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Charity takes on classroom biases after pupil challenges east London school serving fried chicken lunch in black history month

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:52 17 June 2020

The Class 13 team is made up of Evelyn Stanley, Curtis Worrell (pictured) and Sean Rumsey who between them have 40 years of experience working with young people. Picture: Class 13

The Class 13 team is made up of Evelyn Stanley, Curtis Worrell (pictured) and Sean Rumsey who between them have 40 years of experience working with young people. Picture: Class 13

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A charity founder inspired to tackle classroom biases by a pupil who asked why his secondary served fried chicken to mark black history month is appealing for £4,000.

Curtis said children don't care if bias is conscious or unconscious. Curtis said children don't care if bias is conscious or unconscious. "The outcome is irrespective of the intent," he added. Picture: Class 13

Curtis Worrell and the Class 13 team have already been invited by Lister in St Mary’s Road, Plaistow, to work with staff keen to increase understanding of how race, class and gender stereotypes can influence teaching.

The bid to tackle education biases comes after Curtis, who has 15 years’ worth of youth work experience, met children at another east London school where a pupil questioned the black history month menu option.

The charity, the name of which refers to article 13 on free expression enshrined in the UN convention on the rights of the child, was set up in 2018.

Class 13 staff observe teachers at work and encourage them to reflect on how children from different backgrounds are taught.

Curtis explained this can include challenging stereotypes such as seeing black girls as loud, black boys as good at sport or lads from Asian backgrounds as not respecting women.

He added that pupils frustrated at being labelled can lash out, resulting in extra support in school for a character trait not really theirs. But the extra help can be taken away if they stop that behaviour.

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According to Curtis, the issue of unequal treatment in education is widespread.

“We blame young people, but it has to be a systemic problem. At Class 13 we try to create an example of what good practice looks like,” Curtis, 36, said.

Class 13’s approach is modelled on that of American activist Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name, “bell hooks”.

Hooks saw education’s goal as teaching youngsters to rise above boundaries of race, class and sex to achieve freedom.

The charity also hopes its work will help create better conditions for children to learn and be valued as individuals.

This includes boys at risk of being excluded. In 2018, state-funded primaries, secondaries and special schools in Newham issued 2,186 fixed period exclusions, punishing 1,115 youngsters out of 62,135.

Class 13’s £4,000 GoFundMe appeal would fund the year-long pilot project which Lister is not being charged for.

“If we want to provide an education that is going to move us forward as a society, we need to act now,” Curtis said.

To donate visit gofundme.com/f/class-13-tackling-systemic-inequality


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