Inclusion and inspiration: Education for social justice

Manchester Institute of Education hosted a conference in January to invite members of the institute to host workshops for students on their area of expertise.

The theme was ‘Inclusion and Inspiration: Education for Social Justice’, with an aim to help delegates learn the best ways to make their classroom as diverse, safe and elevating for students as possible.

Summaries of these workshops and any extra resources can be found on the drop downs below.

Keynote 1 - Jeffrey Boakye

Jeffrey kickstarted the conference with an inspiring talk on how inclusion in the classroom starts with a conversation and the barriers preventing that from happening.

What is needed for conversation?

  • Knowledge
  • Mutual respect
  • Empathy

National curriculum (created in 1988 under Conservative government)

  • Clear conversation for aims of education – standardization; if it is the same for everyone then it is fair.
  • Aimed to raise standards and the outcome of education.
  • Make schools accountable.
  • Differentiated between ‘Essential knowledge’ – some knowledge is therefore valued more than others.

The link of mind body and spirit

  • Certain aspects of ourselves act as gravity (such as gender, sexuality, class). These are constant so we become use to it and accept that is the way it is.
  • Everything in society is designed with these constants in mind.
  • Ask yourself who is not comfortable? – Who is damaged by these constants?
  • Categorise people for control and coercion (no empathy when making these categories) – binary concepts such as black and white will change a person’s whole life.

Be in conversation with the world

  • If you don’t know things about your identity can’t take part in the conversation, education does not allow some people to learn about certain aspects of themselves. For example, an omittance of thorough black history, LGBTQI+ history etc from the curriculum.
  • This means students with these ignored constants are automatically on the back foot and not included.
  • Everyone is victims of paradigms bigger than us, we don’t all know how to have fluent conversations on some topics (religion, gender, sexuality, race etc.)

You must aim to cultivate knowledge of yourself – be willing to be in conversation and be uncomfortable or things won’t change.

What all teachers should know about speech and language - Dr Kelly Burgoyne & Rachel Starkey

A workshop highlighting the importance of teachers understanding the diversity of speech and language difficulties and how best they can provide individual support.

The key messages delivered were:

  • Speech and language skills are critical for education: They are critical for literacy and mathematical development, and are strongly related to social and emotional development and behaviour 
  • Many children (estimates suggest ~2 in each class) have speech and language difficulties. For some children these difficulties are clear to see, but for other children language difficulties can be more difficult to spot and may be masked by other (more obvious) issues 
  • Teachers play a key role in identifying and supporting speech and language needs throughout all stages of education. This includes targeted support for those with identified needs, but there is also a need to improve universal teaching of spoken language in all schools 

There is much that can be done to support speech, language and communication. This includes specific interventions that can be implemented by educators in school and by parents at home, as well as more general strategies teachers can use to ensure classrooms are language rich.

Identifying and Resolving bullying in schools - Wendi Swan

The workshop explored the current best practice to identify and resolve bullying in schools, highlighting particular issues surrounding gender and sexual identity.

The take home messages to try to implicate within schools were:

  • Be a good role model;
  • Think about language choices;
  • Challenge stereotypes;
  • Be inclusive of all children.
  • Challenge homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and sexist language and behaviour.

Working with teaching assistants for inclusion - Isolde Coope

Teaching assistants play a huge role for inclusion in the classroom. The number of full-time TAs has trebled since 2000 for two reasons:

  • To promote inclusion of children with SEND in mainstream schools;
  • To address problems with teacher workload.

Making best use of TAs for pupil outcome:

  • Should not be used as informal teaching resource for low attaining pupils;
  • Use to add value to what teachers do, no to replace them;
  • Help pupils develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning;
  • Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom.

Ensure you communicate with and build a relationship with your TA. Communicating is key to get to know their strengths and empower them.

Parents ‘classed’ experiences of the home-school relationship - Emilia Howker

Parental engagement is important because the more engaged they are in the education of their child the more likely they are to succeed in the education system.

Poverty and parental engagement:

  • Low SES parents are considered less likely to positively engage with teachers or education and encourage children to pursue ambitious careers.
  • This discourse leads to a culture of blame which hinders the development of home-school relationships.

A key area where the home-school relationship is important is homework. Different views from parents and teachers on homework and a lack of positive communication can widely impact the home-school relationship.

Questions to consider:

  • How can we bridge the knowledge of home/community and school in ways that meet he needs of children/parents in disadvantaged or ‘poor’ communities and schools?
  • What might the challenges to this be?
  • How might the issue of homework be addressed in order to alleviate tension between home and school?

Understanding attitudes to accent and dialect in UK teacher training - Alexander Baratta

A workshop highlighting the power of our perceptions of different accents and dialect and how this can cause either inclusion or division in an education environment.

Key messages:

  • There is nothing inherent about accents - no such thing as an accent whose sounds are 'sexy', 'ugly', 'trustworthy' and so on…
  • Rather, language is a proxy for social identities tied to region, ethnicity and class, for example
  • If such identities are stigmatised, then this is passed on to the language of the speakers.
  • Thus, the group who rules will have their status and power passed on to their language.

