Written by Tess Parker, Story Tiller Communications
When Chapel Allerton Primary took part in IVE’s ’Hidden Narratives’ teacher CPD programme they couldn’t foresee its impact on their whole school. Further work with freelancer Vanessa Mudd has seen them embedding diversity across their curriculum. This case study highlights their journey to date and their ambitions for the future.
Chapel Allerton Primary School is a vibrant, multi-cultural primary school, located north of Leeds city centre. Their motto of, ‘Nurturing a lifelong love of learning’ drives their vision and values as a school.
With 60% of pupils from Black, Asian and other ethnicities and 25% of staff from Global Majority backgrounds they are passionate about delivering an authentic response to diversity and inclusion.
The IVE and Heritage Corner ‘Hidden Narratives’ CPD programme came at the right time for them. This offered a unique chance for Chapel Allerton to explore new ways to embed diversity at the heart of their curriculum.
As UK schools were pressed to address topics of race and colonialism IVE and Heritage Corner were united in a mission to deliver a CPD programme that animated OFSTED’s ‘Broad and Balanced’ curriculum for racially charged times.
Through a range of engaging activities, the ‘Hidden Narratives Reflective Labs’ programme unpacked multi-cultural history and diversity insights. It sought to highlight key gaps and biases within the National Curriculum’s treatment of race and diversity, empowering staff with new tools and solutions. For Vanessa, this delivery experience revealed, “the depth of anxiety that teachers have around discussing race both in the classroom and with colleagues…what emerged was a desire for a safe space to be able to explore their ideas.”
For Chapel Allerton Primary’s Deputy Head, Becca Pinder, the CPD was an eye-opener, “I learnt a lot about local black history that I was unaware of. I discovered how colonised The National Curriculum is and had time to step back and reflect on the content that we are statutorily required to teach.”
Becca knew that, to encourage staff buy-in, she must unlock the ‘Hidden Narrative’ experience for others. “Becca realised the value of what she was learning and its relevance to her staff and pupils. She booked Joe Williams (Heritage Corner) to deliver his online version of the Leeds Black History Walk to wider staff so they could experience for themselves the lightbulb moment.” Vanessa Mudd, Freelance Practitioner.
With curriculum change firmly in mind, Chapel Allerton engaged freelance practitioner Vanessa Mudd, to build on the ‘Hidden Narratives’ learning experience. Her diversity knowledge and curriculum planning expertise would prove invaluable, in terms of taking diversity further.
Chapel Allerton Primary ‘All Are Welcome Here’ assembly July 2022
From day one, the Chapel Allerton Primary team were passionate about putting diversity at the heart of teaching and learning. They drew up an ambitious curriculum aim: ‘To have further developed our curriculum by the end of the next academic year, so it inspires, celebrates, provides a sense of belonging and identity and raises aspirations for all pupils at Chapel Allerton Primary School.’
As the lead freelance partner for the project, Vanessa had a key role to play in unearthing ideas and connections. Becca found her input invaluable, “Vanessa spent time looking at our long-term plans and researching possible links prior to meeting with staff. She worked year group by year group and made suggestions. Staff had autonomy over which ideas they included in the curriculum and made it their own.”
Whilst school leaders were determined to avoid charged, ‘political’ rhetoric they were keen to confront hard truths. “We decided to avoid the politics and to keep our work celebratory and positive – avoiding victim narratives, but not shying away from more historically sensitive areas.”
This journey has required commitment and trust building on all sides. This has included listening to the lived experiences of people of colour within the Chapel Allerton Primary community. Vanessa’s expertise and supportive approach has empowered staff and pupils to find their voices, “It gave me confidence to be able to talk about race and racism and gave a safe space to ask questions.”
Through months of in-depth learning, school conversations and planning sessions, Chapel Allerton (staff and pupils) formulated their ‘Celebrating Diversity’ curriculum plan. Spanning all Key Stages and encompassing different topics and activities Becca feels it is a positive first step, “Currently our changes have their own column on our long-term plans called ‘celebrating diversity’, this includes other aspects of diversity like LGBQT+, gender and disability.”
In the upper school, conversations have covered the emotive subjects of racism and stop and search. “We have worked with our Y5/6 pupils and discussed racism. This will be shared as part of our whole school ‘All Are Welcome Here Day.’ Here we will use picture books to discuss kindness, diversity, discrimination, fairness, racism and create whole school consistent definitions that will be displayed and used.”
Vanessa has played a pivotal role in unlocking the right resources, to facilitate deeper teaching and learning, “Having age-appropriate texts, like ‘All Are Welcome’ has been invaluable to underpin discussion around aspects of diversity and to support the delivery of challenging topics, such as Partition.”
Whilst the journey has been testing at times staff have come far in their confidence around diversity and inclusion themes. “The CPD has empowered us as a staff because we now have the subject knowledge and the confidence to plan and teach inclusively. When we need to, we can run things past Vanessa.”
Whilst Chapel Allerton are proud of their progress, their mission is ongoing. The school have commissioned Vanessa to work with them across the 2022/23 academic year, “We have decided to continue our partnership with Vanessa next year. She has been wonderful and carries so much knowledge but also a very practical approach being a teacher herself, she understands the stresses and pressures of teaching.”
Chapel Allerton Primary School are committed to embedding diversity in a holistic, lasting, and celebratory way. Their July 2022 ‘All Are Welcome Here Day’ assembly was a manifestation of this.
As they look towards a new academic year, the team can be proud of how far they’ve come. As presenters at the first York St John Teacher Education Diversity and Inclusion Conference in 2022 they were excited to share insights into the steps they have made.
But Becca and colleagues see it as an ‘ongoing’ mission. They are determined that diversity shall run deeper, with further curriculum change to come, “Our plans are to review the work we have started and progress it by looking more creatively at D&T, Art and Design, Music, and Maths. We also plan to produce a handbook with the vocabulary and definitions we will be using as a school.”
Vanessa is thrilled to continue her work with the Chapel Allerton team. She is inspired by the change she has witnessed, “Now that staff have begun to embed diversity, they are keen to work to improve their delivery in specific areas. This has created a list for us to explore in the next academic year. Now it is the staff team telling me where they would like the focus to be and what they want me to support them to enhance, alter and develop. This shows their confidence with weaving diversity into their teaching and is an example of the commitment and enthusiasm which they have shown from the very start of this work.”
This is not only a point of pride for the project partners but for IVE too, “This has been an incredible development journey for Chapel Allerton Primary. It is inspiring to see how they have taken their Hidden Narratives CPD experience (initially with Heritage Corner) and built on their relationship with Vanessa, to put diversity and inclusion at the front and centre of their curriculum.” Mary Owoo, Cultural Education Manager
To stay in step with this diverse, modern age, school curriculums must stay open to change. Chapel Allerton Primary School is an excellent example of the difference that can be made when the whole school community make a pledge to champion diversity in their back yard and beyond.
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