity in schools to try and help them `to unlearn any racist attitudes and behavior they may have already learnt' (Ousely and Lane 2006). As well as preventing racism, a positive awareness of different cultures also helps all children to gain a positive awareness of their own culture.
The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, made `equality of opportunity' a legal requirement in schools, imposing that schools promote good relations between persons of different racial groups which should then contribute to the elimination of unlawful racial discrimination, stating that `every school has a key role to play in eradicating racism and valuing diversity'
This was embedded within the 2000 National Curriculum through the Personal and Social Education Framework, Key Stages 1 to 4 in Wales. It was then extended through Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) which was introduced in 2002 with an intention of helping schools to help pupils `understanding, respecting and valuing' of cultural diversity.
The importance of recognising, exploring and equality of cultural diversity was heavily embedded in the new 2008 Foundation Phase Curriculum, with the Personal and social development, well-being and cultural diversity section stating that;
`The foundation phase supports the cultural identity of all children, to celebrate different cultures and help children recognise and gain a positive awareness of their own and other cultures. Positive attitudes should be developed to enable children to become increasingly aware of, and appreciate the value of, the diversity of cultures and languages that exist in a multicultural Wales'.
The Knowledge and Understanding of the World section of the framework also demands that; `Children should be given opportunities to identify the similarities and differences between themselves and other children' and that `they should learn to demonstrate care, responsibility, concern and respect for all living things and the environment'.
The Welsh Language Development section requires that `Children should be given opportunities to… develop a positive self-image and a sense of belonging as part of different communities and have an understanding of t heir own Welsh identity…treat people from all cultural backgrounds in a respectful and tolerant manner'.
The inclusion of cultural diversity and equality in so many sections emphasises its importance in education today. Equality is also one of the six core themes of the School Effectiveness Framework 2008 with an aim of promoting `a culture of social inclusion and respect for diversity…'. The content of such frameworks may be in response to evidence of educational underachievement of some ethnic minority pupils, which suggests that there are race inequalities in the UK educational system ( DFES cited in Richardson 2005). Winckler (2009) recently insisted that `inequalities are all too evident in education' and that `evidence suggests that schools could be more responsive to the needs of ethnic minority learners'. This emphasises that the content of the curriculum alone cannot ensure equality. The guidance and support of the LEA's, alongside the commitment and enthusiasm of the individual schools and teachers is fundamental for `education for all'.
Within Wales, `ensuring that all children and young people are listened to, treated with respect, and are able to have their race and cultural identity recognized' is one of the Welsh Assembly Government's (WAG) seven core aims and it recognizes how diversity can affect learning in many ways. In order to achieve this aim it is important to ensure that ethnic minority children has the same access to the curriculum as every other pupil in the class and that specific issues such as EAL are adequately addressed. It is also vital that the whole school has an awareness of different cultures in order to promote equality and hopefully prevent racism.
Within this context, the role of the LEA is to `support schools in ensuring that race equality and diversity are well embedded within the ethos…of all schools' and provide support to schools to improve the development and `reviewing of their race equality policies.' (Estyn 2005) . However regardless of the changes in policy and the curriculum., the provision of equal opportunities will not occur within the classroom unless both the individual schools and teachers apply it in practice.
The role of the schools is therefore to `ensure the race equality and diversity are well embedded within their ethos' and use texts and resources which `reflect different cultural backgrounds' (Estyn 2005). To ensure that everyone is treated equitably & with respect, schools initially need to examine procedures & practices to see whether they favour particular groups over other groups. They need to ensure that they value diversity and thus be aware of and understand children's cultural, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. By having a greater awareness schools can build children's self esteem and engage them in learning. The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) recommends that schools create an inclusive culture, where everyone is made welcome, children help each other and all communities are involved in the school. Where all staff collaborates with each other, staff and children treat one another with respect and there is partnership between staff and parents. This culture is based on inclusive values, some of which include fairness, respect for diversity. Parekh, B (2000) sets out six principles for schools and society, which highlights the importance of celebrating difference and not just trying to insist of uniformity of treatment. `Increasing evidence shows a whole school approach to PSHE and Citizenship contributes to school improvement and the promotion of health and well-being' (Bird and others 2003) and `guidance to schools on implementing the citizenship curriculum stresses the importance of taking a whole school approach' (QCA 2000 as cited in Scott and Lawson 2002). This is supported by the DfEE's 1999 document `The National Healthy School Standard' which `sets out a whole-school approach to equalities issues in school'. `Every Child Matters' which led to the Children Act (2004) also emphasised the importance of a `whole-school ethos, environment and curriculum' ( Bird and others 2003). It is also vital that the schools continuously monitor the amount and quality of their teaching and learning about other cultures and regularly check and update it's `equal opportunities policy.
They also need to be aware of specific needs such as EAL to ensure that all children have equal opportunities. In relation to EAL, QCA (2000) states that schools should have in place policies for EAL learners, which are understood by all staff, and that challenging targets for pupils learning EAL are set and met. It also believes that assessment should follow the same principals of effective assessment of all pupils.