How can we move beyond the rhetoric? Equality, diversity and inclusion for educators - Laura Winter

  • Equality – share of access to resources and opportunities, relationship.
  • Diversity – representation, recognition.
  • Inclusion – belonging, acceptance, respect.

Equality vs Equity

  • ‘the more unequal the society you live in, the worse you do at school’ (Pickett & Vanderbloemen, 2015).
  • Inequality of resources, outcomes and status/how people are treated.
  • Equality assumes that everyone will benefit from the same supports, equity means everyone gets the support they need in order to have equal access to success and opportunities.


  • Think about diversity within schools – students and teachers.
  • Who holds the power?
  • Diversity I terms of what is being taught.


  • Enabling all learners to be able to be present, participate and develop.
  • Consider systemic barriers – barriers †o a child getting to school, things that make to difficult for them to concentrate etc.
  • ‘Allyship is not an identity but a practice’ (Saad, 2020).

 Conclusions of the workshop:

  • EDI will always remain surface level and rhetorical until we look at deeper, structural levels, and attend to issues of power, oppression and privilege.
  • Education is personal and political.
  • Moving beyond the rhetoric entails reflexive practice and looking (often uncomfortably) at our own roles.


An introduction to Makaton - Kerry Crawley

  • The Makaton Language Programme is a multi modal approach that uses signs, speech and symbols and is not a sign language. British Sign Language (BSL) is the only recognised sign language in the UK and is used by the deaf community. 
  • Makaton singing is used alongside speech to enhance and support the spoken language.
  • Makaton signs and symbols are beneficial in communication and language development for whole school environments across the key stages to provide communication friendly environments.
  • Take learning Makaton at a pace that suits you and your surroundings and have fun!

42nd Street - Anxiety - Natalie Whittaker

42nd Street is a mental health charity supporting young people aged 13-26, across Manchester, Salford, Trafford, Tameside and Glossop. We have received a surge in referrals and are finding that young people are presenting with increasingly complex mental health presentations.

Key messages:

  • Adolescence is a challenging and dynamic development period. Anxiety is normal. However, you may be able to notice ‘red flags’ in your young people’s behaviours, or the things they tell you, that you can act upon by speaking to your pastoral leads.
  • There has been a surge in referrals for psychological support for young people. We are seeing increasingly complex presentations, for which a lot of young people require specialist, evidence-based treatments.
  • There is support available across Greater Manchester. Specialist support is available through CAMHS and 42nd Street.

There is no expectation for you to be a therapist, or to have a working knowledge of diagnostic criteria. Having an awareness of the traits and characteristics of mental health presentations, which you could notice and speak to your pastoral leads about, could be an important step in helping young people access the support they need.

Understanding Autism - Karen Kilkenny

“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way that a person communicates and relates to people around them’

Triad of impairments: social interaction, communication, imagination and flexible thinking.

This triad can help as indicators of autism. Each person diagnosed with autism is unique, you cannot use a ‘one size fits all’ method.

Girls may differ highly form boys. It is sometimes harder to diagnose girls with autism than boys as they often come across as more high functioning. For example, they are more likely to have anxiety than be aggressive, they do have preservative interests, however they can be seem to be more ‘neurotypical’ such as TV or music stars.

People with autism will often suffer from sensory difficulties or sensory overload. Your response to this overload is vital to how they cope with feeling overwhelmed. Try to notice warning signs and spot triggers, see outbursts/behaviour as a form of communication. 

Understanding SEND - Lauren Foley

Key take home messages:

  • The importance of adapting data, to support a diverse range diagnosed/undiagnosed students.
  • Work as a team – Students, Parents, Teachers and Outside agencies must work collectively and communicate. This is the key to creating effective inclusion.
  • Be consistent. Be realistic. Be patient. Be compassionate.
  • "Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be." Rita Pierson. 

Police in the classroom - Naina Kotecha and Mark Williams

A workshop discussing the issues around police in the classroom. Highlights the issues of safety and stigmatisation of schools that have a regular police present. May of the schools (pupils and teachers) were not asked their opinion or told that they would have police presence.

SBPOs are disproportionately placed in schools with higher numbers of working-class students and young people of colour.

They can create a culture of low expectations and a climate of hostility whilst seemingly criminalising young people.

The discussion draws from two texts:

  • Decriminalise the Classroom: A community response to police in Greater Manchester’s schools

CYP: Police in the Classroom: A Handbook for the Police and PSHE Teachers.

British values - Bob Hindle

Key Messages:

  • Fundamental British Values form part of the responsibilities for schools and sit alongside the Prevent duty requirements and for schools/colleges to 'prepare students for life in modern Britain';
  • Although a Coalition initiative their roots are from the new Labour years and the response to the riots in Northern towns in 2001 and the terror attacks of 7/7;
  • They form part of a wider debate on allegiance of migrants and assimilation as part of the 'death of multiculturalism' and a reductive notion of Britishness within a context of rising race and religious hate crimes, Brexit and asylum seekers;
  • There's evidence that many schools have repackaged FBV as part of 'school values' or 'human values';
  • Research suggests a need to move beyond diversity days and continental menus to school strategies that help students mix and share what they have in common.

