Emy Onuora, author of Pitch Black, is our guest writer this week. Find out what happened when Emy came to the Museum to facilitate a day-long event for schools on the subject of Fundamental British Values for Liverpool Schools Parliament and Takeover Day:
"It’s something of a cliché but also true that we often underestimate the capacity of children to think creatively, develop solutions and genuinely contribute to the development of their own education. I was reminded of this, once again, when I facilitated what proved to be a brilliant workshop with Year 6 pupils from Windsor Street Primary School from Liverpool 8, and Whitefield Primary School from Liverpool 6.
"My task was to lead a day-long event in the Anthony Walker Education Centre at the International Slavery Museum on Fundamental British Values, the kind of subject that leaves teachers floundering about how to approach often tricky subjects with school pupils.
"We began the day by looking at exactly what these values are i.e. respect for law, religious tolerance, democracy and identifying and combatting racism. Using readings from my book on the history of black footballers, Pitch Black, and video clips, we discussed the consequences of taking the law into your own hands when justice isn’t served, the historical impact of not combatting racism or religious intolerance.
"Building on the theme of democracy, the pupils were asked to produce a manifesto of what democracy and pupil empowerment would look like in school as well as religious tolerance and promoting respect for diversity.
"Adults get remarkably complacent about these things. We think that because we have bold statements about equality and diversity or we visit a mosque or have a school council, we’re promoting diversity or empowering children, and what this exercise showed was that when we ask children to think outside the boxes that adults have established, the results can be fascinating and humbling.
"If they had as much power as teachers in schools, of course they wouldn’t want to wear uniform and want to eat chips and pizza in the school canteen, but they’d also have free school meals for all, to de-stigmatise those in receipt of free meals, have a wider menu with a range of healthy options, have less English and Maths and more History, Geography, Art and Science and more after-school activities.
"To promote religious tolerance they’d have visits to mosques, synagogues, churches, chapel, temples, freedom halls and cathedrals and pair people of different and no-faiths together to find out more about beliefs and non-beliefs.
"We ended the day with a debate. ‘Should kids be allowed to have as much say as teachers and other adults in the running of their school?' Two groups spoke in favour and two spoke against. Following the principles and rules of formal debating, one of the teams, who argued against the motion, won with an excellent presentation, but most of the arguments in favour where persuasive and compelling.
"They recognised that adults often got things horribly wrong, but get the chance to make more mistakes, that kids creativity adds value and an important perspective, that it helps involve kids to be part of solutions, rather than always the problem, giving kids ownership will more likely provide solutions that last.
"All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and brilliant day was had by pupils, their teachers, museum staff and myself and the reason it worked so well, is because kids have such brilliant ideas."