After starring in a documentary to highlight the lack of black teachers in Bristol, Aisha Thomas pledged to change the face of education.
The assistant principal of City Academy launched #RepresentationMatters, which started as a campaign and is now a company, to spread the message about the importance of diversity and role models in schools and beyond.
Aisha’s latest project, Beyond the 26, aims to celebrate black educators in Bristol, as well as others from underrepresented communities, who have influenced her journey through photography and by giving people a platform.
Each person featured has provided a quote about why representation in education is important and the photos will be displayed in different locations across Bristol and via Instagram.
“We need to diversify the workforce, we need to challenge the narrative, we need to add richness and vibrancy to the curriculum,” explains the assistant principal and TEDxBristol talker.
“We need to be seen, be heard and be included.
“However, what this made me realise, is that we are not celebrating all of the other amazing educators, from Black and minority communities which are here now.
“As a result, I decided to self-fund a project called Beyond the 26, where I could celebrate some of the Black and minority educators in Bristol that I have had the pleasure of working with.”
In 2018, Aisha partnered with the BBC to film a documentary highlighting the lack of awareness around black educators in the city. The project came in the wake of the Runnymede Trust report in 2017, which documented the racial divides in Bristol and, in particular, the lack of diversity among teachers.
The documentary revealed the population of black secondary school teachers in Bristol was just 1.9 per cent, a total of 26. Since it aired, Aisha has travelled up and down the country to talk about why representation in education is important.
Beyond the 26 is the first phase of ongoing work to move things on, while celebrating the educators and people making a difference to young lives in the city.
Aisha adds: “Since 2018, I have had the same three questions posed to me:
· So what now?
· How do we get more black teachers?
· How many have you managed to recruit?
“I wish it was that simple. It would be great if I could wave a magic wand. However, there are a variety of factors which are affecting recruitment and retention within the education system.”
See more portraits and information about Beyond the 26 via www.instagram.com/beyond_the26/?hl=en.
All photos by Harry Lloyd Evans
Read more: Breakfast with Bristol24/7: Aisha Thomas