Recently issues of educational inequality have been brought to the forefront of public debate due to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. Abena Oppong-Asare MP has been calling for UK wide changes to address issues such as the attainment gap and unconscious bias in education. More locally the MP for Erith and Thamesmead has worked successfully with schools and parents across the constituency to implement changes and offer support.
Woodland Academy Trust has decided to remove a ‘thinking hats’ technique from their schools and work further on diversifying their curriculum following calls by Abena Oppong-Asare MP and local campaign group, Change the Black Hat.
The group has been campaigning for Woodland Trust Primary Schools within London and Kent to stop using a black hat to symbolise ‘negative points’, ‘setbacks’ or ‘problems’, in their educational settings.
Abena Oppong-Asare MP contacted Woodland Academy Trust to highlight how the ‘Six Hats Technique’ contributes to unconscious bias within the educational setting. In a letter to the Trust, she said:
“This teaching method and its unintentional contribution towards attributing ‘black’ with negative symbols, can result in children subconsciously associating ‘black’ with negatives more generally and as a result can create a space for self-hate or produce an opportunity for prejudice.
I know that this would never be the intention nor the aim of any school in Erith and Thamesmead but I am concerned that continuing to use this learning technique at an important stage of any child’s development could lead to the unforeseen consequences of unconscious prejudice.”
The thinking hat model was developed in the 19th century and is used in schools and workplaces across the UK as a critical thinking technique.
A spokesperson for the Trust said:
“We have been delighted to work with the Change the Black Hat team to bring about this important change swiftly.
The wellbeing, happiness and safety of our pupils and wider community is always our main priority so we have enjoyed working with them on this, and look forward to continuing to promote diversity within our curriculum and across our schools.
Our focus is always on being a part of our local community, promoting positive change and collaboration to ensure that our pupils benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum and education.”
The Trust has agreed to work further with the campaign group and Abena Oppong-Asare MP to look at ways to diversify their current curriculum. Following the success of the campaign to remove the use of the ‘thinking hats’ technique, a representative from Change the Black Hat said:
“We are pleased that The Woodlands Trust have understood our campaign’s position. We highlighted the connotations associated with the Black Hat from the De Bono method and links to institutional and systematic racism, and The Woodlands Trust have taken the decision to remove the model from their schools.
Change the Black Hat will be working with The Woodlands Trust to diversify their curriculum which represents the multicultural community in which the children they educate reside. We look forward to working with Abena Oppong-Asare MP further on this issue.”
Abena Oppong-Asare MP has also met with constituents to discuss concerns about the educational timetable delivered in schools and the ongoing campaign to teach ‘Black histories’ and diversify the curriculum. Abena Oppong-Asare MP supported one parent in championing the efforts of Barnehurst Junior and Infant schools to inform students about the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Barnehurst Federation of Schools, which is in the constituency Bexleyheath and Crayford, created a helpful guide for parents to educate young children on the Black Lives Matter movement. The guide includes helpful resources, information about the movement and advice on starting a conversation about race and equality with children of all ages.
Abena Oppong-Asare said:
“I’m really proud that local groups, parents and teachers have come together to understand the calls to diversify the current school curriculum and make swift changes when issues are raised. I had over 20 emails in two days from constituents asking me to support calls to make Black histories a mandatory part of the curriculum.
It is important that the education system works for all children no matter their ethnicity, socio-economic status or gender and whilst improvements have been made, we do still have a lot to achieve. I’m looking forward to working with schools and students across Erith and Thamesmead to secure a positive and equal education for all.”