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Birmingham captain Troy Deeney has no intention of giving up on his pursuit to diversify the national curriculum but has admitted to being “disappointed” at a lack of progress after his meeting with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
The former Watford forward started a campaign in February to make the teaching of the history and experiences of black, Asian and ethnic minorities mandatory in schools with a petition launched and an open letter written to the Government.
At the start of the year Deeney commissioned his own YouGov survey which found the majority of British teachers surveyed think the school system has a racial bias and only 12 per cent feel empowered to teach diverse topics.
Channel 4 captured the efforts of the 33-year-old in a documentary broadcast on Monday titled ‘Troy Deeney: Where’s My History?’ where a number of high-profile figures like actor David Harewood and Anthony Joshua spoke about their own struggles while being taught the current national curriculum.
Deeney hopes the 60-minute programme, which was shown three months after the campaign started, keeps the topic at the forefront of people’s minds.
“We wanted to keep working, keep pushing and as you have seen there are a lot of phases in media,” he told the PA news agency.
“At the moment it is all about pitch invasions and when that goes, what is the next thing? It is very difficult to keep pushing people but we do want to make it as clear and obvious to everybody that this is something that won’t go away.
“It is still a topic that has not been addressed and it will only go away with it being addressed and substantial change happening.”
During the documentary, a range of different interviewees concurred one of their biggest early memories of history was to discover black people were slaves and Deeney feels more people from diverse backgrounds must be recognised for their achievements in the national curriculum.
It is very difficult to keep pushing people but we do want to make it as clear and obvious to everybody that this is something that won't go away.
Troy Deeney on trying to diversify the national curriculum
With the Welsh Government set to bring in a new more diverse curriculum framework from September, a template has been set for change but the Schools Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month failed to include any mention of improving the diversity of England’s current curricula.
Within hours of Deeney’s open letter being published he received a reply on Twitter from Zahawi, the Education Secretary, and the pair enjoyed a “positive” meeting in March but the experienced footballer had expected more progress in the months since, even if a new history curriculum is being worked on.
He added: “It was all right, it was just a genuine chat at first to understand who we are and what we are doing but I have been a little bit disappointed at the speed of the follow-up.
“I can’t lie about that. I want it to be a bit more. Not necessarily in terms of impact but in terms of direction of what we want to do and how we want to do it or how he sees it.
“At the minute it is a lot of batting things (back and forth) so that is a little bit disappointing but I can’t necessary say he has dismissed me out of hand because he hasn’t.
“He has been very pleasant, he has been very nice but I want us to get to a position where we get the 100,000 signatures and then we can present people like Lavinya (Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum) and all the other smarter individuals to present the cases because they have the stats.”
Deeney was speaking from Portcullis House where a private screening of the Channel 4 documentary was shown to a range of different guests including MPs Layla Moran and Kim Johnson in addition to Brentford’s Ivan Toney.
A panel discussion and question-and-answer session occurred afterwards – hosted by David Olusoga, author of ‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’ – where The Black Curriculum founder Stennett highlighted the importance of teachers being comfortable enough to create an environment where the history of black, Asian and ethnic minorities can be taught.
“(We’re) always hitting brick walls but like anything we are at more than 62,000 signatures so you would like to think once people have watched it and people that leave here, you get more and we will keep pushing and we will get there,” Deeney insisted.
“I felt we all learnt, not only the audience but the MPs and I have certainly come away thinking about what next.”
The Department for Education has been approached for comment.