Literature scheme encourages ‘race talk’ in schools

Students raise their hands as a teacher writes on a whiteboard in a classroomPress Association

A project which aims to improve ‘racial literacy’ in secondary schools will be officially launched this month.


Lit Legacies brings together educational resources for a play set amidst the Bristol Bus Boycott.

Four black British teachers will collaborate on the six-week project to tackle the “teaching barriers” in black British literature.

University of the West of England (UWE) lecturer Amy Saleh hopes the project will influence the future of teaching.

Steered by Ms Saleh, the official launch of the Lit Legacies scheme takes place on 31 January, at Fairfield High School in Horfield.

It centres around the play Princess & The Hustler, by Chinonyerem Odimba, a celebration of British-Caribbean girlhood, family and culture, set in St Paul’s in 1963.

‘Absence of black writers’

The scheme follows existing curriculum guides for studying the play, but provides additional teacher training on how best to facilitate ‘race talk’ in the classroom.

Ms Saleh, a senior lecturer in Education at UWE, 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.”

Amy Saleh

Amy Saleh

But despite black writers appearing on set text lists, Ms Saleh said that 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,” she said.

“I thought ‘what can be done to remove some of those barriers’ and so, the project was conceived.”

Pilot 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 of the scheme.

In one of the workshops, when asked why a text 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.”

Ms Saleh 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.”

Presentational grey line

Follow BBC West on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to:

Related Topics

  • Literature
  • Teaching
  • Schools
  • Bristol
  • University of the West of England
  • Race and ethnicity

Related Internet Links

  • University of the West of England

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.