How do identity, culture and language define us?

Hatcham College old girl, Heather Joseph-Dublin, is now a senior teacher at Hatcham Temple Grove primary school. The Company made a contribution towards Heather’s Master’s degree in Identity, Culture and Language; here is the story of her studies.


We all have our own unique notion of identity, culture and language. Our life experiences all contribute to who we are, and the people we hope to become.

Heather Joseph-Dublin, former pupil at Hatcham College, wanted to explore this idea more comprehensively, especially in the context of teaching a wide range of children with different experiences in her role as a senior teacher at Hatcham Temple Grove.

She says ‘Educators are taught to foster and nurture experiences where children can learn, explore and create; but this can be impacted by factors such as gender, ethnicity and social class, all of which a child can have no control over’.

The impact of a child’s experience is extremely significant, especially in a context where black Caribbean pupils are at the top of the exclusion list. Asian ethnic groups are at the bottom; boys have higher exclusion rates than girls and pupils on free school meals are being excluded at a rate four times higher than their counterparts.

Heather’s motivations for entering the teaching profession were academic rather than racial, but she has been able to see the importance of being a positive role model for ethnic minority pupils.

Heather tells the story of a Christmas card she received a few years ago, from the family of a black pupil. It said, ‘you are a true superstar sister… Thank you for all that you do to make XX a better person every day.’ This is a clear demonstration of the importance of black teachers and the potential they have for making a positive, lasting impact on their pupils.

"This MA has not simply been a something ‘to do’ but gave me the chance to develop myself and my school in many ways."

This MA had encouraged Heather to look inwards as much as outwards: the cycle of teaching and learning is both for pupils and teachers alike. She says, "Otherwise, how can we better ourselves, to be prepared for the next generations of children to teach?"

Heather’s final dissertation was based around autism and the black community, a theme that impacts all Haberdashers’ south London schools, giving her deeper understanding of autism and culture.

Heather finishes the report on her studies with this: "I would like to take this moment to thank the Haberdashers for their financial support which allowed me to apply for the MA in Culture, Language and Identity."

Each year the Company awards around 60 Thomas Arno grants to our staff, past pupils and schools. For more information contact the Director for Charities, Susan Barry, on

Thanks to Heather for her kind permission to use the contents of her report.