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Decolonial and anti-racist pedagogies and curricular in teacher education: The importance of partnerships between practice and scholarship

Haira Gandolfi, Assistant Professor at University of Cambridge Elizabeth Rushton, Head of Education Division at University of Stirling

BERA’s recent work in supporting research focused on race and education, including the 2021 Small Grants Fund (BERA, 2022), is part of wider initiatives in school and higher education sectors to engage with decolonial and anti-racist pedagogies and curricula, critically exploring the stories and voices that are made visible and invisible in educational practices (Gandolfi, 2021; Moncrieffe et al., 2020). While the field of decolonial studies has gained prominence in mainstream Global North academia, it has been part of Indigenous and Global South scholarship for decades. Similarly, anti-racist scholarship and practices, including critical race theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017) and critical whiteness studies (Leonardo, 2009), have also been an important component of social sciences and educational research in countries like the USA and South Africa for decades.

In a recent special issue of the Curriculum Journal, contributing authors from different educational contexts in England and Wales highlight the specific experiences, opportunities and challenges in bringing decolonial and anti-racist approaches to the area of teacher education. This includes in both university–school and school–school partnerships and through disciplines, school subjects, and general educational practices. This special issue begins with an invited paper on international issues surrounding decolonial and anti-racist theories and practices in (teacher) education (Le Grange, 2023), and empirical papers from England and Wales across different higher education spaces (Smith & Lander, 2023; Gabi et al., 2023), policy landscapes (Cushing, 2023), professional structures (Davis et al., 2023; Welply, 2023), networks (Glowach et al., 2023) and other spaces of professional learning (Stewart-Hall et al., 2023; Walker et al., 2023). Authors draw on examples based in varied school subjects and disciplines and in response to wider policy documents currently influencing the teaching profession. A key feature of the special issue is the richness of partnerships and networks established by the authorial teams, which include educators from both higher education and (cross-)school settings.

‘A key feature of the special issue is the richness of partnerships and networks established by the authorial teams, which include educators from both higher education and (cross-)school settings.’

We hope that this focus on decolonial and anti-racist educational perspectives and experiences will provide a space to share diverse voices, contributions and cross-curricular strategies. We see this work as a starting point for strengthening and furthering partnerships and networks that advocate for conceptualisations of teacher training and education curricula and practices that go beyond a one-size-fits-all model of teacher education, based on performativity and surveillance (Ball, 2003). Here, we are encouraged by the consideration of teachers’ and teacher educators’ professionalisms, voices and knowledges (Connell, 2009) in this landscape of decolonial and anti-racist educational perspectives.

Nevertheless, gaps remain: our original call for the special issue sought to include insights and learning from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However, the contributions are predominantly from England, with one contribution from Wales. And yet Scotland, with cities such as Glasgow founded on wealth derived from empire, and Northern Ireland, with its own complex socio-historical and political past and current contexts, represent important sites for decolonial and anti-racist scholarship and practice.

At the same time, we argue that more spaces and resources are needed to further decolonial and anti-racist pedagogies and curricula. This includes finance and time for teachers and teacher educators to undertake meaningful professional development. This is especially important in England, which currently lacks the imperative for this work from national curriculum frameworks and policymaking that are present in Wales and Scotland. For example, in Wales, diversity and anti-racist professional learning is freely available for all education professionals as a mandatory part of the Curriculum for Wales, first introduced in September 2022 (Welsh Government, 2020).

Ongoing support from funders and policymakers is also necessary to further enable, empower and magnify curriculum development that is rooted in partnerships between practitioners and scholars. As is shown throughout the special issue, such partnerships provide rich and nuanced contributions to decolonial and anti-racist work in the context of teacher education. These kinds of partnerships can be one way to ensure that the absences we have identified, and many others which currently persist, are addressed.

Looking ahead, contributing authors will be sharing further insights from this special issue at an online event, hosted by BERA on 11 May 2023, 4pm to 5:30pm. To find out more and register for the event, please click here.


Ball, S. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215–228.

British Educational Research Association. [BERA]. (2022). Small Grants Fund  2021 – Race and Education.

Connell, R. (2009). Good teachers on dangerous ground: Towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism. Critical Studies in Education, 50(3), 213–229.

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction. New York University Press.

Gandolfi, H. E. (2021). Decolonising the science curriculum in England: Bringing decolonial science and technology studies to secondary education. Curriculum Journal, 32(3), 510–532.

Leonardo, Z. (2009). Race, whiteness, and education. Routledge.

Moncrieffe, M., Race, R., & Harris, R. (2020). Editorial: Decolonising the curriculum. Research Intelligence, 142, 9.

Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru. (2020). Curriculum for Wales.