Improving wellbeing and mental health relating to racism in 10-11 year olds: a Bristol case study.

Verity Jones - black and white image

What the project is about ...

The project team is made up of Education, Teacher Trainer and Psychology researchers and a socially engaged artist from the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. The aim of the project is to explore 10 – 11 year olds’ experiences of racism and how they impact mental health and well being.  In addition, we hope to investigate how Initial Teacher Training programmes can contribute to preparing student teachers for engaging with these experiences in their future classrooms to support the mental health and well being of their pupils.

What we plan to do …

We are working with schools in Bristol to explore experiences of racism with 10- 11 year olds. We plan to use art based activities to engage and enable discussion of these sensitive issues and are working with an expert advisory group from the local communities to inform our practice. A toolkit will be co-designed with young people, delivered to and evaluated by student teachers at UWE.

What we hope to gain …

A key aim of the project is to explore the experiences and mental health risks of racism by 10 -11 years olds. We hope to improve services for better practice in schools across, and beyond Bristol through the creation of a new tool to use in the Initial Teacher Education Programme at UWE.

Key Messages

Following the project, Verity Jones shared the key messages behind the research findings:

From the research young people and teachers identified barriers to change surrounding anti-racist education which would support improved mental health and wellbeing. These included: power imbalances, not being listened to, having a curriculum that does not value anti-racism education, a lack of expertise of educators, under-representation of Black and ethnic minorities in positions of authority and a lack of confidence in the police force to deal with issues concerning people of Black and ethnic minority heritages appropriately.  

The following recommendations to schools and teacher training providers were made: 

  • acknowledge that there are multiple experiences of racism at a range of levels and these can be triggered by local, national and international events in every school 

  • ensure teachers and student teachers respond to the needs of both the perpetrator and the victim of a racist incident 

  • provide ongoing explicit training for powerful and emotive discussions with children about racism  

  • revisit the theme of racism regularly through the school year 

  • consider using the workshop and children’s book from this project as a starting point for discussion with staff and pupils 

  • encourage teachers and student teachers to seek guidance from community members to act as a critical friend 

  • ensure children in school have an adult that they can turn to if they have concerns about racism (this is in addition to the school racism policy) 

  • acknowledge that despite the sensitive nature of the discussion about racism this can be very powerful for children and children welcome it 

  • ensure that teachers and student teachers recognise their positionality and journey towards alleyship 

  • continue to promote greater diversity and representation within the workforce  

Further Reading

Picture book (Free Resource): If Racism Vanished for a Day by UWE Bristol – Issue

Website: RESPECT Project Bristol – Radicalised Experiences Project – Education, Children & Trust

Website shares, policy briefings, papers and links to resources. Launched to coincide with the release of the book (Nov 2022). The e-book and associated teacher’s guide is under review for the Geographical Association’s educational publishing awards 2023 due to its support in the exploration of children’s identity and personal geographies.  

Case study: The impact of racism on children’s mental health

Podcast: Exploring the impact of racism on children’s mental health

For more information about this project please contact the project lead Verity Jones