Although schools, including the one I work in, have anti-discrimination policies in place, these in themselves are not sufficient.
Anti-discriminatory practice needs to be demonstrated to the children by the school. By promoting anti-discrimination, you create an environment within the school where there is no discrimination towards anyone because of their race, background, culture, religion or gender, as it is known by the children that this behaviour is unacceptable. It is the responsibility of all staff within the school to ensure that anti-discrimination is being promoted to the pupils and also to spot when it is happening and then challenge the behaviour.
Staff need to be modelling anti-discriminatory practice themselves so that they are being good role models to the children. As staff, we can eliminate stereotypes by, for example, encouraging boys to play with dolls and prams and girls to play with what would ‘normally’ be considered a boys toy. Schools can enlist the help of parents by inviting some from different cultures and backgrounds to come in and do a presentation to the children about their culture, which will help the children to gain a wider understanding of society.
At our school, an example of this was inviting some parents of Hindu children to come in and explain to the class about Diwali and the importance of it. They also showed the children how to do a traditional dance and explained about their special clothes. A best practice checklist could be summarised as below:Be a good role model – It is not sufficient to say only in words that prejudice and discrimination is unacceptable. We need to show by our actions that we really believe this to be true. Appreciate and promote diversity and individuality – We can do this by acknowledging the positive attributes and abilities of the children in our school.Listen to the children – It is important to get their views and take action on any concerns that they raise.
The child is at the centre of learning – Treat each child as an individual and tailor the curriculum to their needs. Be realistic – It is important that we have high expectations of the children within the school and encourage them to aim high. But we also need to remain realistic. School ethos – The ethos of the school needs to be positive and inclusive and all staff have a duty to promote this at all times during the school day.Challenge and question prejudice – As staff, we must challenge prejudice and discrimination but, through imparting knowledge, we also need to give children the confidence to challenge and question prejudice or racist behaviour towards others.