Small country, small steps, big impact? Other ways of doing and knowing, starting to play-out in the whole-Wales shift from ‘non-racist to anti-racist’ education

Over-due evidence reviews, and education policy developments are being undertaken in Wales within the expectations of the pan-Wales Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) and ‘an anti-racist nation’. Welsh Government (2021) published a clear set of recommendations in ‘Communities, Contributions and Cynefin: Black Asian Minority Ethnicities in the New Curriculum for Wales’ and outlines that professional learning is key to the step-change. Davis and Haughton et al (2021) and EWC (2020 and 2021) explored Recruitment and Retention of teachers from Minority Ethnic backgrounds in Wales and found barriers around research inclusion, role models and representation, racism, glass ceilings, aspirations and career routes. The voices of the participants in the findings were used to shape Welsh Government (2021) ITE Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Recruitment Plan. This paper takes an ethnographical approach drawing on lived and professional experiences of those involved in the anti-racism research interwoven with emerging findings from within DARPL the journey across Wales.

The multi-disciplinary work spotlights issues in retention and recruitment of teachers from minority ethnic (ME) backgrounds as well as the need and green shoots in formation of DARPL (Diversity and Anti-Racist Professional Learning) coalition of partners to support and challenge educators in New Curriculum For Wales and shifting from non-racist to anti-racist approaches. Evidence shows that minority ethnic, or global majority (Campbell-Stephens, 2021) peoples are underrepresented in British educational institutions (Bhopal and Rhaime, 2013). Despite movements to try to redress this unfairness Global Majority peoples are still grossly underrepresented in UK higher education (Arday et al., 2022). Kadiwal and Abu Moghli (2021) argue that decolonisation has become a buzz word devoid of real power ‘allowing for superficial representations that fail to address racial, political and socio-economic intersectionalities’ (Kadiwal and Abu Moghli, 2021, p.1). Whilst exploring systemic change, this personal reflection from inside the journey draws on individual approaches in practice as described by Sealey-Ruiz (2020) model on racial literacy in developing self through archaeology in ‘digging-deep’ and ‘excavating’ ideas around bias, stereotypes and social justice.

Wales is a multicultural, multi-ethnic society. EWC (2019) 1.3% of 35,545 registered teachers identified themselves as being from an ME background; 1,066 teachers and out of those only 15 are leaders. In contrast, ethnic diversity can be seen across Wales pupil Level Annual School Census1 data states that ‘in 2019, 12% of all pupils aged five and over came from minority ethnic backgrounds’(Williams, 2020, p.4). However, there is considerable regional variation in the percentage of Welsh pupils identifying as being from minority ethnic backgrounds. For example, ‘34.4% in Cardiff schools to just 4.1% in Anglesey’ (Williams, 2020, p.4). This paper acknowledges the complexity, contextuality, and fluidity of these issues and therefore advocates steps being taken in collaboration in order to seriously undertake the change that is needed in the workforce and curricula.