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Schools 'failing to fight racism'

Schools 'failing to fight racism'

Mark Townsend
Sunday September 14, 2003
The Observer

Britain's education system remains 'institutionally
racist' with pupils and teachers from ethnic
minorities acutely vulnerable to abuse, according to
two new studies.

Ministers have failed to tackle widespread xenophobia
in schools and even distanced themselves from the
findings of the official inquiry into the murder of
black teenager Stephen Lawrence, they claim.

The study, by the University of Brighton, criticises
as 'sinister' Home Secretary David Blunkett's comments
in January that institutional racism is merely a
slogan that lets individual managers 'off the hook' in
tackling racism.

A second study investigating racism in schools in
south-east England found racial intolerance endemic in
the playground. Students on teacher training courses
also bore the brunt of intolerance with racists acting
with impunity because of the failure by schools to
discipline them. One German trainee was taunted with
cries of 'Hitler'. Others were told to 'go back to
your own country' while an Asian teacher was asked if
he rode elephants.

The investigations, compiled by the University of
Sussex, Canterbury Christ Church University College as
well as the University of Brighton, concluded that
'covert racism exists almost everywhere'.

Dr Mike Coles, a specialist in equality and racist
issues at the University of Brighton, is calling on
Blunkett to introduce the 'minimalist recommendations'
of the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Lawrence.

These include empowering local education authorities
to create and enforce anti-racist policies through
codes of practice and amending the National Curriculum
to raise awareness of xenophobia. His report states:
'In appearing to mark a retreat from the Government's
commitment to the implementation of these most
minimalist recommendations, David Blunkett's remarks
denying the existence of institutional racism have a
sinister ring.

'In the light of escalating racism, Islamophobia and
xeno-racism, in Britain, mainland Europe and
worldwide, the mandatory implementation of measures to
undermine institutional racism is more urgent than

Experts blame racism, in part, on ignorance among
pupils. Academics interviewed one student who believed
polar bears came from Poland. And African teachers
were confused with Jamaicans and subject to
'ill-natured' jokes about drug-smuggling.

'The ways in which pupils are taught about Britain's
imperial past, about slavery, or the Holocaust may
well impact on their attitudes to black and Asian
people, British-born or not, to Germans, and to
foreigners in general,' the authors said.


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