A new UWE Bristol project, which aims to remove barriers to teaching Black British literature in schools, will be officially launched this month.
‘Lit. Legacies’ involves the collaboration of four Black British teachers, with support from Black community leaders and young people, to bring together educational resources for teaching ‘Princess & The Hustler’ by Chinonyerem Odimba.
The play is a celebration of Black British-Caribbean girlhood, family, and culture, and is set in St Agnes amidst The Bristol Bus Boycott, a defining moment in Bristol’s history.
Lit. Legacies, steered by Amy Saleh, Senior Lecturer in Education at UWE Bristol, will provide a six-week scheme of work, to accompany existing guides for studying the play.
Amy said: “In 2020, the absence of Black writers from GCSE English Literature set text lists was widely acknowledged in educational reports and news outlets. Since then, UK exam boards have added a range of Black British texts.
“That includes ‘Princess & The Hustler’, but despite Black writers appearing on set text lists, previous research has found that most students are likely to study texts written by White authors. Issues of time, money, subject knowledge, and teacher confidence are barriers, in addition to most secondary school teachers having had no training on how to talk about race.
“I thought ‘what can be done to remove some of those barriers?’, and so, the project was conceived.”
The combined knowledge, skills and lived experiences of four Black British teachers, who are committed to inclusive and anti-racist practices, is a distinctive feature of this project. Two workshops were run in two local secondary schools for GCSE students to get to know the play, look at sample resources, and offer their evaluations.
The six-week scheme of work includes a set of lesson plans and resources, including Kahoot quizzes, contextual links, and exam-style questions with model responses. There will also be resources to enable teachers to develop their racial literacy and prepare for issues that may arise when facilitating ‘race talk’ in the classroom.
In one of the workshops, when asked why a play like ‘Princess & The Hustler’ should be studied in schools, a student said, “Because it’s relatable, and it’s useful for people of colour to have an example of what their home life can look like”.
The official launch of the Lit. Legacies scheme of work takes place between 18:00 – 20:00 on Wednesday 31 January, at Fairfield High School. Teachers, secondary school students, parents/guardians, and those working in education are encouraged to attend to hear more about the project. To order a ticket visit Eventbrite.
Though it is a long-term goal to have schools across the UK engage with this work, as a starting point this project provides an exciting opportunity to work closely with and support the teachers and students at local secondary schools.
Following the launch of the teaching resources, small-scale research will be carried out to assess the impact of the play and scheme of work within secondary schools.
Amy added: “Through class observations and focus groups, the student voice and experience can be centred, potentially influencing the teaching and learning of Black British literature in the future.”
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