The Importance of Antiracist Training in School Leadership

School leaders need thorough and comprehensive antiracism training to better address the needs of their students and communities.

Reviewed by Drisana Hughes


Schools around the world have started to grapple more acutely with racism due to the changing needs of an increasingly racially diverse and integrated student population, as well as in response to  urgent calls for educational reform. These calls particularly urge educational reforms that include  to  developing and growing an antiracist curriculum and trainings. In this study, Miller makes the case that schools in England should direct significant resources, time, and attention to better understanding the needs and racial diversity of their student and staff communities. Additionally, Miller calls for the implementation of antiracist training for school leaders and teachers. This study challenges historical educational norms to shy away from engaging school leaders on topics of institutional racism, and in turn argues schools will continue to struggle navigating the topic of race if they do not implement new practices and procedures to support antiracist training. 

Paul Miller, Ph.D., is Head of the School of Education and Professor of Educational Leadership and Social Justice at the University of Greenwich in London, England. His qualitative research focuses on teacher career progression, the practice of school leadership, and teacher migration and identity.

Methods and Findings

After conducting a thorough review of the existing literature on the importance of antiracist leadership in schools, training, and development, Miller uses an ecological model of professional development to illustrate how school leadership can develop a language and practice of race consciousness. Miller concludes school leaders in particular have a uniquely powerful position to affect change due to:

  1. Influence and Power: They influence race relations in their institutions due to the specific position and influence of their roles as classroom educators, and are able to resolve direct interpersonal student conflicts and implement new policies and strategies.
  2. Multiplier Effect: Once engaged, teachers of all backgrounds can secure buy-in from other stakeholders and create a ‘multiplier effect’ to encourage their peers to undertake the same antiracism learning and training. When school leaders are equipped with the language, fluency, and confidence,  they have a higher propensity of engaging in conversations centered on race and racism in other institutional spaces outside of the school.  

Miller also contends that there are specific factors that should motivate schools to integrate race into their leadership and professional development programs:

  1. Staff Confidence and Retention: Staff members that are confident in the area of race and racism are more likely to notice incidents of interpersonal racism when they occur, engage with the topic directly and effectively, and support one another through the difficulty of learning and engaging with topics on race and racism. Furthermore, this process can improve retention as staff members of color are more likely to remain in environments where they feel included. 
  2. Student Demographics and School Culture: As globalization and migration continue to affect England, schools must understand how to serve their students of racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds and provide a curriculum that engages with the reality of racism that many students face, as well as the histories of  their own cultural identities. School leaders must be educated on how to acknowledge and respect cultures and ethnicities in their educational discourse, and reflect this in their teaching. 

Lastly, Miller suggests that an ecological model of professional development provides a blueprint for school leaders to learn antiracist language. Such a  model focuses on attributes, skills, and knowledge that allow school leaders to reflect on their personal beliefs, learn problem-solving, social judgment skills, and awareness of the obstacles that racially marginalized communities face. After learning and internalizing these modules, the leaders are then better equipped to interrogate their own schools and institutions, and to identify which issue areas are critical to reduce racism and improve race consciousness. 

For school leaders to be effective, they need to mandate a thorough examination of implicit bias within their institutions, focused on the management, culture, and messaging of the institution itself. Additionally, these leaders must establish clear requirements in funding, goals, and tracking around racial equity initiatives; this includes hiring consultants, one-on-one trainers, and increasing staff capacity. 


In order to successfully undertake antiracism training school leaders need to commit to learning in more depth about the history and impact of structural racism, and listen to the lived experiences of minoritized racial communities within their institutions. Ultimately, implementation of an ecological model and success of an antiracism training hinge upon each individual school leader. Without a will there is no way, even under the best circumstances. Miller implores the British educational community to take up the need for antiracism education seriously, and to apply these guidelines and suggestions in earnest to meet the demands of a racially diverse British student body.


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