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The School That Tried to End Racism: ‘Unconscious bias’ drops

A class of 11-year-olds were seen cheering after being told they showed a ‘significant drop’ in unconscious racial bias after completing a three-week experiment, on the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism.

Pupils in Year 7 at Glenthorne High School in South London were separated into ‘affinity groups’ of white and non-white students to discuss race and ethnicity during a three-week experiment in Channel 4’s new documentary The School That Tried to End Racism.

In the first episode, eighteen out of the 24 pupils showed a significant preference towards white people, with two showing a black preference and four showing no bias at all. 

Following the IAT test (implicit-association test), the class was then put through a series of talks and focus groups to see if they could change their opinions. 

Pupils in Year 7 at Glenthorne High School in South London were separated into ‘affinity groups’ of white and non-white students to discuss race and ethnicity during a three-week experiment in Channel 4’s new documentary The School That Tried to End Racism

The pupils were seen cheering after being told they showed a 'significant drop' in unconscious racial bias after completing a three-week experiment, on the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism

The pupils were seen cheering after being told they showed a ‘significant drop’ in unconscious racial bias after completing a three-week experiment, on the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism

At the end of episode two, the teacher revealed they had indeed passed the test with flying colours, telling a jubilant classroom: ‘At the beginning of the experiment, the IAT test showed the majority of the class had an unconscious white bias. 

‘Our aim of this project was to see if by doing a series of exercises, we could change this unconscious bias. 

‘You did the IAT task again, and at the end of the project, I can reveal that there has been a significant drop in unconscious white bias’.

As the classroom cheered, the teacher continued: ‘In fact, you’re all pretty close to the neutral position – very little to no unconscious bias’.

Speaking about the results, Dr Nicola Rollock said: ‘What’s key is that we have to be active in our efforts to educate, and confident in addressing race in schools.

‘We can’t leave addressing race to chance’.

White student Beth admitted: ‘Before I felt quite intimidated and nervous to discuss anything to do with race, but now I feel open and ready to share’.

At the end of episode two, the teacher revealed they had indeed passed the test with flying colours

At the end of episode two, the teacher revealed they had indeed passed the test with flying colours

Viewers were impressed by the show's approach and praised the programme as 'fascinating'

Viewers were impressed by the show’s approach and praised the programme as ‘fascinating’

Meanwhile, Professor Rhiannon Turner said: ‘Addressing unconscious bias is really something that needs to be integrated into the whole school system, so that it’s discussed the whole way through the school system. 

Speaking about the experiments, she added: ‘They are all starting to get a more sophisticated understanding of how racism plays out. It’s not all just individual comments but the more every day, subtle forms of racism. 

‘It’s just such a big change from the beginning of the programme’.

Student Mckai observed: ‘I think this just shows how much the activities really benefit us. We’ve had that unconscious bias towards white people for 11/12 years, and we’ve done this for three weeks and we’re nearly neutral.’

Head teacher Stephen Hume admitted: ‘This experiment really has affected me and it’s absolutely our responsibility to build it into the curriculum’. 

In the first episode, eighteen out of the 24 pupils showed a significant preference towards white people, with two showing a black preference and four showing no bias at all

In the first episode, eighteen out of the 24 pupils showed a significant preference towards white people, with two showing a black preference and four showing no bias at all

Following the IAT test (implicit-association test), the class was then put through a series of talks and focus groups to see if they could change their opinions

Following the IAT test (implicit-association test), the class was then put through a series of talks and focus groups to see if they could change their opinions

In episode 1, the class of 11-year-olds in their first year at secondary school volunteered to take part in the three-week programme, aimed at reducing unconscious bias, at the school which has a nearly 50/50 make-up of white and non-white pupils.

The scheme separated children by race into affinity groups, to allow them to have conversations and discussions about race. 

Teachers were trained to run the affinity groups, with Dr Nicola Rollock, an academic who works on race relations, and Professor Rhiannon Turner, joining the school throughout the experiment to observe how the children behaved. 

