Creating a curriculum that makes Black, Asian and minority ethnic students feel seen is the driving force behind Emily Folorunsho’s role as head of history at London’s Barking Abbey School.
Since graduating from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) in 2014 with a degree in History and Education Studies, Emily completed a PGCE and has been in her current role for a year, adding some welcome diversity to the secondary school’s curriculum.
The 27-year-old from London said: “Implementing change during Covid has been difficult as staff and students have so much to deal with already, but my department is really open to making the curriculum more inclusive, which is great.
“We’ve introduced a new module on Black and Asian history from Anglo-Saxon to modern times at GCSE level and we’re working on something for Key Stage 3 next.
“Ultimately, I really want to create a curriculum that makes every student say ‘I belong’ or ‘I understand you’. I’m really passionate about achieving that.”
For Emily, how students are taught is just as important as what students are taught.
“As educators, we need to be asking ourselves, ‘How can I teach this in a way that doesn’t evoke white guilt?’. We want all students to feel like they can ask questions so that we can have difficult conversations in a meaningful way,” she said.
“One thing I like about teaching 19th century migration to Britain is that it touches upon Irish, Jewish and Eastern European cultures, which shows that there is diversity within the white race too.”
With the Black Lives Matter movement picking up momentum last year, there has been increasing pressure on the government to make Black history a compulsory element of the national curriculum in England.
Emily said: “Nothing needs to be removed from the curriculum to fit in Black history. Black experiences can be integrated and woven in.
“For Black students, it creates a sense of belonging. It makes them feel seen. For white students, it eradicates that misconception that Britain belonged to white people and Black people came here.
“Students need to see that Black people didn’t suddenly appear in 1948 with Windrush. There were Black experiences in medieval and industrial Britain as well. Black history is part of British history.
“I also believe pre-colonial African history should be taught because Black history has so much more flavour to it than the story of struggle. Students should see that Africa was underdeveloped due to slavery and colonialism, and that race was ultimately constructed to justify economic gains.”
Originally, Emily applied to study social work at a number of Russell Group universities, but missed out to older candidates with work experience under their belts.
Going behind her parents’ backs, she expanded her search through UCAS Extra, finding that DMU’s degree combined her interest in history and passion for making a difference.
“At the time, my parents didn’t consider teaching to be a well-paid career or to have much social status. They were really supportive though once they realised how happy I was at DMU,” she said.
During her degree, Emily had the chance to do a teaching placement at Leicester’s Moat Community College, which she describes as her ‘aha moment’.
She said: “I realised then that teaching was more of a calling than a vocation. I just knew it was the one for me – I can’t really put it into words.
After graduating, Emily secured roles at Rushey Mead Academy and then in Leicester City Council’s department for education, both of which developed her knowledge of the education sector.
“I’m really grateful that I got to study at DMU,” she said. “Irrespective of league tables, university is what you make of it. I worked hard to build relationships with my lecturers, took advantage of all the resources available to me and explored every opportunity that came my way.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t taken those opportunities and it really set the pace for my future.”
Posted on Thursday 11th February 2021