Nursery consultant hired by councils to ‘decolonise mindsets’ of children under five

Liz Pemberton, a former nursery manager, who tweeted last year under the Black Nursery Manager banner that the regulatory body and the UK Government were 'all agents of white supremacy' - @lizpemtbnm/@lizpemtbnm
Liz Pemberton, a former nursery manager, who tweeted last year under the Black Nursery Manager banner that the regulatory body and the UK Government were ‘all agents of white supremacy’ – @lizpemtbnm/@lizpemtbnm

Councils have drafted in “Maoist” diversity consultants to “decolonise the mindsets” of nursery staff working with toddlers, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

At least four Labour-run major public sector authorities have worked with the Black Nursery Manager, which runs Zoom diversity training to explore the concept of race and culture with children under five.

One of the consultancy’s two courses is titled “inclusion in role play for the under 5’s”, which gives nursery staff practical strategies they can “embed in order to work towards decolonising their mindsets before they decolonise the play spaces”.

The firm is run by Liz Pemberton, a former nursery manager, who tweeted last year under the Black Nursery Manager banner that she “hate[s] the regulatory body and the Government”, adding: “They’re all agents of white supremacy.”

Last night, Sir John Hayes, a former education minister, vowed to write to Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, demanding an investigation and called the training “brainless nonsense” that is “deeply sinister”.

The decolonising course includes advice on “how to audit the dressing up box” by avoiding racial stereotyping through pantomime costumes and others.

While the training itself is delivered privately on Zoom, Ms Pemberton, from Birmingham, has written in guidance blogs that “white supremacy is woven into the fabric of how society is built” and said “we live in a racist society”.

The Black Nursery Manager’s Twitter account has criticised “how early the violence of whiteness starts” and claimed that “structural racism is upheld by local authorities and regulatory bodies in the decimation of Early Years settings with particular demographics across race and class that don’t “fit’.”

But the group says it is “working closely with Local Authorities, early years organisations, primary school teachers and a range of other professionals in the sector”.

Nottingham City Council ran three sessions with the group last month, at a cost of between £45 and £85 per delegate.

Early Years Wales, the Welsh Government’s provider, ran a webinar in January, Islington Council held a webinar with the group last year, and Early Years Bristol – which works in partnership with the city’s council – will host one this month.

Earlier this year, Ms Pemberton included a section on white privilege in an online guidance article for nursery staff.

She explained that “in a racialised society where hierarchical value is placed on all of us because of our skin colour, one of the ways in which you will not have experienced discrimination and marginalisation will be because of the colour of your skin if you are perceived as white”.

Sir John Hayes told The Telegraph: “This is the corruption of the youngest children of all.

‘Poisonous and divisive’ dogma

“Infants are being subjected to the most poisonous and divisive kind of dogma which is groundless intellectually and deeply damaging socially.

“This woman should be defunded immediately and I will ask the Government to investigate why these local authorities are spending this kind of money with the deeply socially divisive effect it’s having on little children. I will take this up with the Secretary of State next week.”

Dr Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert, a former teacher and education researcher at the campaign group Don’t Divide Us, branded the training “very Maoist”.

“The false idea that there is an imminent crisis in race relations and integration in the UK is being used as a mandate to waive in ideological indoctrination under the universal guise of ‘anti-racism’ training and education,” she said.

Others have defended Ms Pemberton’s work. Amy Martin, a creative producer and founder of the Radical Childcare arts project in Birmingham, said that following Ms Pemberton’s sessions, “as a practitioner working with children I feel better informed to celebrate children’s unique identities in a way that is respectful, joyful and compassionate”.

In one of Ms Pemberton’s advice videos on YouTube, she explains that three and four-year-olds ask her questions about why they’re brown not white because of “white supremacy… a wanting to be white because of the absolute consistent messaging that our children are receiving”.

Nursery managers and staff working with children under five are required to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, which cites “equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice” but makes no mention of racism or particular races.

The Government’s non-statutory Development Matters curriculum guidance, updated last year, is designed to support early years staff on issues related to inclusion and diversity.

‘Hundreds of organisations’

The Black Nursery Manager defended its work last night.

Ms Pemberton said in a statement: “My work to-date, which has seen me work with hundreds of organisations, has highlighted the increased trepidation from white early years educators about how to competently challenge incidents of racism, and to confidently satisfy the natural curiosity that all children have pertaining to skin colours, hair textures, and religious practices.

“Children between the ages of two and four constantly ask questions, seeking to make sense of the world around them.

“It is at this age we should be assisting them to develop anti-racist views in the same way we should be ensuring that they are not developing ableist, homophobic, or sexist perspectives of the society that they are a part of.”

Nottingham City Council said it organised the classes to help fulfil its legal duties and said “schools, academies and providers who took part paid for their places, meaning there was no cost to the authority”.

A Welsh Government spokesman said it had “commissioned a range of educators with professional expertise in this area to present a range of training to our member organisations,” in line with its devolved Race Equality Action Plan.

Bristol City Council said it had no input nor say in the commercial side of Bristol Early Years Teaching Hub. Islington Council did not respond to a request for comment.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Councils should be mindful of their legal obligation to address certain issues in a balanced way, whether through schools or working with early years settings.

“Some theories go beyond the shared principle that racism is unacceptable, and all early years practitioners should ensure ideas are taught in an age-appropriate way without presenting contested ideas as fact.”

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