Channel 4 commissions Troy Deeney – Where’s My History?
Exploring the lack of diversity on the national curriculum
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“The importance of education at an early age to inform identity and combat racist beliefs and stereotypes cannot be understated.” (Troy Deeney)
YouGov survey commissioned by Deeney revealed only 12% of teachers feel empowered to teach ‘optional’ black-related topics
Frustrated by the lack of diversity taught in schools and the impact it is having on pupils, Deeney wrote an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, set up a public petition – which has now surpassed 50,000 signatures - and commissioned a YouGov survey.
The YouGov survey of 1000 primary and secondary school teachers from across Britain found that only 12% of teachers said they felt empowered to teach ‘optional’ black related topics.
"As the proud father of four children, three of which are currently in the education system, this topic has moved front and centre in my life. I have seen more and more how important it is for my children to be able to see themselves represented in what they are being taught and learn about the contribution and background of people who look like them,” says Deeney.
“The current system is failing children from ethnic minorities and over the past 18 months nearly 400,000 people have signed petitions calling for changes to be made to mandate more diversity in the national curriculum, yet the teaching of diversity in schools still remains optional and the government’s stock response has been that it is down to teachers and schools to teach them,” he says.
“The importance of education at an early age to inform identity and combat racist beliefs and stereotypes cannot be understated.”
His Open Letter to the Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education has led to a meeting. Deeney and Zahawi discuss the future actions and potential solutions necessary to make real change.
The documentary not only recounts Deeney’s own troubled schooling experiences with his family, but also meetings with prominent contributors such as boxer Anthony Joshua, actor David Harewood MBE, ex-footballer and pundit Micah Richards, musicians Big Narstie and DJ Cuppy and MP Layla Moran, as well as young activists campaigning for change, teachers and pupils in schools around the country and voices of strong opposing views.
“I have met some amazing people throughout this journey who have made it their lives work to make real change in this area. I have been inspired and enlightened and this is just the start of this journey,” says Deeney.
Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor Joe Blake-Turner says: “Troy Deeney & SBX Studios have embarked on a project that has the power to transform education in this country and have a really positive long-term impact on society.”
Troy Deeney - Where’s My History? will be on Channel 4 in May 2022
For more details contact Susie Mackean at SMackean@Channel4.co.uk
Notes to Editors:
The film marks the first Channel 4 commission for SBX Studios - a new content studio and production house set up by communications & content specialists SoapBox London and boxer Anthony Joshua.
Set up in Oct 2020, SBX Studios develops and produces talent-led sporting and entertainment content for broadcasters, top-tier brands and social networks. The commission follows recent announcements including a commission to produce Snapchat’s first ever UK Original series, a 12 month partnership with Instagram and Meta to produce content series’ for a number of high-profile sporting talent - the first deal of its kind in Europe - and the production of the official England rugby podcast - England Rugby Podcast: O2 Inside Line.
Footballer Troy Deeney at Brixton Library in South London. The book on the left hand side represents the extent of diverse history taught at Key stage 3 compared to the right section which forms just part of Brixton library's black history section
FULL TRANSCRIPT TROY DEENEY’S OPEN LETTER:
To Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP
20 months ago, I was kneeling alongside my colleagues in the centre of a football pitch, whilst anti-racism demonstrators flooded the streets of the UK, social media stood in solidarity, slaver statues and colonial relics were torn down and hundreds of thousands of people from all backgrounds demanded institutions tackle systemic inequalities in our society to combat racism.
Now, nearly two years on from the death of George Floyd and the tidal wave of outrage that followed, an eerie quiet seems to have descended on national cultural debate, the issues raised have receded from the news agenda and if we are to believe the conclusions of the Sewell Report, the UK does not have a systemic problem with racism at all.
Yet in that time both myself and my family have continued to experience vile racist abuse on social media and, at times, in public, emboldening me even further to use my platform to keep the conversation at the forefront of people’s minds, campaign for change and not to let this movement and its momentum just fade away.
