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Racism exposed in secondaries

Overseas teachers need initial training to cope with classroom abuse, says study co-author. Martin Farrell reports

Shocking levels of racist abuse in schools in the South-east are revealed in a new study.

The only black teacher in a West Sussex grammar school told The TES this week how he had recently been asked by a pupil if he could supply drugs.

In other schools, a German trainee was taunted with Hitler jibes, an Asian teacher asked if he rode elephants while overseas teachers were regularly insulted with cries of "go back to your own country".

Dr Janet Stuart, co-author of the Teacher Training Agency sponsored study, said: "In secondary schools in the South-east there is a high degree of ignorance, xenophobia and covert racism among pupils."

The Sussex University academic said overseas teachers should not be put in front of classes without at least two weeks' training in how to cope with British pupils.

"British-born black or Asian teachers are pretty good at coping - they have grown up in our school system. People who had the real problems were those recruited from overseas, particularly from countries where there is more respect for teachers.

"Many overseas teachers are recruited to schools British teachers don't want to work in, often in disadvantaged areas where the attitudes can be even worse.

"They are thrown into a different classroom culture without any support and many cannot cope."

The report was written by academics from the universities of SussexBrighton and Canterbury Christ Church University College who interviewed teachers from countries including Poland, Iraq, Ghana and South Africa.

The report said the Polish teacher found pupil behaviour "quite shocking.

At home a good teacher is one who can give knowledge: here it is one who controls well". Its authors blame racism on ignorance among pupils, adding:

"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."

A spokesman for Suffolk Council said education officials would meet the academic team to discuss their recommendations: "We support the idea of better training and we will be discussing it with them to see how we can take it forward."

A TTA spokeswoman said it recognised overseas-trained teachers needed support to teach effectively in UK classrooms.

She said: "The Department for Education and Skills, with the TTA, is developing a set of familiarisation materials for overseas-trained teachers which will shortly be available on its website."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:

"Schools generally do all they can to help overseas teachers adapt, but the fact is many of them are recruited to emergency posts and there is not the time to retrain them.

"Many come from different cultures and school systems and it would take more than a few days' training to make any impact."

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