Footballer Troy Deeney at Brixton Library (James Manning/PA)
23 February 2022

Footballer Deeney welcomes response to calls for teaching of more diverse topics

23 February 2022

Footballer Troy Deeney has welcomed Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s response to his calls for the national curriculum to teach more diverse topics.

The Birmingham City captain launched a petition and published an open letter to the Government urging the teaching of the history and experiences of black, Asian and ethnic minorities to be made mandatory in schools.

It follows a similar move by the Welsh Government with a new curriculum framework set to be in place from September, and comes after Deeney commissioned a YouGov survey that found the majority of British teachers think the school system has a racial bias and only 12% said they feel empowered to teach diverse topics.

After the 33-year-old posted his open letter on social media, in which he insisted the current system is failing children from ethnic minorities, Mr Zahawi replied and thanked the footballer and said he wanted to discuss it further.

“He reached out straight away which was something we weren’t anticipating if we are totally honest because we thought it may need to generate more news and traffic, but he has reached out so really interested to see if we can get a positive conversation,” Deeney told the PA news agency.

“When you put yourself out like we have with this, naturally you are expecting some good, some bad and some people saying are we still talking about this, but the response has been fantastic.

“To have the education minister reach out, I thought ‘wow’, so he has opened a line of communication that we will definitely explore. With any conversation, as long as everyone is coming to the table with a positive mind frame, you will work an understanding.”

Mr Zahawi said on Twitter: “Troy, thank you for raising this important issue. It would be good to discuss this with you and I will ask my team to reach out.”

Deeney was speaking at Brixton Tate Library, which has a large section of books on black history, but that is not always the case in schools.

The father of four revealed he bought books to help educate his own children further despite improvements in other areas of the national curriculum.

He added: “I found when we talked to my daughters especially, who are both seven, they are discussing open relationships and same-sex relationships at the moment, which is great because I think the world is in a space where there is a lot more same-sex marriages so that is great, we need to learn about that.

“But when it came to history, they are learning the same as me. Have we not moved forward?”

In my opinion it is not a case of it can’t be done because it has already been done and already been commissioned so it is how do we get that

Having been expelled from school aged 15, Deeney has since completed his GCSEs to ensure he was not a “hypercritic” to his children and commissioned a YouGov survey which found that 54% of 1,107 teachers polled said they believe the national curriculum has a racial bias and 72% think the Government should do more to support the teaching of cultural diversity.

“We have a platform to follow in terms of what Wales have done,” he said.

“In my opinion it is not a case of it can’t be done because it has already been done and already been commissioned so it is how do we get that.”

Deeney’s efforts for the national curriculum to be made more diverse follow fellow footballer Marcus Rashford waging a high-profile campaign in 2020 to persuade the Government to provide free meals to vulnerable youngsters in England throughout the school holidays during the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Blues striker did not speak with his Manchester United counterpart, he admitted: “I certainly used the template that Marcus used because even that issue of free school meals, I grew up on that.

“To hear that being spoken about, it needed – horrible word – Marcus’s celebrity to push it and make it front line because it has been spoken about for 30 to 40-odd years but thankfully he was able to get it over the line.

“I am nowhere near as famous as Marcus Rashford, but I hope with my little bit of push and with the help of a lot of people we can make a real positive change.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The curriculum in our schools offers pupils the opportunity to study significant figures from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and the contributions they have made to the nation, as well as helping them understand our shared history with countries from across the world.

“Schools play a crucial role in helping young people understand the world around them and their place within it. We continue to be informed by the work of committed individuals and groups when it comes to supporting the teaching of black and minority ethnic history.”

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