EIS Anti-racist Sub-Committee members Nuzhat Uthmani and Adam Sutcliffe share their reflections on Black History Month and the importance of anti-Racist education all year round.

Nuzhat Uthmani is the current Chair of the EIS Anti-racist Sub-Committee, former Principal Teacher in Glasgow City Council, and currently Lecturer in Primary Education at the University of Stirling.

In a recent update to Scotland’s Programme for Government, the commitment to anti-racist education and structures within the educational landscape has been reaffirmed by the Scottish Government. The EIS has long been dedicated to promoting anti-racism, offering various resources to combat harmful stereotypes and marginalisation. These efforts, such as anti-racist education, the Myths of Immigration resources, and welcome packs for refugee, migrant and asylum seeker families, reflect an ongoing promise to foster an inclusive and respectful educational environment for Scotland’s learners and teachers.

While Black History Month continues to witness schools and classrooms celebrating with displays and messages against racism, it also raises questions about the annual nature of these displays. Is dedicating just one month to celebrate the contributions of Black and People of Colour in society, both nationally and globally, truly effective? Does it risk becoming a tokenistic gesture that only scratches the surface of the pervasive issue of racism?

Is dedicating just one month to celebrate the contributions of Black and People of Colour in society, both nationally and globally, truly effective?

Racism is not confined to history but is a contemporary problem plaguing our society. Minority ethnic communities continue to suffer from the legacy of enslavement, colonisation, and institutional racism. Despite learners with English as an Additional Language often outperforming their monolingual peers by high school graduation, they encounter barriers in higher education and the workplace, hindering similar success. The underrepresentation of minority ethnic teachers, particularly in leadership positions (less than 1%), remains a stark issue. The Scottish Government’s Anti-racism in Education Programme aims to address all barriers, with EIS as a key stakeholder raising the importance of tackling racism against educators as well as learners.

These ongoing priorities underscore the need for a year-round focus that goes beyond posters and statements of support. It calls for bold activism and meaningful allyship. What actions will individuals, employers, schools and colleges take to combat racism, and how will they measure their success? These questions should guide our intentions during, and beyond Black History Month.

In examining Black history and the fight against racism, we must also look closer to home. Our curriculum heavily emphasises the Civil Rights Movement in the United States but often overlooks the struggles, sacrifices, and contributions of Black and Asian communities in the UK. While Rosa Parks’ story is widely known, the Bristol Bus Boycott and the stories of activists like Jayaben Desai in 1976 and the Southall Youth Movement in the 1970s deserve equal recognition. These communities demonstrated resilience and determination in their fight for equality, a battle that continues today. A current example of this is the fight for justice for Sheku Bayoh, a campaign with which the EIS stands proudly in solidarity.

Black History Month provides an opportunity to highlight these stories, particularly until race equality and anti-racist thinking are fully integrated into the year-round curriculum. This year, let’s not only emphasise the importance of being anti-racist but also delve into how our institutions can still disadvantage certain individuals based simply on who they are, and celebrate individuals who have fought back. Investigate the inequalities that exist not only in education but across politics and health. Let’s work together to dismantle these unnecessary barriers for everyone, ensuring a fair and inclusive educational landscape for all.

Adam Sutcliffe is a Principal Teacher of Modern Languages in Aberdeenshire, on EIS Council and Equality Committee, and the Aberdeenshire Local Association Secretary

I asked to write this article as I am on a journey; on a journey to become an anti-racist (educator). I am male, I am white and I am (believe it or not) middle-aged; and I have begun to accept the privilege that this bestows upon me. This journey is one I will probably never complete, but I will certainly be doing everything I can to get there.

I’d like to start with two definitions which I believe encapsulate what anti-racism is. Firstly, in its publication “Introduction to Anti-racist Curriculum Development” the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) states, “Anti-racism is a concept which goes beyond non-discrimination or general support for equality and diversity. Its aim is to actively tackle all forms of racism.” And secondly, from the Chair of the EIS Anti-racist Sub-Committee, Nuzhat Uthmani, “Anti-racism is a verb, an action word”.

In Scotland, as across the UK, Black History Month, celebrated in October, offers educators a significant opportunity to recognise the contributions and experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals and communities. It is a time for reflection, celebration, and education. But why is this anti-racist initiative limited to a single month in the year? As educators in a multi-ethnic system, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the contributions of BAME communities and individuals are reflected in what we teach year-round.

As educators in a multi-ethnic system, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the contributions of BAME communities and individuals are reflected in what we teach year-round.

Just like a dog is not just for Christmas, anti-racist education is not just for Black History Month. Anti-racist education involves educating learners about the historic and systemic roots of racism, fostering critical thinking skills to challenge biases and stereotypes, and equipping them with the tools to recognise and combat discrimination in all its forms. Anti-racist education can be implemented year-round by going beyond discussing iconic figures during October and incorporating contributions of BAME people into subjects and topics across the curriculum every day. One simple way of doing this can be by ensuring that any resources you use feature BAME groups or individuals and tell their stories.

The term “Decolonising the Curriculum” can unfortunately sometimes be seen negatively by some in society as suggesting we abandon everything that we use now, be it texts, approaches or ways of development. From an anti-racist viewpoint, it is not that at all – it is about adopting a wider range of perspectives. Why restrict ourselves to a western, Eurocentric outlook, when there is a more global view we could enjoy? It is about searching for, highlighting, and celebrating the stories and histories of BAME people both in Scotland and across the world.

The CRER publication declares that “you don’t need to be a history teacher to build these narratives into lesson planning. From the built environment in cities like Glasgow and Dundee, to the origins of mathematics, to everyday things like a cup of tea, or sugar used in baking, there are connections to be made with these histories.” In my own subject of modern languages, we are, in my view, ideally placed to decolonise the curriculum, replete with the stories of people from Africa, Asia and South America and from all walks of life. In a recent issue of Stride (the Global Citizenship magazine for schools), Fiona Barclay from the University of Stirling shares an innovative resource called Remembering Empire, which takes the complex story of the French empire in Algeria and aims to grow Global Citizenship values and develop French skills.

By recognising the importance of and committing to anti-racist education all year round we can move closer to a Scottish education system which truly and deeply values diversity and inclusivity.