One such change, which was much debated at the time, is the importance of mandating black, asian and minority ethnic histories and experiences on the national curriculum to ensure that school children, from all backgrounds, have a balanced and inclusive understanding of Britain’s past, and how it has shaped society today.
As the proud father of four children, three of which are currently in the education system, this topic has moved front and centre in my own life. I have seen more and more how important it is for my children to be able to see themselves represented in what they are being taught and learn about the contribution and background of people who look like them. The importance of education at an early age to inform identity and combat racist beliefs and stereotypes cannot be understated.
As a mixed race man from a black Jamaican father and a white mother with Irish heritage, I grew up having an uncertain relationship with my own identity. My only experience of black history or black culture was through the food or music I experienced at home, whilst at school I felt detached, neither white enough for the white kids or black enough for the black kids. Not only was I not taught about positive role models who looked like me, I was even told by one teacher that I’d be dead by the time I was 25.
I ended up getting expelled from school at the age of 15, adding another statistic to the disproportionally high number of exclusions amongst mixed race or black Caribbean boys throughout the UK. It was only in my 20’s that I learnt more about my heritage, what it means to be a black man and the potential impact an earlier understanding of this might’ve had on me.
This is an issue I don’t want repeated for my own children. As well as speaking to their teachers about it, I have been on my own journey over recent months, meeting and speaking to young activists campaigning for change in the curriculum, teachers and pupils in schools around the country, organisations such as the Black Curriculum, the agents for change in Wales who have recently succeeded in mandating diverse representation across the curriculum as well as voices of strong opposing views.
I’ve found I’m not the only one to feel strongly about this subject - over the past 18 months or so, nearly 400,000 people have signed petitions calling for changes to be made to mandate more diversity onto the national curriculum and numerous debates have been conducted in parliament. Yet the teaching of black, asian and ethnic minority histories and experiences in schools still remains optional and your government’s stock response has been that the topics are already there and it is down to teachers and schools to teach them.
To challenge this response, I commissioned my own research with YouGov, surveying 1000 British primary and secondary school teachers to understand whether they thought they were equipped and empowered enough to teach diverse subjects. The results are very interesting;
Only 12% of teachers surveyed feel "empowered" to teach 'optional' black related topics such as colonialism, migration and identity against other competing 'optional' topics.
72% of teachers surveyed think the government should do more to support teachers in the teaching of cultural diversity in the curriculum.
64% of teachers surveyed say they are NOT provided with enough ongoing training and personal development to feel empowered to teach diverse topics in their classes.
75% of teachers surveyed are not aware that teaching resources which help teachers teach cultural diversity across the curriculum are available.
80% of teachers surveyed agree that introducing more culturally diverse, representational topics are vital and enriching for white or ethnic minority students.
Even more damning is the survey found that the majority of British teachers believe the national curriculum currently has a racial bias (93% amongst ethnic minority teachers and 54% amongst all teachers)
As the findings show, despite your government’s assertions that diverse topics are already in place on the curriculum and sufficient teacher training is provided, clearly that is not enough and the support and desire to do more is there - not just from the 100s of thousands of people who have signed the petitions but also from the teachers and schools themselves.
It can be done, we have seen that in Wales who have recently become the first UK nation to make the teaching of black, Asian and minority ethnic histories and experiences compulsory across the school curriculum.
It is for these reasons that I want to reignite this conversation and put it back on the agenda, I am only standing on the shoulders of what amazing young activists such as Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson and Nell Bevan at the Impact of Omission, Lavinya Stennett at The Black Curriculum and Angel Ezeadum in Wales have done before me over the past 18 months but the conversation has gone quiet and we need to shout about it again.
As my mum always says to me, you can’t understand where you’re going if you don’t understand where you’ve come from. Whether it’s too late for my generation, we need to lay a pathway for longer lasting change for our kids as I believe the current system is failing children from ethnic minorities.
Mr Zahawi, I urge you – as Secretary of State for Education – to review this topic again and make the teaching of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories and experiences mandatory throughout the school curriculum.
Source Channel 4
April 8, 2022 5:45am ET by Channel 4