By promoting cultural awareness and developing the whole schools awareness of diversity, schools can potentially avoid racism altogether. However is racism does occur, schools need to challenge it straight away. Richardson (2005) believes that schools should ` send out a clear message that it knows that racism exists and that it will treat all incidents seriously' with teachers being watchful and vigilant both in the classroom and in the playground. It is also imperative that all staff members are aware of the policy in relation to racism and bullying and they should all share and follow the same philosophy so that there is a holistic strategy. The main aim of a school should be to eliminate discrimination & harassment & promote positive attitudes and thus promote equal opportunities & encourage participation.
Most importantly, schools also need to ensure that all teachers have a good understanding of the policies and knowledge of diverse cultures. The role of the teacher is vital for equal opportunities and they are required to `understand how pupil's learning can be affected by their physical, intellectual, linguistic, social, cultural and emotional development' (DCELLS 2006 S2.4). It is also necessary that they ` take account of varying interests, experiences and achievements of pupils from different cultural and ethnic groups, to help pupils make good progress' (DCELLS 2006 S3.3.6). They also need to be able to `understand the diverse learning needs of pupils and endeavour to provide the best possible education for them to maximise their potential whatever their individual aspirations, personal circumstances or cultural, linguistic, religious and ethnic backgrounds' (DCELLS 2006 S1.1).
When planning lessons teachers need to `take account of and support pupils' varying needs so that girls and boys, from all ethnic groups, can make good progress' (DCELLS 2006 S3.1.2) and when choosing resources must take into account `pupil's interests and their language and cultural backgrounds' (DCELLS 2006 S3.1.3), thus following the recommendations of Estyn (2001) that schools `use more texts that reflect different cultural backgrounds…and use more resources that promote equal opportunities and diversity''.
In relation to EAL, teachers need to be able to ` identify levels of attainment' and `begin to analyse the language demands and learning activities in order to provide cognitive challenge as well as language support' (DCELLS 2006 S3.2.5) and then `demonstrate that they are able to support those pupils learning English or Welsh where this is the language in which they are being taught and is different from the language or form of language of their home' (DCELLS 2006 S3.3.5). And in relation to racism, they must be able to `recognise and respond effectively to social inclusion and equal opportunities issues as they arise in the classroom, including challenging stereotyped views, and by challenging bullying or harassment, following relevant policies and procedures' (DCELLS 2006 S3.3.14).
Teachers need to plan opportunities to contribute to the personal, spiritual, moral, social & cultural development of children and be able to set high expectations for all pupils notwithstanding individual differences, including gender & cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The involvement and commitment from all teachers is essential, however it could be argued that the teaching within the early years could be the most significant.
`The early years are a critical time in children's lives for developing and forming their attitudes and behavior, including their attitudes and behavior to people who are different from themselves' (Ousely and Lane 2006).
Teaching and learning about other cultures can help to address equal opportunities, and `the early years seem logically and practically to be a good place to start…'. Teachers can `ensure that all children are sometimes encourages to play together right from the start' They can also `organize carefully and sensitively planned visits for the children to experience cultures different from their own in positive ways' (Ousely and Lane 2006) and well as introducing the children to different races and cultures through the use of puppets (ACCAC 2001) and persona dolls (Brown 2001).
Within my school experience placements, unfortunately I did not encounter any children with EAL nor did I have a great deal of exposure to exploration of different cultures, as the majority of pupils were white British. This supported the findings of Estyn (2001), that `generally promotion of such was mostly in schools with ethnic minority children and not so much in schools with only few or no ethnic minority children'. This highlighted to me the importance of exploring different cultures and ethnicities within society, even in predominantly or all white schools, as ;
`If we do not have any contact with or any social interaction with people who are different from ourselves, how do we ever get to know them, or about them?' (Ousely and Lane 2006).
The Swann Report “Education for all' principle identifies this issue and states that;
'Whatever the make-up of the locality, the pupils or the staff… a curriculum that is not multicultural would prepare pupils for an unreal society and world… it would fail to prepare pupils for the real world'.
Children need this exposure early on in order for them to adopt positive attitudes towards people who are different from themselves, otherwise we are not adequately preparing them for adult life in today's society. Education is crucial in promoting equal opportunities and preventing discrimination against individuals or groups because of their race. It is even more crucial that all children are made aware of `the diversity of cultures and languages that exist in a multicultural Wales' (Foundation Phase 2008) regardless of the amount of different ethnic backgrounds there are in the school. However it is also important for British white children to learn about their own culture and to feel proud of it. Teachers need to ensure that these children don't feel guilty that there are from the ethnic majority and gain a positive understanding of their own culture and its significance in today's society.
The importance of the positive promotion of race and cultural diversity within education is obvious, as `through the curriculum and school environment, children can be encouraged from an early age to value diversity' ( ACCAC 2001) and `schools and teachers play a valuable role in promoting good race relations between people of different racial groups, eliminating unlawful racial discrimination and promoting equality…' (Dr Mary Bousted cited in Richardson 2005). `The requirements for equal opportunities are underpinned by law. Education authorities, governing bodies and teachers are bound by many of the provisions of human rights legislation… laws that outlaw discrimination on the grounds of race, gender and disability' ( TDA website 2009). I am now conscious of the implications of race and cultural diversity in relation to equality in education. I am fully aware of the related standards I need to achieve in order to gain QTS and of the attitudes and approaches that
I need to adopt in order to successfully ensure equality of opportunity in my teaching .