Our classrooms are now more diverse than ever, with more countries, faiths, and identities being represented by both students and staff. It’s estimated that by 2030 over three quarters of students in London schools will be from ethnic minorities. Traditionally we’ve celebrated Christmas and Easter in English schools, and while the academic year may still revolve around these dates great schools are making sure all their students' beliefs and cultures are represented.
So, how do we keep track of all the annual holidays on the calendars? And how do we keep in mind the many beliefs and opinions that share the same classrooms, buildings and lives?
Here are some top tips that can help your cultural planning for the year to come:
Do your research
It’s important to make sure that you don’t make assumptions. Do your background research to find out information about each holiday and festival is a great way of coming up with plans that can include everyone. The reasons behind the event, their back story, and underlying messages are all essential information for you to have at hand.
Ask your students
There’s nothing better for making students feel included than asking their opinion. How do they celebrate a particular cultural holiday? What are the traditions they incorporate at a religious time of year? True inclusivity is about making sure everyone’s voices are heard and giving them the opportunity to speak. See how excited they get when they tell you about special memories or their favourite tradition. Try to uncover more about what they really know, and ask them to tell their stories.
Why not get the whole class working on a project about Eid, Ramadan, Diwali, Baisakhi or Passover? This is a fun way for students to learn more about the different cultures of their fellow students, and for those students in the know, to be able to share their thoughts and information with others. As well as being educational around the specific cultural, religious and historic festivals, this kind of collaborative learning is great for forming peer relationships.
Maintaining a dialogue between the school and the parents is important, especially if there are potential cultural differences. Home learning is a wonderful way to extend the learning experience. Provide students with resources to share with their families to create inspiring and informative experience for everyone to take part in. And getting feedback from these experiences is helpful ongoing lesson and event planning.
Keep up to date
It’s important to keep up to date with the information surrounding inclusivity. For additional guidance, please refer to your school governing body, and check out the Department for Education’s Equality Act advice for schools. While parents have the right to withdraw their children from Religious Education lessons and collective worship, this doesn’t extend to other subjects that may incorporate the history or beliefs that these lessons contain.
How do you incorporate different holidays, celebrations, and festivals in an educational and inclusive way? Let us know!