Hampstead woman's mission to bring greater racial equality in education

L'myah Sherae

L'myah Sherae - Credit: L'myah Sherae

The pandemic has served to highlight pre-existing disparities in society, and a Hampstead woman is working in Westminster to address racial inequalities in education.

L'myah Sherae is behind the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Race Equality in Education, which was founded in February.

Last year, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, L'myah launched the non-profit organisation Enact Equality, which sought to work with parliamentarians to advocate for race equality. 

Working with MPs it became clear that launching an APPG made sense.

"All-party parliamentary groups can do a variety of things," the 27-year-old told the Ham&High Podcast. "They can launch inquiries, they can conduct policy analysis, they can hold events, they can coordinate with organisations on the ground, they can write joint letters to ministers, they can hold events and meetings with ministers - I mean, the list is endless."

L'myah suggested the idea of an education equality APPG to Lord Simon Woolley, who became a crossbench member of the House of Lords in 2019 and was keen to be vice-chair. Hackney MP Diane Abbott came on board and is now chair of the group.

One of the current focusses is bias in teacher assessments, following the move from exams. L'myah said the group has been inundated with concerns from parents, but she said teachers are already under so much stress that greater standardisation will help them and pupils. 

"A lot of statistics do show that black children in particular do better when examined externally and blindly than they do by the teachers that teach him every day, and that's an unfortunate statistic,"  she said. 

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Child food poverty is also being looked at, especially after the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on the financial income of Black and Asian households.

L'myah said the profile given to the issue by footballer Marcus Rashford has had a real impact, adding: "But the point is that it shouldn't have to take a huge name, a celebrity, that shouts about something for it to be noticed by the government.

"Organisations like FareShare, like Barnado's, Child Poverty Action Group and so on have been calling for these things for a number of years."

Over the bank holiday weekend, sports organisations an individuals boycotted social media in a bid to encourage companies to take stronger action against racist and sexist abuse.

L'myah said the APPG is in conversation with Twitter about the measures that can be taken to tackle racism. She said the introduction of Covid warnings on social media showed how quickly action can be taken. 

"The fact of the matter is that there is a responsibility of social media companies to have more robust measures to protect people from online race hate crimes, online abuse," she said. 

"But then there also is a task for politicians and for us in society to make change in society as well. Where do these views come from? And a large part of that is of course through education." 

The APPG's third priority is what's known as the "digital divide" - the unequal access to computers technology.

"I know that an initial response might be: Children are going back to schools now, so why do you need it?" said L'myah. "But it's also about homework, it's about the attainment gap, and it's about the fact that wealthier families can probably have a tutor at home to help their children catch up."

L'myah, who is of Caribbean heritage, grew up in Nottingham, raised by her mother, who was a single parent.

After an interest in race politics began at an early age, she has seen the benefits of a good education, first attending Aston University, and then - following an internship in parliament - going on to Cambridge to study politics and international relations.

Now working in Westminster, she said: "My grandma used to live in London when I was younger, so I kind of remember summers being in Hampstead and just cycling through the Heath and stuff. I always thought one day I would move to Hampstead, and then ended up moving here a couple of years ago."

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Ham&High Podcast

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