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College among most gay-friendly employers despite teacher's homophobic rant

An FE college has been named as one of the UK’s most gay-friendly workplaces despite a high-profile homophobic rant by a senior lecturer that led to the resignation of its principal.

Newham College in London appears at number 82 on the gay rights charity Stonewall's Top 100 Employers 2014 list, which was published this week.

It comes less than a month after Newham's principal Denise Brown-Sackey stepped down from her post following the sacking of performing arts head Mark Walcott over homophobic comments, which were recorded by fellow teachers.

In the 50-minute recording from January 2012, Dr Walcott claimed teachers’ sexuality could stop them doing their jobs properly and was having an impact on their students.

He can be heard saying: “Boys are becoming gay not because they have got a gay gene but because they have gay teachers, who are slowly indoctrinating them with their gay mentality.”

The recording was posted online last November by college staff angry at the progress of a year-long inquiry by the college into the remarks. Dr Walcott was fired the following month.

Simon Feeke, head of workplace for Stonewall, said the way the college dealt with the incident meant that it could be included in future gay-friendly employers' lists.

“Mark Walcott’s comments were absolutely reprehensible," Mr Feeke said. "But one individual’s homophobia shouldn’t detract from the fantastic work that many individuals are doing at Newham College to support gay staff and students.

“It’s right that Mr Walcott was sacked and we hope that in future Newham College will continue to take a firm line on homophobia in the workplace.

"By dealing with incidents like this effectively, Newham College will have a chance of appearing on the 2015 list of gay-friendly employers."

On its website Newham College says it is "committed to lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) equality".

In July 2008, an LGB Advisory Group was set up following staff demand. The group meets termly to discuss issues and advise on LGB related matters.  

The college's equal opportunity policy states: "We will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment at the College on any grounds."

Since Ms Brown-Sackey's departure, Newham's former principal Martin Tolhurst has taken over as interim principal.


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