Multiverse (funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools) is an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Professional Resource Network created to meet the challenge of raising the achievement of pupils from diverse backgrounds. It has been developed for teacher educators, student teachers and trainees in response to newly qualified teachers' request for more support in teaching pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds and those with English as an additional language. Social class, religious diversity, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and Travellers and Roma are also explored.
Multiverse is a consortium of eight Initial Teacher Training institutions from across the country, with Lightbox Education (formerly 3T Productions - a subsidiary of Research Machines plc.) and Trentham Books, working in partnership with Local Education Authorities and community groups:
- London Metropolitan University - Institute for Policy Studies in Education
- Middlesex University
- Northumbria University
- University of Cumbria
- University of Chichester
- University of East London
- University of Northampton
- University of Sunderland
A note on terminology
The terms used to describe different groups have changed over the years to reflect changes in the cultural and political climate. Organisations such as the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) currently uses the term ‘ethnic minority', the DfES uses ‘minority ethnic', and the Runnymede Trust, Home Office, and Department of Trade and Industry use ‘black and minority ethnic'. Much of the research on educational achievement adopts categories used in the 2001 Census where black and minority ethnic is differentiated into Bangladeshi, Black African, Black Caribbean, Black Other, Indian, Pakistan, and mixed heritage backgrounds (15 per cent of the UK's minority ethnic population described their ethnic group as mixed heritage).
The website contains resources selected by the Multiverse Consortium. They range from ITE learning and teaching materials, research papers, government reports, articles from the media, case studies, and video clips. In November 2009 the website had 902 resources, 21,758 registered users (51% trainees, 21% tutors, 18% teachers) and on average 1250 downloads a day.
The website is organised into six Diversity Topics:
- 'Race' and Ethnicity
- Social Class
- Religious Diversity
- Bilingual and Multilingual Learners
- Refugees and Asylum Seekers
- Travellers and Roma
The Diversity Topics
Below is a brief description of each topic. References provided are available on this website.
‘Race' and Ethnicity
Evidence of the underachievement of some black and minority ethnic pupils has been documented since the 1970s. It remains a key concern in reports such as Raising the Attainment of Minority Ethnic Pupils (OFSTED 1999), Education and Inequality: Mapping Race, Class and Gender (Gillborn and Mirza, 2000), Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Minority Ethnic Pupils (DfES 2003), and The Educational Experiences of Black Boys in London Schools 2000-2003 (Learning Development Agency 2004). Aiming High (DfES 2003) highlights the fact that Turkish and Portuguese pupils also tend to underachieve in school. For latest statistics on the educational achievement of different minority ethnic groups in England go to: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000822/SFR322008Annex1KeyStage4KeyStage5v5.pdf
Statistics show that pupils from working-class backgrounds record lower levels of academic achievement. An attainment gap between poor and better-off children is evident as early as 22 months of age and widens as a child gets older. Working class pupils are less likely to achieve 5 A* - C passes at GCSE than their middle class counterparts and are less likely to go on to Higher Education (Office for National Statistics, 2005; OFSTED, 2005). The social class gap in relation to higher education has widened over the last 40 years. In the 1960s 6% of school leavers went to university. Although the participation rate is now 43%, young people from unskilled backgrounds are five times less likely to enter higher education than those from managerial and professional backgrounds (The Future of Higher Education, DfES 2003).
Aiming High: Raising the Attainment of Minority Ethnic Pupils (DfES 2003) stresses that in order to raise educational achievement teachers are required "to reflect the cultures and identities of the communities represented in the school, in their classrooms." (1.19). To do this with confidence, teachers need knowledge of their pupils' religious heritage, an awareness of how this might best be addressed in the classroom and familiarity with a range of appropriate teaching materials. The strand gives a fuller understanding of the religious dimensions of contemporary culture and provides practical guidance on handling religious issues in the classroom.
Bilingual and Multilingual Learners
Teachers are likely at some point in their career to encounter bilingual/multilingual pupils who are in the process of learning English as an additional language. If these pupils are to attain the levels of achievement of which they are capable, teachers need to know how to support pupils' language development effectively, whether or not they teach in multilingual classrooms. The context in which bilingual pupils learn at school has a strong influence on educational outcomes. Where pupils' bilingualism is valued as an asset, bilingual pupils frequently perform at a higher level than monolinguals. If pupils suffer discrimination, racism and lack of recognition of their language skills, they may underachieve significantly.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Almost every English local education authority now has refugee pupils attending its schools. Refugee pupils are a diverse group with a range of prior experiences and varied needs. Local authorities and schools, therefore, need flexible and targeted policies to realise the education potential of these pupils. Issues that arise frequently and that impact on refugee children's achievement in schools include: an interrupted education in the countries of origin; traumatic experiences in their home countries and flight to the UK, in some cases affecting their ability to learn and to rebuild their lives; loss of parents or usual carers, or parents who are emotionally absent; pupils speaking little or no English on arrival; bullying, racial harassment or isolation in school (Aiming High: Guidance on Supporting the Education of Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children, DfES 2004).
Travellers and Roma
It is estimated that there are around 300,000 Travellers in the UK, with the majority being settled/housed. This does not mean that those who have settled cease to be Travellers. Ethnicity and cultural features (which may include a shared language, belief system, traditions and customs) are maintained. Despite being legally protected as a minority ethnic group since 1989 (when Gypsies were recognised by the judiciary as constituting a racial group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act 1976), Gypsy Travellers are probably the most socially excluded group in society. Racism, problems of access to schooling, and the underachievement of Traveller children have long been identified as issues of concern and are still significant today (Derrington and Kendall, 2004).
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