Viewers were overwhelmed by the dramatic results on The School That Tried To End Racism

Viewers were overwhelmed by the dramatic results on The School That Tried To End Racism 

In the second episode the students were divided into ethnic  groups again and the groups were given talks and tasks before taking the unconscious bias test again

In the second episode the students were divided into ethnic  groups again and the groups were given talks and tasks before taking the unconscious bias test again 

On the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism, student Miyu, 11, points out that non-black ethnic minorities are often classed as 'other', despite facing different stereotypes and issues when BAME historical and current issues were being discussed

On the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism, student Miyu, 11, points out that non-black ethnic minorities are often classed as ‘other’, despite facing different stereotypes and issues when BAME historical and current issues were being discussed

Dr Nicola explained: ‘The approach to race in this country has been one of colour blindness. We pretend we don’t see race. That approach isn’t working. 

The class of 11-year-olds in their first year at secondary school volunteered to take part in the three-week programme, aimed at reducing unconscious bias, at the school which has a nearly 50/50 make-up of white and non-white pupils.

The scheme separated children by race into affinity groups, to allow them to have conversations and discussions about race.

Teachers were trained to run the affinity groups, with Dr Nicola Rollock, an academic who works on race relations, and Professor Rhiannon Turner, joining the school throughout the experiment to observe how the children behaved.

The first task was a game built by a group of professors at Harvard University, which is now widely accepted as a benchmark for measuring unconscious bias.

Viewers were left in tears after watching Henry, 11, break down and flee the classroom during Channel 4's The School That Tried to End Racism in the first episode

Viewers were left in tears after watching Henry, 11, break down and flee the classroom during Channel 4’s The School That Tried to End Racism in the first episode

After it emerged that 18 out of 24 pupils had an unconscious bias towards white people, Henry revealed to his friend that he 'felt bad' about the test

After it emerged that 18 out of 24 pupils had an unconscious bias towards white people, Henry revealed to his friend that he ‘felt bad’ about the test 

During the test, students were shown pictures of black faces and white faces with a list of positive and negative words. 

They were told to associate the negative words with black faces and positive words with white faces, and were timed to see how quickly they did it.  

How does the experiment work?  

Inspired by similar experiments by Mariama Richards in the US, for three weeks, 24 Year 7 students, aged 11 and 12 and from diverse ethnic backgrounds, were given a programme of classes to explore their racial heritage and issues around ethnicity.  

The groups were segregated into a white and non-white group for one session a week, for three weeks, and encouraged to discuss race and ethnicity.  

The hope is that by separating children by race, they are able to be more frank and honest about their experiences, without fear of offending or feeling uncomfortable. 

The groups then come back together to discuss all that they have learned. 

The goal of the experiment is to encourage a more honest discussion about race, with the aim that it will break down barriers and increase mutual understanding. 

The aim is that intervening at an early stage can help to change children’s attitudes before they become crystalised with adulthood.

Halfway through, the test changed to match negative words with white faces and positive words with black faces.

After the test, Mr Grant asked the children to tell him their thoughts, with one student called Henry explaining: ‘Personally, I don’t think that there was too much of a problem. People overthink it. 

He added: ‘I don’t think much about race. It’s just not normally something I discuss.’ 

Professor Rhiannon explained: ‘Research shows for 11-year-olds, making friends from different racial groups is easier.

‘But as children get older, there is a process of self segregation where children split off into different racial groups on the basis of their ethnicity. 

‘Intervening at this age if crucial if we are to target and change children’s attitudes before they become crystallised with adulthood.’

After a break, the teacher explained that the results showed there was an unconscious bias, with the majority of the class showing the bias towards white people by completing the task of associating positive words with them more quickly.

Eighteen out of the 24 pupils showed a significant preference towards white people, with two showing a black preference and four showing no bias at all. 

Dr Rhiannon explained: ‘We are exposed at an early age to white people in positions of power, white heroes and heroines. 

‘All of these influences tell us that white people are better than black and ethnic minority people in society.’

Speaking at the water fountain with his friend Bright, Henry admitted: ‘I know they say not to feel bad about it, but you still feel bad about it because you know you’ve done something wrong.’ 

The School That Tried To End Racism aired Thursday at 9pm on Channel 4. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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