Exploring Home-School Communications

Forms of communication:

  • Safeguarding: open communication, trust, safety, professionals and meetings, transition.
  • Effective communication: key to relationships, active listening, open door policy, accessibility, verbal and non-verbal.

When communicating from school always consider language, who, when, where, why and how.

Beyond the theory – what are the everyday barriers to inclusion? - B Guerriero

Workshop aims to understand the key barriers to participation and discuss practical strategies on how to create an inclusive classroom.

Barriers to Participation:

  • Digital divide.
  • Morning/evening routines (diet and sleep).
  • Housing.
  • Attendance.
  • Parental engagement and home life (e.g. English speaking).
  • Mental health and body image.
  • Undiagnosed additional needs

Theoretical models of stress and associated coping strategies - Liz Birchinall

This session outlines the underlining theoretical mechanism of stress and coping. It also identifies effective coping strategies employed by trainee teachers in my recent research. 

Gender equality: how we can positively engage young men - Katharine Roddy and Karen Roberts

The workshop highlighted the importance of engaging young men in the gender equality discussion.

To make meaningful progress, young men must be positively engaged in the debate - this, in turn, will help to further the equality agenda for women and girls. 

How do we do this? 

  1. Build trust​
  2. Model inclusive language​
  3. Introduce the concept of intersectionality

Using children’s literature and P4C to develop global citizenship - Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves

Global citizenship education motivates and empowers children to become active, responsible citizens of the world. We need to ensure children are educated on cultures, so we don’t see a rise in discrimination, division, prejudice and stereotyping.

By using picture books and literature, we can bridge the gap between geographical distant places and the lives of children in the classroom.

Teacher’s must recognise their own culture and how this may affect their teaching. They must ensure their viewpoints are not at the forefront of their teaching.

Using Philosophy for Children (P4C) allows for children to shape their own opinions and questions to guide the content and direction of the session.

Books to get you started: When I coloured in the world, Julian is a mermaid, we’re all wonders, there’s a bear on my chair, thank you world, war and peas. 

Queering the classroom - Stevie Boon

The workshop aimed to discuss how we can change the landscape of education and how important it is.

  • Queer is fun and wondrous – contains so many rich pedagogy opportunities
  • Queer education must also be anti-racist and intersectional
  • Would positively benefit ALL children
  • Teachers must be attuned to their students and their lived experience to make them feel included and safe.

By ‘Queering the Classroom’ we are teaching children how to be in community with multiplicity of others and how to celebrate their differences.

  • Classrooms much facilitate children learning about themselves and others, giving education the chance to liberate.
  • Schools should be reformed to allow children not to mask their true self and allow them to grow and develop and explore in the safety of a school environment.
  • Ask yourself: what kind of teacher do you want to be? How do you want your classroom to feel?
  • Remove the belief that queer is a ‘distraction from the learning’, it is really an enrichment of learning.
  • Teachers have the pedagogical agency to create a classroom utopia – you can choose to positively impact lives of LGBTQ+ students

Arts and cultural capital for all: exploring and inclusive civic narrative - Andrew Vaughn and Steven Roper

Three principles:

  • Make art useful in society
  • Learning through making and doing
  • Creating a house and garden for the city

The Whitworth has a commitment to anti-racist action. They are actively engaging with and confronting their past of colonial exploitation so they can give a voice to those who have not been heard.

Action Research: aim to develop quality partnerships between schools and cultural organisations, schools to be commissioners of culture.

Think about how we can re-purpose our curriculum to include wider representation of content, and how we can use arts practices to support inclusive planning and curriculum mapping.

Keynote 2 – Actions for equality, diversity and inclusion

An open panel with three teachers from different schools with different experiences.

B Guerriro (they/them) – visible LGBTQ teacher

  • Expressed that UoM gave inclusive experience compared to home of Italy.
  • Believes in the power to choose your education.
  • Choosing to be visible as a LGBTQ+ as children cannot be what they cannot see.
  • Highlighted that ripple effects of inclusion in society start from within school.

Katharine Roddy (she/her) – language teacher at a boys’ school

  • Lots of work to do with gender equality.
  • She has Type 1 diabetes (a hidden disability), and has therefore done a lot of work with university on disabled rights.
  • Mentors on a scheme by Fabian Society – mentoring for women across the country from all backgrounds.
  • ‘On this day she’ lessons at school – teaches children about women in history that we don’t always see and discuss the exclusion of women from recorded history.
  • Importance of engaging young men with gender equality.

Tas Perry – teacher at small faith-based grammar school

  • Grew up in multicultural society in Sri Lanka.
  • Came to Britain for her PGCE where no English department that she applied to had any visible ethnic diversity.
  • Made her question is there unconscious bias in recruitment? – the classrooms were mixed but teachers were not. An issue because students need to see themselves represented.
  • We need to make inclusion something we do all the time.
  • Believes by making staffrooms diverse and welcoming, this will encourage minorities to join teaching.