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Anti-racism as care in initial teacher education: A personal view from a teacher turned early career researcher

Rachel Robinson, Doctoral student at University of Oxford

The seeds of frustration were sewn during my PGCE training year. If left unresolved, frustration can develop into anger. It is this anger which I now use as motivation to contribute to improving the experiences of my fellow ethnic minority trainees, so that they might consider staying in the teaching profession. And so, 10 years after those seeds were planted, I find myself a Black Academic Futures Scholar,[1] nearing the end of my first year of a PhD at the same institution in which I trained, exploring the relationships between ethnic minority trainee teachers, their training environment and those tasked with mentoring them.

Our country is becoming ever more ethnically diverse, but unfortunately our teaching workforce has never managed to reflect this rich multiplicity (Swann, 1985; Worth et al., 2022). In a climate heavily influenced by an administration opposed to engaging with anti-racist lexicon, it is not surprising that I, as a Mixed-Black, former science teacher, join the fight to unpick the structures that contribute to such shameful statistics (Worth et al., 2022).

My research involves collecting an ethnographic picture of the interactions between Black and minority ethnic trainees, their mentors, and training environments over the course of a secondary school training year in England, to better understand the complex interactions involved.

I am particularly interested in the concept of care. I would not have lasted as long in the profession if it were not for those that decided to care, and they will know who they are – they allowed me to fail spectacularly, flail aimlessly, completely fall to pieces but also succeed, grow, flourish and, importantly, belong. And I utilise the word care deliberately (Currans et al., 2018). Delivering effective feedback and encouragement requires the utilisation of a highly developed, complex skill set; one that it is often assumed will be innately possessed by mentors and experienced class teachers, rather than taught, but can often be lacking and typical of an attitude reflecting an underappreciation of an acquired form of expertise centred around emotional labour.

‘I would not have lasted as long in the profession if it were not for those that decided to care – they allowed me to fail spectacularly, flail aimlessly, completely fall to pieces but also succeed, grow, flourish and, importantly, belong.’

There is a lack of guidance about this issue within the Core Content Framework (CCF), despite the need to retain ethnic minority and racialised teachers, which leaves those of us who know change is essential relying on finding each other for support and hope. As was evident at the recent Anti-Racism in ITE conference organised by Leeds Beckett University, a community will form where there is a need and a lack of action. Framed around the development of the Anti-Racist ITE Framework (Smith & Lander, 2022) this knowledge should be underpinning work at all teacher training institutions. Attending this conference led me to ponder on who was absent from this gathering? Which institutions were represented and what power if any, delegates in attendance may have in influencing them?

If you view yourself as part of this society, you should be part of the change. Our anger should be yours too. Do not shy away from naming race and racism as barriers to success for pupils and teachers; seek out solutions that can prevent this from being so. If you are working in this area, or considering doing so, I would like you to contemplate which actions you could adopt from the Anti-Racist ITE Framework, look for and implement best practice or consider participating in projects like my own.

As Audre Lorde (1997, p. 282) succinctly stated in 1981:

Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it becomes no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge.

[1] Black Academic Futures is part of the Academic Futures Scholarship Programme at the University of Oxford.


Currans, E., Martin-Baron, M., & H. Masturzo. (2018). Performance in the feminist classroom: Creating space, cultivating care, and practicing critical generosity. (Editors’ Introduction). Feminist Teacher, 28(2–3), 70.

Lorde, A. (1997). The uses of anger. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 25(1/2), 278–285.

Smith, H., & Lander, V. (2022). Anti-racism framework for initial teacher education/training.

Swann, M. (1985). Swann report.

Worth, J., McLean, D., & Sharp, C. (2022). Racial equality in the teacher workforce: An analysis of representation and progression opportunities from initial teacher training to headship. National Foundation for Educational Research.