The photo above was taken in Northern Moor, Wythenshawe. Thousands have joined protest marches and rallies in Manchester over the weekend, many of them young people who have never protested before. Children have been part of the protests: some young children taken along by their parents and many, many teenagers who want their voices to be heard. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked a wave of protest across the world, amplified by the evidence that people of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic origin are disproportionately at risk of death from COVID19. The confluence of these events has shone a light on systemic racism in our society. The issues have to be acknowledged and addressed, not only despite the health pandemic, but because of it.
This week our focus is on Transitions as schools prepare to support more children back into school. Taking up the challenge of #BlackLivesMatter, we consider the particular issues of transition for black children and young people in our Manchester communities.
Transitions involve processes of change, moving from what is known and familiar, working through a process of understanding what is different, and, eventually becoming accustomed to the new. Much has been said and written about transitions in the time of the COVID19 pandemic as school staff and children come to understand that going back to school is not a return to the old familiar ways but a “new normal” with unfamiliar routines and ways of being.
What is sometimes less well recognised and often overlooked, is that the uncertainty and newness associated with change will involve a search for meaning and identity. During times of change we re-examine who we are and how we want to be. Transitions can be eased for children, families and for school staff if these processes are understood, recognised and given time and consideration.
Reducing anxiety through knowledge
Whilst all children and families will experience some anxiety about the return to school, those from communities known to be more at risk from the virus are likely to experience more anxieties. They may be more reluctant to return to school and may benefit from particular considerations. Identifying families who are most anxious and supporting them to understand the ways in which you will keep their children safe will be more effective if you are able to communicate in ways that reach out and start from where they are. One way to do this might be to provide official guidance in their community language.
The Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Educators Network have produced guidance to support staff risk assessments, downloadable here.
Doctors of the World have produced information in a range of community languages made accessible using clear graphics and also videos, so that those who may not be able to read in their language can still access core information.
The NHS have also produced videos in a range of languages to explain key routines such as handwashing:
The Covibook is available for free download in a wide number of languages including Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Chinese and Persian. The Covibook is a social story that can be used with families of primary aged children. At this time of transition back to school it is still important to give children factual, accurate information about the virus. Knowing how they can help keep themselves safe is still relevant. School staff cannot assume that all families and children have this knowledge.
Children returning to school and those who are still at home are likely to be going through a process of readjustment to life in the time of COVID19. This is not a situation that is over, and much uncertainty remains. Black Asian and Minority Ethnic children may have particular concerns if they feel more vulnerable. They may also have been involved in the recent protests or be part of social media groups and other online groups giving them a new sense of belonging. It will be important for schools to recognise and acknowledge these factors and support children and young people as they develop their sense of identity.
This is a fabulous set of resources curated this week on the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Educators website. It includes lesson ideas for teachers of different age groups and a range of resources accessible to all, such as:
Ideas for diverse children’s books from Embrace Race. Embrace Race is an organisation that “aims to nurture resilience in children of colour”. It is an American site and has a range of ideas and information about supporting children in the time of COVID19 from a resilience and racial justice perspective.
This interactive poster with links to books and resources about racism
“In this time we must act, educate and be of service to help the fight against racism. Enough is enough.” Filmmaker and Into Film ambassador Cornelius Walker
Into film is an organisation that puts film at the heart of the educational and personal development of children and young people. They have curated a set of films and resources to support the work of schools in talking about racism. We can particularly recommend these resources supporting the film Selma, suitable for secondary aged pupils.
There are renewed calls at this time for greater recognition of the need to decolonise the curriculum. Teachers of children Key Stage 2 and beyond should be prepared for a level of questioning and challenge. The website Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Educators has a wide range of resources by educators for educators, including a range of information about decolonising the curriculum.
Many children and young people will not be transitioning back to their current school but preparing for a major transition from Primary to Secondary School. Schools are working hard to ensure as far as possible that some of the traditional rites of passage associated with ‘saying goodbye’ are still able to take place. It is important that children in Year 6 and other key transitions such as Year 11 and Year 13 do have an opportunity to engage in activities that enable them to process the endings in their relationship with their school and teachers as well as classmates. The Anna Freud Centre have produced this useful resource: Managing unexpected endings and transitions A practical guide to support pupils and students to manage change during periods of disruption
Research indicates that going to a new school is a time when children of colour may particularly experience racism and bullying. It is a time when it is especially important to develop a sense of belonging and to be able to make friends and become part of new groups securely. The Back to School Assembly produced by Into Film is a brilliant set of short film clips with discussion points to support transitions, most suitable for children in Year 6 and Year 7 but could be adapted for many transitions across a broader age range(7 - 14). It features positive characters from a range of backgrounds and covers topics such as Making New Friends, Believing in Yourself and Working Together. All the film clips include children of colour in significant roles. This is a very rich set of ideas and discussion points that would be well used across a number of sessions. It would be a great set of lessons to use as part of a back to school programme for a range of ages.
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